I don’t know about you, but I’m stoked to get into the hiking season. For those of you dreaming about your next jaunt to K- Country, I’ve got you covered. This post discusses all of the beautiful Kananaskis hikes with varying difficulties, elevations and times. 

These are the best Kananaskis hikes - from easy to advanced

If it’s outdoor adventure you’re after, you’ll find it in the Kananaskis! (Photo credit: John Price Photography)

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Kananaskis hikes

K-Country is one of the most underrated places to visit in Alberta. Loads of Calgarians head here for camping. And while tourists often frequent Canmore and Banff to go hiking, Kananaskis hikes are equally as beautiful and often quieter. Here’s a look at some of best trails in the Kananaskis area, varying in difficulty from moderate to hard.

Best Kananaskis hikes + What you need to know

Most trails in the Alberta Rockies are quite steep, but as you can see, it’s worth the effort. (Photo credit: Maurice Li)

Upper Kananaskis Lake trail

One of the more popular moderate trails in K-Country, this route is known for its stunning views and is good for all levels. It sports backcountry campsites, which makes it a good beginner trail if you’re backpacking, however this hike can be completed in one day.

There are two options on the Kananaskis Lake trail, but the views are better along the upper trail. It’s moderately busy, so you’ll likely run into other hikers on your journey.

Tips: Bring bear spray, especially in the spring. Arrive early, especially on weekends since it can get busy.

  • Distance: 16.5 KM
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation: 295m
  • Time: 4-5.5hr

Head here for reflection. (Photo credit: Travel Alberta)

Tent Ridge 

Although Tent Ridge Horseshoe trail is one of the more difficult treks in the region, it’s one of the highest rated in the area. The views are amazing and definitely Instagram worthy. Need the perfect hashtag? Check out this post.

The most difficult part of the hike comes near the end, where there’s a scramble on the way up to the ridge. Keep this in mind if you’re an inexperienced hiker.

FYI: There are no toilets and nor campsites along trail. Unless you’re experienced, you might want to avoid heading here if it’s wet. Be sure to bring poles and picks during the colder weather. It’s been known to snow in this area even in July!

Tips: Do this hike in reverse to avoid the most difficult and time-consuming parts.

  • Distance: 10.4km
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Elevation: 747m
  • Time: 4-6hr

Rawson Lake

Rawson Lake is one of the most popular (read: busy) routes in the area. It’s a good family hike, likely because it doesn’t take too long. It’s one of those out and back style of hikes, so you can also turn around at any point in the journey.

Rawson Lake is best done from June to October, but there are also snowshoe options throughout the area during winter. You’ll find toilets in the parking lot and there’s good signage throughout the trail.

Tips: Bring bear spray and travel in groups. Arrive early to avoid the influx of people that arrive midday.

  • Distance: 7.3km
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation: 300m
  • Time: 2-3hr
rawson lake hike

Alpine meadows and a stunning lake surrounded by snow capped peaks, yes Rawson Lake has got it all. (Photo credit: Travel Alberta)

Chester Lake 

The Chester Lake is the perfect excursion to examine all of K-Country’s beauty. Great for all seasons, there are plenty of opportunities to see the jagged Rockies, changing leaves in autumn and lush mountain meadows in summer.

Chester Lake is also a popular snowshoe and ski trail in the winter months. It’s a great excursion to do as a family, as it’s relatively short and simple. When you get to the lake, be sure to take a walk around the shore. Lakeside is a lovely spot for a picnic lunch.

Tips: The trail is closed between May and July each year to prevent trail damage.

  • Distance: 9.3km
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation: 320km
  • Time: 1.5-3hr

Pocaterra Ridge 

While Pocaterra is always beautiful, the best time to do this trek is in the fall so you can take in the golden yellow larch trees. Hiking is by far the best way to view their changing colours.

That said, Pocaterra Ridge is a challenging and long-ish hike. It’s generally recommended as an out and back trail, but there is an opportunity to park a car at either end and do the trail that way (making it a bit shorter). It can be pretty popular, especially during the fall.

