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View of the Rocky Mountains from the Chester Lake trail
View of the Rocky Mountains from the Chester Lake Trail

Chester Lake Snowshoe in Kananaskis Country

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The Chester Lake snowshoe is one of the prettiest snowshoeing adventures you can do in Alberta. It’s also one of the most popular ones, so unless it’s a cloudy weekday, expect some company. Dogs are allowed on a leash too. It’s also a place where you’ll find cross-country skiers though they use a different route up.

It’s a full day trip to do the Chester Lake snowshoe from Calgary as the drive is a solid 90-minutes each way. If you want to splurge, I highly recommend a stay at nearby Mount Engadine Lodge so you can roll out of bed and be on snowshoes within minutes. Or stay in Canmore and knock an hour off your travel time.

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A dog dressed for the cold
A dog dressed for the cold on the way to Chester Lake

Details of the Chester Lake snowshoe 

Distance: 9 kilometres return

Elevation gain: 355 metres

Time needed: 3-4 hours

Dogs allowed: Yes on a leash

Map: Gem Trek Kananaskis Lakes

The trail to Chester Lake begins at the left hand corner of the parking lot. It climbs steeply for the first few kilometres. Once you reach the large meadow, the aerobic workout is behind you. From the meadow the Chester Lake snowshoe is just a gentle climb through the trees to another smaller meadow before reaching Chester Lake itself. The mountains absolutely sparkle in this area on a bluebird day.

Do make the side trip, even though it’s a steep one – to Elephant Rocks. Giant sized boulders have been dropped helter- skelter and the views from there are magnificent. Really the mountain views once you clear the trees are top-notch, especially on one of Alberta’s bluebird winter days.

In total the trail climbs a not too difficult 355 metres.

If you want to see what Chester Lake looks like as a summer hike read The Chester Lake Hike in Alberta (+ Three Lakes Valley).

The start of the Chester Lake snowshoe trail involves a steep climb
The start of the snowshoe trail involves a steep climb
On weekends the trail to Chester Lake is busy - on weekdays we saw only a few other people
On weekends the trail to Chester Lake is busy – on weekdays we saw only a few other people
Gorgeous landscape on the way to Chester Lake
Gorgeous landscape on the way to Chester Lake
Snowshoeing to Chester Lake in Kananaskis Country
Non-stop views after you reach the meadows
The mountains feel very close on this snowshoe
The mountains feel very close on this snowshoe
Shrubs look beautiful covered with frost
Shrubs look beautiful covered with frost
Slopes you wouldn't want to be climbing
Slopes you wouldn’t want to be climbing
One small open stream needs to be crossed
One small open stream needs to be crossed
Mountain scenery near Chester Lake
Mountain scenery near Chester Lake
Snowshoeing through the Elephant Rocks
Snowshoeing through the Elephant Rocks on the Chester Lake snowshoe
Checking out the fabulous Elephant Rocks
Checking out the fabulous Elephant Rocks
Snowshoers heading back to the trailhead
Snowshoers heading back to the trailhead

Where to stay near Chester Lake

If you want to be spoiled spend a night or two up at Mount Engadine Lodge, literally a few minute’s drive from the Chester Lake trailhead. It sure beats driving 90 minutes – 2 hours one way from Calgary first thing in the morning. They also offer a delicious afternoon tea.

Another choice would be in Kananaskis Village at either the Kananaskis Wilderness hostel or the Kananaskis Mountain Hotel – where the Kananaskis Nordic spa is located.

Finding the trailhead

Most people drive to the trailhead via Highway 40 from the Trans-Canada Highway – and not up the Spray Lakes Road from Canmore. There is a large parking lot at the trailhead, located on the east side of Smith Dorrien-Spray Lakes Road.

It’s about 20 kilometres north of Highway 40 – or 40 kilometres from Canmore. From Calgary, allow 90 minutes to two hours for the drive, depending on weather conditions.

I’ve done the Chester Lake snowshoe several times, always under great snow conditions. But if you’re reluctant to make the drive without knowing what you’re getting into check out the Kananaskis trail report online

                       

Further reading on snowshoe trails

For more ideas on easy snowshoeing trails in the Rockies pick up a copy of A Beginner’s Guide to Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies.

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Chester Lake snowshoeing in Kananaskis Country - one of the prettiest snowshoeing outings in Alberta

 

 

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