Karst Spring - Kananaskis Country - Hiking Alberta


Karst Spring is accessed from Mount Shark Ski Area parking in Kananaskis Country.



Hiking any Kananaskis Country backcountry creek in winter is a journey in artistic splendor.  Snow formations, combined with ice crystal sculptures perched over gently running water, create a finely detailed vision of tranquility that soothes the soul.


Watridge Creek en route to Karst Spring in Kananaskis Country, Alberta


Delicate layers of ever-changing ice crystals over gently flowing water



This short and beautiful day hike is about 9 KM (5.6 miles) round trip with gentle elevation.  In winter it is a snowshoe trip on decent, narrow trail through predominantly aromatic, evergreen forest. 

From Calgary, Alberta, the drive is west on the TransCanada Highway, south on Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40), to the gated end, followed by a brief jaunt westerly on Kananaskis Lakes Road for a right turn north onto Smith-Dorrien Trail (Hwy 942) and north to the left hand exit which soon passes the historic and rustic Mount Engadine Lodge.  

The trail-head for Watridge Lake to Karst Spring begins from the ample Mount Shark parking area at the end of the drive up this road.  The Mount Shark area contains a labyrinth of professionally groomed, cross-country ski trails.  This site was developed and used for training and overflow events during the 1988 Winter Olympics hosted by Calgary.  The primary cross-country ski venue was the Canmore Nordic Centre in Canmore, Alberta, Canada.  Both offer well maintained world-class wilderness adventure opportunities.


Beside Watridge Creek on the hike/snowshoe to Karst Spring


Take the Watridge Lake Trail.  It is important to consult a detailed hiking guide like Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Country trail guide for correct turns.  The large billboard trail map at the Mount Shark complex is helpful and a Gem Trek Map is also very useful.  Small investments in hiking guides and maps will reap long term benefits for many future wilderness adventures.  Following a complex set of turns, arrival at beautiful Watridge Lake leads to crossing the creek on a boardwalk for the creek side hike which will lead directly to Karst Spring.


The final approach to Karst Spring



A viewing platform, which is not particularly snowshoe friendly, has been installed at Karst Spring.  On the plus side, the platform allows closer proximity to the water gushing from the rock cavern than would otherwise be achievable. 

In spring, the warm water output can be substantially more robust and, occasionally, the roar can be heard several kilometers away.


An information plaque at the viewing platform explains the nature of a karst


Karst Spring water flow at the edge of the cavern


Karst Spring - Source of the water is unknown


Warm water flows from Karst Spring year round - more in spring and summer, less in winter


A down stream long view of the warm water creek from Karst Spring


Karst Spring spawns lush green moss in the creek and on surrounding rocks


Watridge Lake and Karst Spring is a great, short hike year round.  On the return hike to the Mount Shark parking area, there is a breathtaking mountain view at the boardwalk across partially frozen Watridge Creek.


The view from the boardwalk where the creek joins frozen Watridge Lake



In summary, there remains only a 45 KM (28 mile) drive north on the Smith-Dorrien Trail for the broad choice of a fine pub in Canmore, Alberta.







Your question is very interesting. It has never occurred to me that drinking from a warm or hot spring might be a good idea. I drink from cold streams regularly after filtering the water through my Katadyn filter. At least some of that water is sourced from underground springs. Many hot water springs host strong sulphur odors. I do not know if it is safe to drink or not. I expect the mineral component would be high. The Parks Department hydrology staff may be able to shed some light on your question. Personally, I did not drink from Karst Spring or any other hot spring and I do not know if it would be wise to do that.

Hi Barry. Have you tried drinking from the spring? I have been collecting drinking waters from many springs throughout AB, but have never drank from a warm spring before. Most are icy cold. Curious if you tried it?

Thank you for your feedback, Trish. It is always appreciated when the guidance is good and also when something has changed. I can keep the information fresh when people take the time to give me an update. Much appreciated. Glad you had a pleasant day.

Just did this hike on March 28th, very beautiful, good description.