On the August long weekend, we enjoyed camping at Boulton Creek Campground in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. There are many wonderful hikes in the area, including the nearly 20-kilometre Upper Kananaskis Lake Trail. If you have the chance to visit, you’ll love the turquoise blue waters in the summertime!

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Upper Kananaskis Lake view from the north shore.

Upper Kananaskis Lake Trail is a family-friendly hike not too far from Calgary. You could hike the full loop or simply meander along the shoreline. There’s also the side hike to Rawson Lake. You probably won’t find a quiet trail mid-summer, but it’s a beautiful spot nonetheless.

Interestingly, both the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes are both natural. In 1932, the first dam was built on Upper Kananaskis and now both lakes are reservoirs. Even so, they’re open for recreational use such as paddling and swimming. Portions of Upper Kananaskis reach a depth of 108 metres! This turquoise lake is surrounded by the Rocky Mountain range and is the perfect place for an outing.

About Upper Kananaskis Loop

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Upper Kananaskis Lake in Kananaskis Country.

Location: Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta
Distance: 19 km loop
Difficulty: Moderate (due to length)
Elevation: 269 m gain
Time: Approx. 5 – 6 hours
Dog-friendly: Yes, but dogs must remain on a leash.
Features: Upper Kananaskis Lake Loop lead through the forest with consistent views of the turquoise waters and towering Rocky Mountains. The trail passes through Point Backcountry Campground and also includes the side hike option to Rawson Lake and Sarrail Ridge. You’ll pass a couple of waterfalls along the way. On a hot day, Upper Kananaskis is a great spot for a swim.

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The view from the south shore.

Finding the Trailhead

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Hiking the loop counter-clockwise through the forest.

You’ll find both Upper and Lower Kananaskis lakes down Highway 40 and then into Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. For Upper Kananaskis Lake trail, there are a few parking options including Upper Kananaskis Lake Day Use Area or White Spruce Day Use Area. You could also park at the North Inter-Lakes Day Use. We found parking at White Spruce, where the 1982 Canadian Mount Everest Expedition Trail begins. From the parking lot, it’s a short walk up the hill to the lake. However, the most popular trailhead for Upper Kananaskis Loop is at Upper Kananaskis Lake Day Use.

Read more: Weekend at Beautiful Boulton Creek Campground in Kananaskis

Hiking Upper Kananaskis Lake Trail

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Walking along the shore to give a young bear some space.

On our first visit to Upper Kananaskis Lake, we hit the trail around noon. After about two kilometres, we met a family who turned around after seeing a young bear on the trail. This is part of hiking in the Rockies—there are bears. I sometimes get nervous about this reality, but I’m becoming more comfortable. Make lots of noise and carry bear spray (and know how to use it). We continued with caution. There was plenty of room along the shore to safely pass—and we didn’t even see the grizzly!

This 19-kilometre loop around the entire lake took us about five hours counterclockwise.

This is not an overly technical hike. But you definitely want to be prepared for a few hours of hiking. There were multiple families and individuals on the trail without packs, water, or food. On a hot summer day, hiking without water can cause serious problems. I carried two litres in my Osprey reservoir and brought along my MSR water filtration pump (and we used it!).

The hike continues in the forest for several kilometres. But don’t worry—there are multiple views for those Insta-worthy photos. The trail leads to the Interlakes Day Use Area where we stopped for a short bathroom break. The path returns to the forest where there’s a trailhead for Mount Indefatigable. This hike in prime grizzly territory is no longer maintained by Alberta Parks as an attempt to deter hikers. We saw a couple hop on that trail; I don’t think many are dissuaded. We continued on the Upper Kananaskis trail through the woods until reaching the rocky terrain at the base of Mount Indefatigable.

Read more: Rawson Lake Hike in Kananaskis, Alberta

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The trail follows the edge of the lake quite closely with Mount Indefatigable in the distance.
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Mount Sarrail (left) and Mount Indefatigable (right) sandwich other mountains on the north shore.
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Jen enjoying the view.
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The ledge leading up to the Interlakes Day Use Area.
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After Interlakes, the trail leaves the forest and becomes rocky and exposed.
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Jen’s glad we’re not climbing Mount Indefatigable!
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Mount Indefatigable.
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We continued toward Point Campground.

This was a hot day. It was somewhere between 25 and 30 degrees. The day before, I got kissed by the sun resulting in an intense burn. My back was uncomfortable, but I didn’t want to waste our last full day in the park. So I slathered on the sunscreen and hiked the afternoon away. Thankfully, most of the trail was well-shaded from the scorching afternoon sun. However, this rocky section after Interlakes Day Use was very hot. I was glad to have lots of water along.

When the rocky section ends and the forest begins, it’s not long until Point Campground, and then Upper Kananaskis Falls. The falls roared as we enjoyed a little break. Just passed the bridge at the top, there’s easy and safe access to the water’s edge. This is where we replenished our water supply with the ceramic filter. There’s nothing like drinking cold glacier water! So REFRESHING.

The trail continues through the forest. We passed some swimmers along the way. Even though the day was hot, we waited until after the hike to swim. Finally, we made it to Turret Falls. At this point, I was especially sore with my pack rubbing against my red shoulders. It wasn’t far to Upper Kananaskis Lake Day Use Area now. This beautiful (and long) hike was nearly over!

Read more: The Incredible Mount Yamnuska Hike is an Alberta Must-Do

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Before too long, the trail returns to the shaded forest. We appreciated the protection from the hot afternoon sun.
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A lovely meadow near Point Backcountry Campground.
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The bottom of Upper Kananaskis Falls just beyond Point Campground.

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From the forest to the bushes.
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If we had more time (and energy), a trip to Rawson Lake would add to the adventure.
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Turret Falls. We’re almost finished!
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One last shot of the beautiful Upper Kananaskis Lake.

We finished the hike around supper time—hot, sweaty, and ready to eat. After chowing down on crackers, cheese, and meat on our blanket by the vehicle, we returned to the lake and jumped in. It was freezing but refreshing! Probably wise to wash the hike away since the showers weren’t open at Boulton Creek.

There’s much to love about the Upper Kananaskis Lake loop. It’s not a technical hike and is suitable for all hiking skill levels. Even though the elevation gain is minimal, there’s enough reward to make this hike a delight! The distance is significant and hikers should be prepared with food, water, and other hiking essentials. Lake, mountain, forest, meadow—what more could I want? I’d easily do this hike again!

Upper Kananaskis Lake Trail Map

Have you hiked the loop around Upper Kananaskis Lake? What was your experience like? Let me know below!

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