On the August long weekend, we enjoyed camping at Boulton Creek Campground in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. There are many hikes in the area, including the almost 20-kilometre jaunt around the stunning Upper Kananaskis Lake. The glacier-fed Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes are worth checking out.
The Upper and Lower Kananaskis are both natural lakes. According to the Atlas of Alberta Lakes, the first dam was built on the Upper Lake in 1932 and now both lakes are used as reservoirs. Even so, they’re open for recreational activities lake paddling and swimming. There were several motorboats on the lake as well. If you’re looking for a dip in the deep end, portions of Upper Kananaskis reach a depth of 108 metres! This clear and beautiful lake surrounded by the Rocky Mountains is a great spot for some outdoor fun.
About Upper Kananaskis Loop
Location: Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country
Distance: 19 km loop
Difficulty: Moderate due to length
Elevation: 269 m gain
Time: Approx. 5-6 hours
Features: This is a forest trail with plenty of breathtaking views of Upper Kananaskis Lake and the mighty Rocky Mountains. Upper Kananaskis Falls and Turret Falls are along the trail. On a hot day, this is a great spot for a swim.
Finding the Trailhead for Upper Kananaskis Lake Loop
The Kananaskis lakes are located down Highway 40 in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. There are two parking options for this hike: The Upper Kananaskis Lake Day Use Area or the White Spruce Day Use Area. We parked 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 trailhead. This 19-kilometre loop around the entire lake took us about five hours counterclockwise.
Hiking Around Upper Kananaskis Lake
We hit the trail around noon. After about two kilometres, we met a family returning to their vehicle after seeing a 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 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.
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!
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!