Tips: It’s a steep climb to the ridge, so pack poles and picks if there’s snow.

  • Distance: 12.0km
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Elevation: 985m
  • Time: 5-7 hrs

Easy hikes in Kananaskis

If you’re new to hiking or you want to get your family out on the trails, try these easy hikes in the Kananaskis region. All are family-friendly and provide sublime views.

things to do in kananaskis

Start early, end early, is the best hiking advice I’ve ever received. (Photo credit: Maurice Li)

Troll Falls hike

Troll Falls is a great, family-friendly hike in the Nakiska area. It’s quite short and has a low elevation. Because it’s such a classic hike, the trail can get busy during peak seasons.

Troll Falls is also known for being stunning in the winter, but the at that time of year, the trail generally calls for ice-climbing, which isn’t the best for beginners.

Be sure to do the complete loop to take a walk-through Hay Meadow, right along the Kananaskis river. This is one hike where you won’t want to veer off the trail, as the Troll Falls trail is the only one properly maintained in the area and venturing off it can lead to fall risks.

Tips: Keep an eye out for troll dolls! There used to be hundreds, but they have slowly disappeared over time. See if you can spot one.

  • Distance: 3.7km
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation: 60m
  • Time: 1-2hrs

Ptarmigan Cirque

Ptarmigan Cirque is a great family-friendly option to view the autumn larches. It’s an easy hike during the drier months of the year and provides stunning views. It can be quite busy, especially during September when the larches are changing colour so if you go on a weekend, arrive early.

Definitely bring a camera, you’ll find plenty of family photo opps! The highway to the trail is closed from December through June so during those months, it’s only available via a very long bike ride. Aim to go during the early fall.

Tips: Try not to do this trail when it is wet. It gets quite slippery during wet months – like June.

  • Distance: 3.5km
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation: 195m
  • Time: 1-2hrs
ptarmigan cirque kananaskis trail

So close you can almost taste it! (Photo credit: Travel Alberta)

Grassi Lakes Trail, Canmore

Another easy, family-friendly option is Grassi Lakes Trail for stunning lake views. Less than a 5 minute drive from the town of Canmore, this trail is particularly rad for families with young children, dogs (on a leash) or those who aren’t comfortable hiking in the mountains.

The lakes are a beautiful rest-stop so grab some snacks and watch the water while you eat. Grassi Lakes can be very busy, especially during the summer, so you’ll want to get here early, if only so you can find a parking spot. On weekends, you may have to park further away and walk to the trailhead.

Tips: Again, this trail can be quite slippery if covered in snow or water. Check the weather in the area before you leave.

  • Distance: 4.0km
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation: 185m
  • Time: 1-2hrs

Black Prince Interpretive Trail

This interpretive trail is a fantastic option for those camping in the Kananaskis area. If you aren’t camping, it’s still a good hike, but can get quite busy, especially starting in June.

The trail is easy enough for young families, and there are beautiful views once you get to Warspite Lake. The lake and the garden beyond it are worth stopping at to enjoy a snack or picnic.

More experienced hikers can continue on through to the Black Prince Cirque trail. It’s more difficult, but robust, older kids should be able to handle it.

Tips: The water in the lake dries up in the late summer so head out in June if you’re keen to see it. As always, bring bear spray, water and rain gear.

  • Distance: 5.1km
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation: 125m
  • Time: 1-2hrs
Black Prince kananaskis hike

My Generation Travel Media buds and I did the Black Prince Cirque hike a few years back. Wish I’d brought bug spray.

Elbow Lake

Elbow Lake can be either a fun day tripping hike or family backpacking adventure. If you’re looking for an easy jaunt, try this beautiful trail. For those looking to try backpacking, Elbow Lake is also a great start.

The campground on the hike is the Elbow Lake Backcountry Campground. You’ll need to bring your own water and firewood. The trail isn’t too far from the car park, so it’s easy to make a few trips to carry your belongings to the site. Pets are allowed on the trail (on a leash), making it a good excursion for the entire family.

Tips: Try the longer drive to reach the hike through Longview. This route is less busy but sports the similar incredible views.

