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The only beauty of Rawson Lake on the Upper Kananaskis Trail is that you can visit two lakes overlooking the Rocky Mountains, a frozen waterfall and a walk through a beautiful pine forest.

Well, that’s more than okay.

And that makes the Rawson Lake Trail and Upper Kananaskis ideal for a winter hike near Calgary.

Yeah, it’s a nice walk in the summer, too. Although Rawson Lake (and others) is sometimes closed in summer due to grizzly bear activity.

Today we focus on Rawson Lake as a winter hike. I did this walk (solo) in one day from Calgary at the beginning of December, and loved the trail from start to finish.

If there’s more snow, you can take the snowshoes from Rawson Lake. Another popular snowshoe hike in Kananaskis is Lake Chester.

Here you’ll find everything you need to know about winter hiking at Rawson Lake and the Upper Kananaskis Trail.

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Where’s Lake Rawson?

Rawson Lake is located in the Peter Lugida Provincial Park in Kananaskis Province.

The Rawson Lake Trail starts at Upper Kananaskis Lake.

From Calgary 135 km (85 miles) can be covered in 1 hour and 45 minutes.

  • Take Trans Canada Hwy 1 West to exit 118 Kananaskis Country Hwy 40 South.
  • Turn right on Route 742 at Lake Kananaskis and continue for 13 km.
  • Turn left at the pointer into the Upper Kananaskis Lake Day Zone.

Note that Highway 40 between Hywood Intersection and Peter Lugid Provincial Park goes through 1 every year. From December to December 14. June is closed.

For example, if you are driving in the south of Calgary, you have to take Trans-Canada Highway 1 to get to Highway 40.

And don’t forget to replace your summer tyres with winter tyres when it starts snowing in the mountains. Winter tyres provide the grip needed for winter driving.

From Canmore 94 km can be covered in 1 hour and 15 minutes.

  • Take Trans-Canada Highway Xvi 1 in an easterly direction until exit 118 Kananaskis Route Xvi 40 in a southerly direction.
  • Turn right on Route 742 at Lake Kananaskis and continue for 13 km.
  • Turn left at the pointer into the Upper Kananaskis Lake Day Zone.

Kananaskis Lake Peak Use Area

In the summer months, Lake Upper Kananaskis is a popular recreational area. There are several picnic tables by the lake and several park benches by the car park.

Rawson Lake car park and trail are located in the Upper Kananaskis daytime use area.

This is an exciting start to your hike, where you can enjoy the beautiful panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains directly from the car park.

Hiking in the mountains overlooking Lake Upper Kananaskis.


Distance: 7.1 km (to Rawson Lake, not around the lake).

Height: 560 m

The view from the walk: Round trip.

It’s complicated: Moderate

This is it: Calculate with 2 to 3 hours.

Dogs are allowed: Yeah, keep those dogs on a leash at all times.

The Alltrails application calls it an 8.9 km long hike with an altitude difference of 607 m.

But my walking record shows an altitude difference of 7.1 km and 560 m without having walked more than 50 meters along Lake Rawson.

Keep in mind that this area of Kananaskis is an avalanche area and always check the latest route and avalanche messages before hiking.

A tree was cut down on the path to maneuver under, over or around. At the beginning of November the Kananaskis were dragged along by the strong wind and several trees were knocked down.

Rawson Lake hiking description

After the first part of the route along the upper lake Kananaskis, you will reach the Sarrail waterfall with an altitude difference of about 50 meters over a distance of 1.1 km.

Before the waterfall, the new bridge replaced the temporary block bridge that was in place after a major flood in 2013, the old bridge.

Frozen waterfalls form beautiful sculptures. For a nice walk to Kananaskis Falls, check out Troll Falls, a fun and family friendly walk.

From the Sarrail Falls the path starts on a moderately steep slope that crosses the forest.

Rawson Creek is partially frozen

You will probably hear several birds, often there are woodpeckers in this area. I’ve heard a few, but I’ve only seen one peak during my walk.

For most mountain hikes the difference in altitude is about 300 m. Then the path is easy, with some ups and downs, but not like at the beginning of the hike.

And suddenly you see (at least on a clear day!) mountains through the trees, and then you know you’ve arrived at Lake Rawson.

Rawson Lake, snowy in early December.

Stop by the lake and enjoy the view, and if you have snowshoes, you can continue walking in the forest on the right bank of the lake.

The lake seemed frozen when I came to visit in early December, but I don’t think it’s safe to skate on the ice.

In the summer you can walk from Rawson Lake over the Sarrail Ridge. It’s a difficult and difficult path.

Hiking on the Sarray Ridge is only possible in summer, and even if it is wet or icy, it is not recommended.

A promenade on the left side of Lake Rawson is a high avalanche risk area and should be avoided in winter.

Some people bring a picnic and hot chocolate to enjoy at Rawson Lake. I saw tourists using a small backpack oven to heat cocoa near the lake.

What should I bring to Lake Rawson?

I recommend purchasing camping equipment and winter clothes on site. Try Calgary with MEC, Atmosphere, Mark’s or Campers Village. You can also buy second-hand travel equipment at Switching Gear YYC or 2nd Chance Sports.

In Canmore second hand outdoor equipment is for sale at Switching Gear in 718 – 10 pieces. We can buy supplies. Several shops in Canmore offer new outdoor sporting goods: Gear Up, Trail Sports or vertical suspension.

Wool socks are best suited for walking because they absorb moisture, insulate, even if they are quickly wet and dry. It’s a good idea to put an extra pair of socks in your backpack.

Buy a good pair of winter hiking boots to keep your feet warm and comfortable when walking on winter trails or snowshoeing. I bought WindRiver Ice Queen boots from Mark, they’re great winter boots for women.

When there is ice and snow on the trails, cats should wear walking shoes to hold on. I bought Hillshound cramps.

It is advisable to follow the poles because of the differences in altitude during this hike. I bought some cheap walking sticks to try this season.

Bring a bottle of water and snacks or a picnic on top or on the way.

When hiking in the mountains, wear several layers (wool or a damp cloth) and bring extra clothing in cold weather (even in summer), because the weather changes quickly.

Bring electricity, a cape, gloves or mittens and a backpack large enough for your equipment, food, water and extra clothing.

Don’t forget to bring your first aid kit and ten important utensils with you on every trip.

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