Upper Kananaskis Lake Loop - Kananaskis - Hiking Alberta

 

Hiking around Upper Kananaskis Lake is spectacular on a bluebird day in Kananaskis Country, Alberta.

 

 

While many Calgarians are enjoying a pancake breakfast before celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Calgary Stampede, the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, today's hiking mission requires making the familiar drive west from Calgary on the TransCanada Highway, then south on Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40), to the Kananaskis Lakes.  

Although several portions of the Upper Kananaskis Lakes Trail have been hiked or snowshoed in the past, mainly for access to Mount Indefatigable or Rawson Lake, the 16.2 KM (10⅛ mile) circuit around the entire circumference of Upper Kananaskis Lake remains to be achieved.  From the parking area in the Upper Lake Day Use Area, the initial views are always inspiring.

 

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Hiking in a counter-clockwise direction, between the lakeshore and the Upper Kananaskis Lake Day Use Area, while enjoying views of the mountains surrounding the lake, arrival at the boat launch area leads to crossing the first, short, earthen dam near the trailhead for the easy, 2.2 KM (1⅜ mile) Interlakes Interpretive Trail, which will be left for another day.

 

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Outstanding trail, predominantly in forest close to the edge of Upper Kananaskis Lake, passes reflective bays surrounded by driftwood stumps from long ago logging activity.  Water levels are low with anticipation of runoff, and forested peninsulas protrude from the shore in anticipation of becoming islands as the reservoir fills.

 

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 
 
 
The trail proceeds toward Mount Indefatigable and the dam at the North Interlakes Parking Area where water is channeled from Upper Kananaskis Lake to Lower Kananaskis Lake via an electric power generation station.  Crossing the earth dam, Mount Indefatigable consumes the view directly in front, and below, to the right, the large green penstock carries water from Upper Kananaskis Lake to the hydroelectric station below before releasing the water into Lower Kananaskis Lake.
  

Memories of snowshoe trips come to mind and  the cottages of William Watson Lodge are visible above the east shore of Lower Kananaskis Lake.  This hike passe a memorial for war veterans who inspired the naming of mountains above the distant far side of the Upper Kananaskis Lake.  Shortly, after the traverse over the gated spillway, the trail swings left past trail-heads for Mount Indefatigable.

 

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The Wild Rose is the Provincial Flower of Alberta, Canada

 

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Although this trail never ascends more than 61 m (200 ft) above the 1,707 m (5,600 ft) surface of Upper Kananaskis Lake, there is significant undulation over the 16.2 KM (10⅛ mile) circuit, so gross elevation greatly exceeds net elevation.  The full circuit around Upper Kananaskis Lake is a long, early season hike.  As the trail continues around the circumference of the Upper Kananaskis Lake, there is a broad and interesting variety of excellent trail.

 

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Following a kilometer plus of very pleasant hiking in forest adjacent to the north shore of Upper Kananaskis Lake, the trail transitions into a large section of rockfall called the Palliser Slide.  Although the trail proceeds directly through a massive field of boulders, there are a series of flat spots and steps which make navigation straightforward.  The time is ideal for a rest and some lunch in the sun.  While enjoying lunch off trail in the rock fall, voices can be heard but there is no-one nearby.

 

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Directly in front to the north, is the steep wall of Mount Indefatigable above a scree slope.  While enjoying lunch in the sun with a faint, cool breeze off the lake, it becomes apparent a tiny red dot is moving, high up on the scree slope.  The long lens on the camera reveals three climbers slowly working their way up the slope on scree above the Three Isle Lake Trail

The arduous and ambitious endeavor captures the attention and brings a smile when thinking back to the years when their mission would have seemed like a good idea.  The torch has been passed and good memories admire their determination to succeed.  Sitting among the boulders and beautiful flowers brings great peace with this beautiful collage of mountains and memories.  It is a good place to be.

 

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The hike continues west through rockfall along the north shore of Upper Kananaskis Lake, as the vertical strata of 3,082 m (10,112 ft) Mount Lyautey consumes the view on the approach to The Point Backcountry Campground with 20 camp sites scattered about on the peninsula.