  • Distance: 4.3km
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation: 130m
  • Time: 1-2hrs

Things to do in Kananaskis

Kananaskis is one of the most underrated places in Alberta. There are so many things to do in Kananaskis that go beyond hiking. If you want to see the inside of a mountain, check out the Rat’s Nest Cave tour, led by Canmore Cave Tours.

The cave is home to some adorable animals, including pigmy shrews as well as beautiful water passages. The cave is generally about 4.5 degrees Celsius so dress warm!

If you just want to relax, check out Kananaskis Nordic Spa. Honestly, who wouldn’t want to stop by this stunning 50,000 sq. ft. spa. Set right in the mountains, you’ll be able to appreciate the beauty of Kananaskis from the warmth of a heated hammock or outdoor pool.

wellness retreats banff canada

Reward yourself after your hike with a visit to Kananaskis Nordic Spa. (Photo credit: @leehorbachewski)

For more adventurous things to do in K- Country, consider hitting the water. Try a canoe trip across one of the azure lakes in the area. For a guided canoe trip, try Kananaskis Outfitters and take their voyageur Canoe Tour across Barrier Lake. The guide will teach you about the area and some important skills to have. You might also see some wildlife!

For the dare devils in the audience, check out the whitewater rapids on the Kananaskis River. Chinook Rafting offers tours, complete with photo ops and snacks. Once you’re done coursing through the rapids, you can hop into the calm river for a swim.

Best hikes in Kananaskis

If you don’t want to sort through all of the above-mentioned hikes, check out these top 5 hikes!

Kananaskis hiking

There’s Mount Yamnuska and climbing it is one of the more intense hikes in the Kananaskis.

Elbow Lake:  A great, easy family hike with easy backpack camping opportunities.

Grassi Lakes: The lakes make for stunning views and a beautiful walk. This is one of the busiest trails in Kananaskis.

Chester Lake: If you’re looking for beauty, Chester Lake provides the best views of all of Kananaskis’ best features. This is a moderate hike and you can snowshoe here, too!

Pocaterra: Pocaterra is a well-known Kananaskis trail. It’s perfect for admiring the changing autumn colours. Like Chester Lake, it’s great to visit in winter as well. There’s a warming hut and plenty of cross country ski trails. 

Troll Falls: A beautiful and easy summer hike that turns into an ice-climbing paradise in the winter. It can get quite busy in the summer so arrive early!

Chester Lake winter

Chester Lake is one of those year round destinations. (Photo credit: Victoria Wakefield)

Where to stay

If you aren’t looking to camp in the Kananaskis area, there are three hotel options, all owned by the same company but at varying price points. The most expensive but also most luxurious hotel is the newly named Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge (previously, Kananaskis Lodge).

Accommodation at this hotel begins around $250 a night. This beautiful hotel is great for families, and even has a waterpark built inside! It is also the home of the Nordic spa, as well as many other beautiful amenities.

Click Here to Book

For those looking for a beautiful stay at a slightly cheaper price, check out the newly opened Crosswaters Resort. This resort runs about $175 a night. Steps away from the Nordic Spa, it’s slightly less expensive than staying at the Pomeroy.

kananaskis hotels

The lobby at Crosswaters is serene and feels just like a spa reception.

You have access to many of the amenities at the Pomeroy while staying at Crosswaters, like the awesome restaurant, the Cedar Room, plus all the pools and fitness facility. 

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For larger groups and families, a cost-saving location is the Mount Kidd Manor. Like Crosswaters, a stay here grants access to much of the amazing features at the Pomeroy. Rooms start from at about $130 a night.

Guest rooms vary from queen and king beds to lofts and suites. Choose what’s best for your family and then take advantage of their partnership with the other hotels to get the most out of your trip.

If you’re looking for more action, check out these Canmore hotels – only a short drive away.

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kananaskis hiking

What are your favourite trails to hike in the Kananaskis? Have we missing anything? Be sure to comment below for your fellow alpine enthusiasts!


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Post courtesy of Maya Smith. Check out her witty observations on Twitter.