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Elbow Lake - Another Hike in Kananaskis, Alberta

By touring - Posted on 20 August 2011

Elbow Lake - Another Hike in Kananaskis, Alberta

Elbow Lake is a short but steep hike in Kananaskis, Alberta. It's scenic beauty is well worth the effort to get here!

   Rating – Difficult due to the steepness
   Distance – 1.3 kilometers one-way
   Elevation Gain – 125 meters
   Duration – 0.5 - 1 hours
   When to Go – July, August, September

This hiking trail is difficult but short and is suitable for people of all fitness levels. I’ve seen families with small kids and grandparents navigate the trail as well as eager anglers hauling up their fishing gear. It makes for a perfect hike when taking a day trip from Calgary along Highway 40.

Hiking to Elbow Lake

The hiking trail is along an old logging road and the path is wide and well groomed. The steepest part of the trail is at the beginning as you leave the parking lot. The lung-burning ascent climbs about 50 meters, through a pine forest and past an ancient rock slide. Take a rest and look out for marmots and picas that like to enjoy the open sunny area.

Just past the landslide, the trail levels out for a short distance and then starts to climb again. The views aren’t great amongst the trees but once you get to the lake, the beauty and silence is astounding.

The small lake is nestled at the base of two mountains. It’s the headwater for the Elbow River which eventually weaves its way through the Rocky Mountains and into the City of Calgary. In fact, the Elbow River feeds the Glenmore Reservoir and is the drinking water for south Calgary.

For those seeking an outdoor adventure, you can hike and camp all the way to Elbow Falls.

This is a short day hike so we extended our trek to include a glacier hike to the Rae Glacier, one of the few but shrinking snow packs on the eastern slopes.

Camping in Kananaskis

There's a campground here and it has about 15 spots tucked in the surrounding trees. There is a nominal nightly fee for backcountry camping in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Food lockers and a tall wooden structure are provided for food bags (this is bear country). Reservations are necessary in the summer months as this is a popular back-country campground for families (reservations phone number 1-403-678-3136).

Grizzly bears like to frequent this area and the best way to avoid a bear attack is to travel in groups of at least 4.

Check the Kananaskis Hiking Trail Report before heading out or call the Kananaskis Visitor's Center (Barrier Lake) 1-403-673-3985 for wildlife warnings and trail conditions. And watch for moose too!

Getting to Kananaskis Country

Access to this hiking trail is only available so long as Highway 40 is open (June 16 - November 30). The snow pack lingers on the trail well into late June. The best time to hike in Kananaskis is from mid-July to the end of September.

Distance to Calgary - 140 kilometers (1:45 hours)
Distance to Canmore - 92 kilometers (1 hour)
Distance to Banff - 115 kilometers (1:15 hours)

We used to be able to speed along Highway 40 but the police have cracked down in the last two years. You've been warned...

View Kananaskis, Alberta, Canada in a larger map

Other Hikes along Highway 40

Elbow Lake is 10 minutes away from the larger and more popular Kananaskis Lakes recreation area, just beyond the jagged peak of Gap Mountain. The hike is difficult but since it’s so short, it makes for a memorable day trip in Kananaskis. Check out other things to do in Banff & Kananaskis.

Get more insider tips on Canadian Adventures at Scenic Travel Canada.

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