Rawson Lake Hike

Half-Day Trek to Sweeping Lakes Carved Into Kananaskis

Distance
8km

Trail type
Out and back

Elevation
320m

Level
Medium

An Escape Boasting Quiet Views

One of life’s great organic sensations is the feeling you get when you hike to the outcropping of a lake, and the aerial view melts your racing heart into serene awe. The Rawson Lake hike does just that, imparting a 3-5 hour utopia of wildflower coated meadows, emerald green forests and crystal blue neighbouring lakes. This trail is suited for warmer months, the best time to hike is from May to October. The trail slopes toward mountain peaks housing Rawson Lake, providing a little portion that includes scrambling for hikers to enjoy. As you wander through the sprawling forest, reaching elevation to walk around Rawson Lake, the unrivaled beauty of Alberta’s backyard transports you away from city life.

Where Is It?

A 1 hour and 45 minute drive from Calgary, this half-day hike turns into a full-day trip when you include travel time. Take the Trans-Canada Highway west out of Calgary towards the Highway 40 Exit. From there, continue driving until you meet the Kananaskis Trail Exit. Drive until the intersection between the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes becomes visible. In the Upper Kananaskis Lake Day Use Area, park in the southernmost parking lot for access to Rawson Lake.

Trail Highlights

The trailhead is easy to spot from the Upper Kananaskis Parking Lot. Take the left-branching trailhead as it leads you 1.1 km through a densely forested path. Beginning your gradual climb, the wide path hugs one end of Upper Kananaskis Lake. Your first waypoint is marked by Sarrail Creek. Cross the wooden bridge and the Sarrail Falls tucked into the mountainside. The path guides you to a sign ushering you left toward Rawson Lake. This elevated climb of 2.7 km is the more challenging side of this hike for beginners. The ascents of hiking always reward hikers with a hint of the view they’re chasing – the alpine trees spread out to reveal bright meadows within the hanging valley. You have reached the endpoint when you are greeted with unfiltered views of Rawson Lake perched beneath Mt. Serrail. The path narrows out the farther you hike along the path’s crest. Before heading back, stop for a lunch break amidst views down the mountain bowl holding Rawson Lake in its rocky embrace. The pristine beauty of nature overpowers as hikers seem to be only a speck of movement against such powerful scenes.

 

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Return Trip

Turn back the way you arrived and retrace your steps to the Upper Kananaskis parking lot. If hiked early enough and are up for additional advanced trails, continue hiking along Rawson Lake. Follow the trail straight to Sarrail Ridge. This optional trail includes elevated scrambling along narrow paths. If you have them, remember to bring your hiking poles. The new endpoint rewards you with sky-high views of Rawson Lake and Upper Kananaskis Lake.

Tips

  • If you are looking to avoid the icy trails of spring, ice is off the trail by late June to early July. However, if you do take to the trail in icy months, ensure you have high-traction hiking boots and bring your hiking poles.
  • Before you leave, check the weather pattern and trail reports for the Upper Kananaskis Lake Area.
  • Grizzly bears are active in the summer, hike in a loud group, take caution and remember your bear spray. 
  • The elevated views can increase your exposure to the wind – ensure that you have packed a shell layer. 
  • Plan to hike early as the time it takes to drive as well as the hike will use the majority of your day.
  • Looking to refuel the hungry bodies after your glorious alpine afternoon? Check out the wonderful dining options in Kananaskis Village for everything from grab and go to sit down, to locally-sourced chef’s cuisine.

Hero credit: Mike Seehagel @mikeseehagel