Year-Round Excitement on the Chester Lake Trail

Chester Lake Trail

Year-Round Excitement on the Chester Lake Trail


Trail type
Out and back



Insider tip: If the Kananaskis area is smoky, Chester Lake is a perfect option since elevation gain is minimum compared to the other hikes.

Chester Lake is unique amongst Kananaskis hiking trails in that there is something for everyone who likes an alpine adventure, in warmer, dry weather or in the winter time. This is a longer hike, but one which will please with its sights and activities (more on that below), with moderate elevation gain to take away a bit of the sting.


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Where Is It?

This wonderful hiking trail is accessed off the Smith-Dorrien Trail, about 23km from the Highway 40 turnoff. In addition to normal hiking, Chester Lake is frequented by bikers (for the first 2km only), snow shoers and cross country skiers (in winter), and fly-fishing enthusiasts. That’s right, the small, alpine Chester Lake –the destination of the hike– is a renowned fishing spot with ample Cutthroat and Dolly Varden Trout!


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A Long, Easy Hike With Endless Rewards!

If you are the type who prefers having the trail to yourself, it is suggested to arrive early, as this hike tends to get busy on nicer days. Starting from the northern end of the parking lot, the path begins its ascent through the forest, with easy-to-spot markings ensuring you stay on the trail. The beginning of the trail meanders through the forest with gradual elevation gains using switchbacks to help lessen the load. While the hard charging hiker tends to plow forward towards the destination, be sure to take some time to stop and look behind you, as the views back down the mountain across the valley are a sight to behold all the way up the trail!

The path through the forest will eventually open up into alpine meadows which depending on the season will greet you with a different stunning setting. Winter will find the area blanketed in snow creating a whisper quiet atmosphere; the diversity of colours that come with autumn; splendid green of spring and summer with the added bonus of wildflowers galore. Note that Chester Lake is renowned as a larch viewing trail in autumn for those precious few weeks at the end of September and beginning of October, with golden views across the valley.

Multiple Activities at the Lake

Upon arriving at the lake, hikers will be impressed by the turquoise, mirrored water providing clear reflections of the surrounding rocky peaks. The scenery is incredible in all directions, including the most amazing views of golden larches in autumn, spread out before you from the direction you came.

Chester Lake itself is definitely the destination on this trail, as an abundance of activities are possible around the lake, depending on seasonal conditions. The aforementioned fishing is a popular attraction, picnic or relaxing areas abound to recharge for the return trip and people are known to even swim in the lake in the summertime (or other periods if you’re especially adventurous!). Hike around the lake counter-clockwise following a small trail and even try a scramble or two up the mountain.

The Return Trek is Just as Rewarding

Having rested at your destination, the sun is hinting that it’s about to begin its daily descent, so that is the cue for you to head back down the trail. Luckily the trail is largely facing west, so on your return trip you will be treated to staggering valley views as the shimmering sun shines the path back to the parking lot.

Once in your car, it is about an hour back to the TransCanada Highway. A stop to refill at the many dining establishments in Kananaskis Village is the perfect way to stop and reminisce about the wonders of the Chester Lake Trail while they’re still fresh in your memory. We hate to see you leave, but after the memories created on the Chester Lake Trail, we know you’ll be back!

If you seek to try the Chester Lake Trail out in winter time, whether by snowshoe or cross country ski, be sure to read our guide to hiking in the winter, so you can be mountain safe on your adventure.