 

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Past the Point Backcountry Campground a beautiful isolated pond beneath Mount Lyautey is a prelude to a broad, dynamic green plain, with stumps standing like soldiers, guarding the twisting journey of the Kananaskis River entering Upper Kananaskis Lake.

 

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The Kananaskis River is running high and strong with an impressive roar of water. An up river trail at the bridge heads into swamp so the attempt to hike up the Kananaskis River is abandoned and return across the bridge continues the hike around Upper Kananaskis Lake

The final stretch begins with forest trail away from the lake and although the terrain is varied, and there are beautiful sights, the exercise becomes a bit tedious without lake views.

 

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Lower Kananaskis Waterfall - Kananaskis River - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

On the west side of Upper Kananaskis Lake, past and south from Lower Kananaskis Falls where water flows from Hidden Lake, there is an unmarked trail, around the west side of Hidden Lake, and beyond, over headwalls to Aster Lake, which would best be done later in the hiking season.  Reference your map.  This hike continues through forest until the south-west corner of Upper Kananaskis Lake comes into view.

 

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Mount Indefatigable with Palliser Slide at the base - across Upper Kananaskis Lake, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

On the home stretch, there is a lot of running water and the number of hikers increases on the approach to passing waterfalls along the most popular, south shore.  The trail-head to Rawson Lake is very busy and pounding water at Sarrail Creek  marks a single kilometer remaining to complete the loop hike. 

 

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Sarrail Creek Falls - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Sarrail Creek Falls - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

This is not an easy hike for beginners because of its length but sections from the North Interlakes Parking Lot, the Upper Lake Day Use Area or the White Spruce Parking Lot would make a wonderful day outing.  The views are breathtaking. 

My apologies for the large number of pictures.  They are in sequence of hiking around the circumference of Upper Kananaskis Lake and are only a small percentage of the photographs captured during the hike.  Every few steps offers a new, irresistible, photographic opportunity.  It is a series of 'WOW' moments.  Remember to breathe!

Note:  Weather can be a dynamic wild card here.  It is always wise to be prepared for everything.  Check at the Visitor Centre on the way for circumstances unique to the day.

There is still time left in this day  to hike the short distance around nearby Canadian Mount Everest Expedition Interpretive Trail between Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Thank you for your update, Jessica. Flood recovery will be measured in years. Some trails will be altered forever. As reconstruction continues, bridges will be repaired or replaced. Hidden Lake is the access to Aster lake and Fossil Falls. I am confident it is on the list although it may be another year or two before reasonable access is restored. All each of us can do is monitor trail conditions at Kananaskis Country Trail Reports.

We were at the Upper Kananaskis Lake Circuit last week. There were signs saying hiking trails to Rawson and Hidden Lake are still closed to the public due to June flooding. Moreover, once you pass those warning signs, there are a couple of areas where bridges/ benches got washed away. You will have to find your own way of crossing the river (not a good idea for pets or children). Since I've never been to Hidden Lake, but according to our GPS, the entrance trail to Hidden Lake seems to be completely destroyed after June flood, there was no trail access to Hidden Lake at this point. Of course, correct me if I'm wrong, I'm just guessing about it. We were only able to do like a 15km round way trip on the Upper Kananaskis Lake Circuit. It was still very beautiful, except, I should have gone to Hidden Lake last year instead of this year!

Thanks for your comment, Lloyd. The bridge at lower Kananaskis Falls leads to Lyautey Falls. It is a closed trail and June floods have changed so many accesses it is difficult for me to comment on alternatives. Hidden Lake trail is south of Lower Kananaskis Falls on the Upper Kananaskis Lake Circuit. My post instructions are misleading and I have made an attempt to clarify them. Reference the Gem Trek Kananaskis Lakes map. Thank you for your input and my apologies for any confusion caused. Best wishes on your subsequent attempt. It a place I would like to get back into myself but not on the agenda for this hiking season.

