Canmore and Kananaskis Country: Wildlife and Walking Trails

We spent a couple of days in Canmore, which is a great base to explore the many walking trails which the area offers, as well as Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country.

Banff and Jasper National Park further north are both extremely popular – and rightfully so, as both are stunning destinations. Kananaskis Country (or K-Country) sees fewer tourists but is a huge space, covering 4000sq km, allowing you to get away from the crowds and feel the authenticity and wildness of Canada’s Rockies.

Our itinerary was hindered somewhat by the inclement weather; as Brits we of course got on with plenty of walking come rain or shine but we were feeling less adventurous with our choice of hiking trails due to the rain.

We arrived from Waterton Lakes National Park (another truly beautiful and serene little part of the world) late afternoon on a Wednesday and, as the weather was looking pretty good, we figured we’d go for a quick hike before the sun started to set. Off the back of a couple of recommendations from other travellers we decided to walk the Grassi Lakes trail, which takes you 3.8km with an elevation gain of around 250m, to two lovely little lakes.

This is a great hike, as there is the option of a more difficult trail with better views and a steeper ascent, or an easier trail which lacks the pretty views (and waterfall) along the way, but is the gentler option if you’re with kids or walking a dog. We opted for the difficult hike up – which is a lot of fun and which I would thoroughly recommend – and the easy walk back down to save time before the sun disappeared.

The beautiful colours of Grassi Lakes
Waterfall along the hike to Grassi Lakes

The next day was characterised by sporadic showers and gusts of wind, but nevertheless I’d say this was one of my favourite days of the trip (which says a lot, because they were all badass). We headed down Highway 40 into Kananaskis Country, stopping at Beaver Pond along the way (which was tranquil and pretty, with no other tourists to be seen, but sadly no beavers either) and Barrier Lake, where you can park up and take a little stroll.

Further along Highway 40 you find Kananaskis Village, and just along from here is a short and easy hike to Troll Falls. We had seen our fair share of waterfalls on this trip already so I hadn’t really anticipated being massively impressed. I was pleasantly surprised. You can get up close to the waterfall and see the little birds bopping and flying about, so it’s a nice end to a straightforward but enjoyable walk.

DSCF8075 - Troll Falls.JPG

Heading south from here you can get to the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes. Surrounded by mountains which even in June are still sporting snow on their uppermost heights, the lakes are crystal clear and truly beautiful. From the Interlakes parking lot you can take the trail around Lower Kananaskis Lake to take it in from different angles, each begging to be photographed.

Just a little further along the road you can park up by the Upper Kananaskis Lake Trailhead. From here you can take a 1.5km walk to Sarrail Falls. Those feeling a little more adventurous can hike up to Rawson Lake. This will add a few hours to the trip, but I did hear good things about the hike.

View from Upper Kananaskis Lake

What was even more amazing about the lakes was how empty they were. You could count on one hand how many other hikers you saw on the trails. This allows you your own little piece of paradise, with a feeling that you are in the middle of nowhere.

One of the absolute best features of Kananaskis Country, though, is that this really is a wildlife lover’s dream. On the drive down on Highway 40 we saw a bear (on a slope by the side of the road regally surveying his domain), three sheep and a coyote. On the drive back (we decided to go back on Highway 742) we saw not one but two moose (!), three more sheep and a deer.

Cheeky moose

The following day it rained quite heavily and consistently, which seriously curtailed our activities. Luckily, Canmore is an attractive town with plenty of independent shops; you’ll find everything from quilting and sewing specialists to art galleries to used books stores.

We took refuge from the rain in several of the quirky little stores, before driving to Lake Minnewanka (hilarious), around 25km from Canmore along Highway 1. Despite the weather we took one of the trails around the edge of the lake before joining a short 2km round trail to Stewart Canyon.

Serious cloud by Lake Minnewanka

Another nice option for anyone in Canmore on a rainy day is to take the easy walk around the Bow River that cuts through the town. Thankfully, towards the end of this trail the rain was starting to peter out, but we still called it a day and went in search of food (easy to find, as Canmore also has some great restaurants).

Anyone considering a trip to the Canadian Rockies should definitely put a trip to K-Country on their itinerary, and Canmore is a great base from which to explore the region. Banff and Jasper are hugely popular, and for good reason, but the seeming wilderness and beauty of Kananaskis make it a real gem.

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