Edworthy Falls via Elbow Lake Trail is a popular shoulder season hike in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Though visibility was somewhat limited, I was impressed by expansive mountain views and frozen falls waiting at the end. If you’re looking for a shoulder season activity, check out Edworthy Falls. Because it’s never a dull moment hiking in Kananaskis!
This will be my last hike in Alberta. That thought repeated again and again as I drove down Hwy 40 into Kananaskis Country. In a few short days, I’d be heading the opposite direction toward our new home in New Brunswick. Naturally, I had to find time for one last hike. A proper farewell to the Rockies (or a “see ya later,” at least). So that’s where the Edworthy Falls hike came in.
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About Edworthy Falls Hike
Location: Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta
Distance: 10.5 km out and back
Elevation: 390 m elevation gain
Time: 3 – 4 hours
Dog-friendly: Yes, but dogs must remain on a leash.
Features: Edworthy Falls via Elbow Lake trail features vast Rocky Mountain views, the glacial Elbow Lake (including the backcountry campground), and the frozen waterfall. As a shoulder season hike, Edworthy Falls offered blustery winter conditions in November. Even with less-than-ideal weather, I’d say the reward was worth the effort.
Note: No vehicle access to Elbow Lake Day Use Area from December 1 to June 14 each year. To learn more, visit Alberta Parks’ annual road closures.
Finding Edworthy Falls Trailhead
Edworthy Falls via Elbow Lake trail begins at the Elbow Pass Day Use Area. If you’re in Calgary, head west on the Trans Canada for about an hour. Then take Kananaskis Country exit 118 and turn left onto Highway 40 (Kananaskis Trail). Drive down Hwy 40 until you pass Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. You’ll find the Elbow Lake parking area on the left before Highwood Pass.
However, the annual road closure from Peter Lougheed Provincial Park to Highwood House Junction takes effect from December 1 to June 14. So I’d recommend Edworthy Falls as a top-notch shoulder season hike when the conditions are right.
Edworthy Falls Hike
The Edworthy Falls hike begins on the relatively steep trail to Elbow Lake. So come prepared for the 125-metre elevation gain over 1.5 km to the lake. Then you’ll find Elbow Lake Backcountry Campground to the right (east) of the campground sign. But for Edworthy Falls, follow the Elbow Pass trail left (west) around the lake and continue on the old logging road trail for about 2.7 km.
Forest, meadows, and mountains—the trip to Edworthy Falls is a scenic one! Most hikers will take between 3 to 4 hours to complete the 10.5 km out and back trip. Remember, Elbow Pass is shared with mountain bikers and horseback riders, so keep an eye out and yield to them.
Edworthy Falls itself is 20 metres high, though you can’t see the waterfall from the Elbow Pass trail. But don’t worry, it’s only 200 metres to the left of the rock cairn. However, it’s a steep scramble down to the pool, so hiking boots and trail crampons are very helpful. I’d also suggest using trekking poles for extra balance.
I’ve only visited Edworthy Falls in winter. Though I hear the turquoise blue pool is eye-catching in the summertime. If you’re planning an overnight at Elbow Lake, why not add the short jaunt to Edworthy Falls? Unfortunately, that’ll have to wait until 2023 as Elbow Lake Backcountry is closed this year.
Note: As of June 1, 2021, all visitors to Kananaskis Country and the Bow Valley Corridor require a Kananaskis Conservation Pass. You can purchase the pass online or in-person at the visitor centres.
Know Before You Go
Toilets: Outhouses are located at the Elbow Pass parking area and Elbow Lake Campground.
Garbage: There are no garbage bins along the trail. Pack out what you bring in (including fruit peels and other organic waste).
Pets: Dogs are allowed on the trails. However, pets must be on a leash at all times. Please pick up after your pooch.
Bear country: Even in winter, I recommend hiking with bear spray in Kananaskis. Did you know that bears don’t truly hibernate? While winter encounters are rare, bears can wake up at any time.
Multi-use trails: Elbow Lake and Elbow Pass are multi-use trails. Yield to horses and mountain bikers on the trail.
Backcountry camping: You’ll need a backcountry permit to camp at Elbow Lake. Make your reservation here. Unfortunately, Elbow Lake Backcountry Campground is closed in 2022.
Seasonal road closure: Yearly road closure in effect from December 1 to June 14 from Peter Lougheed Provincial Park to Highwood House Junction.
Read more: 10 Waterfalls in Alberta That You Should See
Winter Hiking Tips
Winter hiking in Kananaskis and Banff requires advanced preparation. Do your own research to find accessible and safe activities for your skill level. In winter and shoulder seasons, always check for avalanche risk when hiking in the Rockies. Truthfully, there are plenty of incredible Alberta winter hikes with low to no avalanche risk.
Here are a few more winter hiking tips that might be helpful:
Layers: I always bring a base layer (top and bottom), mid layers, and outer layer when hiking in the snow. Bring mittens/gloves, hat, face mask, and neck warmer. Plus, I hike in merino wool socks that keep my feet warm—even when wet! Read more in my winter hiking gear article.
Traction: I have these trail crampons in my winter hiking pack. They’re especially helpful on icy trails.
Snowshoes: Bring your snowshoes for deep snow. They’ll help you have more fun and create a nice path for others.
Gear: In the winter, I switch from my 18-litre Osprey pack to my 30-litre Gregory pack to have more space for extra clothing and gear. Bring hiking essentials like food, water, first aid, navigation, headlamp, knife, shelter, and appropriate clothing. I appreciate my hiking poles for stability as well. Further, I often bring camera equipment (including my GoPro) and strap snowshoes to the outside of my pack. In the backcountry, it’s a good idea to have satellite communication, too (I use Zoleo).
Avalanche: Check avalanche.ca for updated avalanche risk areas.
While the Edworthy Falls hike isn’t the most difficult, you’ll still need to be ready for a half-day adventure. This makes a great family-friendly outing in the should season.
More Alberta Winter Hikes
Here are some more Alberta winter hikes that you might want to try:
- Rawson Lake Hike in Kananaskis, Alberta
- The Chester Lake Hike in Winter Is Better Than Most
- Johnston Canyon Hike in Beautiful Banff National Park
- The Lake Minnewanka Hike in Banff, Alberta
- The Maligne Canyon Hike in Jasper National Park
- Valley of the Five Lakes Hike in Jasper, Alberta
Edworthy Falls Trail Map
Have you hiked to Edworthy Falls in winter? What are your favourite waterfalls in Alberta? Let me know in the comments below.
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