We just did the hike into Point campground and spent a couple of nights. We tried to do a day hike to Hidden Lake but couldn't find a way. We crossed the bridge you show, at Upper Kananaskis Falls but the trail quickly involved several crossings of the river. (We had an 8-year-old and didn't want to chance it.) Is there a better way to get there?

Thank you for your comment and kind words, Jessica. The Upper Kananaskis Lake Loop is an amazing day. I hope your hike to Hidden Lake and potentially Fossil Falls and/or Aster Lake is a great success.

Wow! I'm surprised there is not much comment yet! I was just browsing through your hiking posts, there is a lot of really incredible and useful information on your website. Thanks for sharing your hiking experience and those fabulous photos with us. I'll go try that Hidden Lake tomorrow :)

Thank you, Chris. The hike around Upper Kananaskis Lake offers a wide variety of terrain and photographic opportunity. Enjoyed having a look at your images. Excellent work.

Thank you for this detailed post of the hike around the lake. I have not yet made the tour of the lake in one go - I always get derailed by one beautiful spot or another along the way. You have reminded me to revisit these spots and push on to some new ones. After the flood this year, I have not been up save for one "let's check the state of things" trip a couple of weeks ago. All the best, Barry.

Trails originating from the Upper Kananaskis Lake Loop are plentiful and spectacular. Northover Ridge provides a major dose of fresh air combined with perpetual breathtaking mountain vistas. Enjoy your canoe trip to the Point Campground on Upper Kananaskis Lake and thank you for your comments. The whole area is a photographic paradise.

The photos are wonderful. We have done Northover Ridge and will one day return to do it with our children. Looking forward to the POINT with a canoe this year.

To be honest, Helen, this was a challenging post to assemble. There were so many photos, it was difficult to choose the more relevant which would provide a 'feel' for the overall experience. A lot of great photos, and very unique features, were eliminated but the images will be seen and appreciated by those who choose to tackle some, or all, of this magnificent hike. I do nearly all of my work solo. I have no-one to answer to and I can do what I please. I can get offtrail and bushwhack my way to places which will provide unique and interesting perspectives.. well, at least to me. I know of only a couple of people who can put up with me. They are special. It is a true working partnership and, I believe, very rare. Two people who work alone and together at the same time. My real relationship is with nature. It took me decades to realize it was there, let alone the realization of its power. On this day I was blessed with near perfect weather and the sight and sound of white water runoff. For me, the intimidation of new trail is virtually eliminated by being surrounded by familiar friends, mountains I have climbed, and trail segments I have previously explored. Thank you for your comment, Helen.

What a superb day for hiking and catching the reflections of these dramatic mountains. Your non lake views still have the power to thrill. I can relate to your final few sentences. For me, definitely a day to be hiking with a 'photo fanatic' friend, not my husband.

Great post. This hike looks amazing. We love to hike with our children and like to keep the hikes to 10km or less. Where would you recommend parking and beginning our hike?

Thank you.  The length of this hike exceeds your specs.  Listed at 16.1 KM (10 miles) it seems longer due to the broad assortment of spectacular features.  Recommend you park in the Upper Kananaskis Lake lower parking area at the dam near the end of Kananaskis Lakes Road off Kananaskis Trail at the winter gates.  Mount Indefatigable is on the other side of the dam.  You may want to hike the loop trail in a counter clockwise direction.  Out 5 KM and back.  There are more lake features sooner in this direction.  I believe the traverses over Sarrail Creek and Hidden Creek have been repaired but it is always wise to check in at the Visitor Centre before leaving for latest info.  Wise to be prepared for all weather.  Leave info with a friend and contact on completion.  Just standard common sense stuff.  It can be vitally important.  I leave a card on the dash of my car with the trail plan and my departure time so if I, as a solo hiker, do not return to the car, at least they know where to start looking.  Never have needed it but always wise to err on the side of caution.  There were a couple of occasions where I would have paid someone good money to shoot me but there's never anyone around with a gun when you need them ;-)wink

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