Snowshoeing is a popular winter sport on trails commonly enjoyed by summer hikers west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
The Johnson Lake snowshoe loop is accessed via Lake Minnewanka Road from the TransCanada Highway west of the Canmore entrance to Banff National Park. The maintained road heading north is well-signed and convenient parking leads to trails which explore the area and provide an excellent, scenic circuit around Johnson Lake.
Cascade Ponds provide multiple free-form snowshoe opportunities in the large clear area surrounding the ponds. Parking is accessed via Lake Minnewanka Road north from the intersection along the TransCanada Highway west of the Canmore entrance to Banff National Park. The trail which connects Cascade Ponds to Lower Bankhead may also be worthy of consideration. Consult your Gem Trek map for other excellent snowshoe opportunities in this outstanding and easily accessible area.
Note: Snowshoe trails north of the TransCanada Highway which provide access to the base of Cascade Mountain on the west side of Lake Minnewanka Road may present a serious avalanche risk.
Lake Minnewanka provides substantial parking at the end of Lake Minnewanka Road in Banff National Park. The main road north of the Town of Banff is partially closed in winter to provide recreational track set for cross country skiers but the branch right to Johnson Lake continues to Lake Minnewanka along an incredibly scenic route beneath Cascade Mountain. At least one person, preferably the driver of the vehicle, should be watching the road. There are turnouts to absorb the incredible beauty.
The Elk Pass snowshoe trail begins from the end of Kananaskis Lakes Road after the right turn at the winter gate on Kananaskis Trail South. It is worth the time to stop into the Peter Lougheed Park Discovery and Information Center to confirm conditions and pick up their free map for snowshoeing opportunities in Kananaskis Country.
This is cross country ski territory. Do not mess with their trails. Never step on a cross country ski track. Carefully step over them if and when necessary. Apron beside the track set may be for ski skating. The snowshoe trail is obvious and separate.
Snagmore is a popular snow trail trail which begins along Hwy 66 west of Bragg Creek across the road from Allen Bill (Pond no more). Parking is available on both sides of the road. Cautious crossing please. Trail beginning is the same as for popular Fullerton Loop with clear signage at intersections to provide the swing right for climbing to spectacular views over the Elbow River near Bragg Creek.
Note: Potential avalanche terrain. Although a popular and busy tourist location, not recommended by Parks Canada. Observe all postings and warning. Check with Parks for current conditions and safe alternatives. There are several options in the area.
A Lake Louise favorite year round is the same maintained trail from large and commonly busy, or full parking behind Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Banff National Park. The sustained climb through forest leads to spectacular vistas en route and potentially tricky wooden stairs on beveled icy steps at final approach to the tea house which is closed in winter.
Rawson Lake is a perennial favorite hike or snowshoe year-round and is often crowded in fair conditions. From upper parking at Upper Kananaskis Lake on Kananaskis Lakes Road, the trail is relatively flat for the first kilometer above the shoreline to a well-signed left turn a short distance past the bridge at beautiful and frozen Sarrail Falls. From here the sustained climb is invigorating through forest to the near end of spectacular, mountain-surrounded Rawson Lake. Past the end of the lake in winter is serious and potentially fatal avalanche terrain to be avoided by all but the highly trained and adequately equipped.
Rummel Lake is a classic snowshoe adventure from the road intersection to Mount Engadine Lodge along Smith-Dorrien Trail in the Spray Lakes component of Kananaskis Country. The elusive trail-head begins on the east side of Smith-Dorrien Trail. Follow footsteps after climbing over the snow bank. Often a popular and busy trail.
Terrace Trail (7 KM north to south) is accessible from far end parking at Kananaskis Marriot Lodge or Galatea Lakes parking (south to north). Grand views of the Wedge but predominantly through forest above the Kananaskis Country Golf Course on a terrace beneath the spectacular summits of Mount Kidd.
This snowshoe begins from the south side of parking at Chester Lake parking north of Sawmill along the Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada. The Kananaskis Country Snowshoe Trails brochure with clear maps will show the labyrinth of trail possibility in this area. The day can be as short or long as you choose to make it.
Guides and Maps
The Kananaskis Country Snowshoe Map is available at most outdoor stores while supplies last. They are also available from Alberta Parks Visitor Centers and many tourist information locations. Even though very good quality augmented mapping signage may be provided along the trail it is always wise to be carrying your own map. Gem Trek maps are excellent sources of reliable and easy to understand information. Fields of snow can be disorienting.
The best current reference material is provided in two excellent guides. The first is for beginners and intermediate snowshoe people. This excellent guide is titled 'Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies for Beginners' by Andrew J. Nugara.
for the experienced, well-equipped (including potentially necessary and vital avalanche gear and training) more aggressive snowshoe adventures can be found in 'Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies' for more advanced snowshoers by Andrew J. Nugara.
Gemtrek Maps are well suited to provide bigger perspective in snow-covered mountains.
Snowshoeing is hiking with a different perspective. Snowshoeing is often more aerobic and clothing layers will depend on the pace, degree of difficulty and personal characteristics. Generally speaking, it is common to need less clothing than expected while moving and more when stopped.
Emergency and first aid gear is mandatory to manage unexpected events and potentially rapid changing weather conditions. Many hiking clubs and winter activity clubs, as well as sporting goods stores and the University of Calgary Outdoor Center, provide a variety of training and adventure opportunities. There is strength in numbers in the back-country where exposure to fickle elements may require more attention for comfort and safety.