Oh man the Canadian Rockies are so beautiful! Thank you to Ambassador Laura for sharing her trip to Kananskis County, and for helping us plan our own!
Kananaskis Country is a beautiful region of the Rocky Mountains found in Alberta, Canada. It is located only an hour’s drive from the city of Calgary and within half an hour of the towns of Canmore and Banff. Within Kananaskis Country you will find multiple provincial parks, stunning scenery, and endless hiking opportunities. While Kananaskis does get busy during the summer months, it is a great (and often quieter) alternative to Banff National Park. This guide will cover some general information about the region as well as an itinerary from my most recent trip to the area.
When to Go:
Kananaskis is a year-round destination. Winter activities include snowshoeing, ice climbing, skiing, dog sledding, and more. However, keep in mind that many of the amenities in the region are open only during the summer months and some areas are closed for the winter season. Some hiking trails are also temporarily closed in the spring to allow them to dry.
Summer months, especially during weekends, can get busy as both locals and tourists take advantage of the nice weather. Summer activities include: hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, horseback riding, swimming, and paddling. It is recommended to book campsites and arrange permits ahead of time if possible.
Where to Stay:
There are numerous backcountry and car-camping options among the various provincial parks found within the Kananaskis region. More information can be found through Alberta Parks.
Other accommodation options include:
Kananaskis Mountain Lodge Hotel in Kananaskis Village
William Watson Lodge in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Mount Engadine Lodge in Spray Valley Provincial Park
Sundance Lodges (trapper’s tents and tipis for rent, as well as tent and RV campsites)
The towns of Canmore and Banff, which are a short drive away, also have everything from condo rentals to upscale hotels.
Where to Eat:
Dining options within the Kananaskis region are limited and most campers will bring their own provisions. However, there are a few places to find meals. The Caribou Café is open seasonally at The Boundary Ranch, which can also arrange western BBQ-style meals. The Kananaskis Mountain Lodge Hotel has multiple dining options including Forte (Italian), The Cedar Room (Canadian), and Woody’s Pub and Lounge. There are also numerous restaurants in the towns of Canmore and Banff.
Things to Know:
• You can find information, book permits, and reserve campsites through Alberta Parks
• Kananaskis Country is bear country, so be sure to follow safe practices such as proper food storage and garbage disposal, and carry bear spray on your hikes
• Trail reports, wildlife activity, fire bans, and other safety information can be found here
• There is limited cell service in the area
I did my first solo backpacking trip in Kananaskis Country. Below, you can find my itinerary and photos to give you an idea of what a short trip to the area looks like.
Day 1: Car Camping at Sundance Lodges
I spent my first night car camping at Sundance Lodges so that I could get a relatively early start on the trail the next morning. A torrential downpour kept me holed up in my car for much of the evening, but I was able to explore the campground a little before the rain started. The campgrounds were nice, and the staff was friendly. I would highly recommend Sundance Lodges to anyone looking to car camp in the area.
Day 2: Upper Kananaskis Lake Day Use Area to Point Backcountry Campground
I started my backpacking trip at the Upper Lake Day Use area in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. I followed the Upper Lake Loop Trail in a clockwise direction along the shore of the lake for 7.3 kilometers to Point Campground. The entire loop around Upper Kananaskis Lake is 15.7 km and is a popular day hike option.
The trail provided gorgeous lake views before moving away from the water and deeper into the forest. Moderate ups and downs made it feel challenging but not overly difficult. The 20 campsites at Point Campground were surprisingly private and I only ran into other campers while at the communal bear boxes. My site had views of the lake and mountains, access to the rocky beach, a picnic table, and a fire ring.
Day 3: Point Backcountry Campground to Forks Backcountry Campground
My second day on the trail took me 6.4 km to the Forks Backcountry Campground. The majority of this was along the Three Isle Lakes trail which moves away from Upper Kananaskis Lake and into the forest. Boardwalks and bridges negated the need for stream crossings and the moderate ups and downs continued, making it a nice hike.
HLAW Ambassador Jessica (@jessbee15 ) here. Did ya’ll remember to set your clocks ahead last night? Not me, oops. I’m not sure about you, but daylight savings time always takes a little bit for me to get used to. In the meantime though, here’s some lovely Colorado pics from my trip to Marble inside the White River National Forest. This was a shorter hike to a waterfall, but it was steep and slippery. And, yikes! A cougar had been spotted in the area the day before. One of my favorite parts of hiking is the possibility of wildlife viewing even if it means it might be a cougar, or bear, or moose. The key is to be prepared and know what to do and how to keep yourself safe. Happy Trails! #hikelikeawoman #teamhlaw #hike #hikecolorado #colorado #whiterivernationalforest #optoutside
The 16 sites at Forks Campground were much less private than at Point and the bear lockers, fire pits, and picnic tables are located in one central communal area. This made for a little less solitude but gave me the opportunity to meet and chat with other hikers. The Upper Kananaskis River runs alongside the campground and was a great spot to spend a relaxing afternoon.
Day 4: Forks Campground to Upper Kananaskis Lake Day Use Area
This was my last and longest day on the trail. I set off to return to my vehicle at the Upper Lake Day Use Area, which would take me 12.1 km back along the Three Isle Lakes trail and complete the rest of the Upper Lake Loop. By this point, the ups and downs seemed a lot more challenging and blisters were starting to form so it felt more difficult than the previous two days. Added to that was the fact that my lunch break was cut short by a rather aggressive chipmunk who really wanted my trail mix. But the beautiful views of the lake and mountains made up for it.
I really enjoyed my time in Kananaskis Country. I will admit that I was pretty nervous about running into a bear, especially since I was alone on the trail. I found the trail and campgrounds were just busy enough that I could socialize with other hikers when I wanted to, but I was still able to find solitude as well. The area was easy to navigate with clear signage (both on the trail and the roadways). I’m planning on returning to Kananaskis Country this coming season, this time to backpack with a group of women from my family.