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The South End Of Lawson Hike In Kananaskis Country

The South End of Lawson Hike in Kananaskis Country

I first learned about the South End of Lawson hike via Instagram. Someone had hiked it under cover of snow and their photo caught my eye. The hike sounded intriguing – and the views from the first photo I saw were outstanding. After a bit of research, John and I decided we’d do the hike one June day on the way up to a two night stay at Mount Engadine Lodge as the trailhead is only about a 30 minute drive from the lodge.

The South End of Lawson hike definitely needs to get added to your must-do list if you visit Kananaskis Country. Views are sublime. It’s an 7.0 kilometre return hike with a 762 metre (2,500 foot) elevation gain (though one guidebook says it’s a 8.4 kilometre return hike with 690 metres (2,264 feet) of elevation gain.)

The first few kilometres are particularly steep but then the trail moderates save for a final short, steep section before the scrambling part of the hike. I’d call it a strenuous hike and wouldn’t recommend it for young kids. 

This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a purchase via one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

The glorious view part way up the South End of Lawson
The glorious view part way up the South End of Lawson

Finding the trailhead

Like so many hikes in Kananaskis Country, this one is unofficial. That means you won’t find signage of any sort letting you know you’re on the right trail. Fortunately it’s pretty obvious.

If you’re driving on Highway 40, drive south from the Trans-Canada Highway for 49 kilometres. Turn right onto Kananaskis Trail, and then 2.1 kilometres later turn right again onto the Smith-Dorrien-Spray Trail. Drive for another 2.8 kilometres to reach an unsigned pullout pictured below. If you get to the Peninsula Day Use Area you’ve gone a couple of hundred metres too far.

Pull in and park by the locked gate. Note there is signage for the High Rockies Trail in the parking lot- as this is the end of the section of High Rockies Trail from Blackshale to Peninsula.

The trailhead for the South End of Lawson Hike
The trailhead for the South End of Lawson Hike

Description of the South End of Lawson Hike

This is such a worthwhile hike for the effort – reward ratio. In just two hours you can be standing on the summit, enjoying the views. Note that the last 10 minutes of hiking require a bit of easy scrambling. There are excellent hand and footholds and only a minor amount of exposure. 

The hike starts off easily at the locked gate. Follow the flat, curving road for 1.2 kilometres. Along part of the road there is a flume – the V-shaped structure pictured two photos below, that reroutes water from Kent Creek.

Nice views the minute you start hiking
Nice views the minute you start hiking
Follow the flume that reroutes Kent Creek
Follow the flume that reroutes Kent Creek

Near the end of the flume and directly across from the set of stairs pictured below is the start of the trail up to the South End of Lawson. Cross the small creek and start hiking up on the obvious trail. It’s steep immediately.

The trail up starts directly across from this set of stairs
The trail up starts directly across from this set of stairs
The hike up the South End of Lawson starts across this creek
The hike up the South End of Lawson starts across this creek
Starting off steeply hiking in the woods
Starting off steeply hiking in the woods

Views on the South End of Lawson hike

Once you’re on the trail, all route-finding issues are over. 

The steepest part of the hike is at the beginning of the trail (save for a short section near the top) – but that means you get views of the Kananaskis Lakes – and darned good ones in very short order.

As you climb, there are some places with airy drop-offs. The trail stays well back from the edge but if you’re with kids or dogs, keep them close by. The final 10 minutes of the hike includes some easy scrambling. There are plenty of foot and hand placements so it’s not hard. Take your time and you’ll be through it and onto a grassy slope and just a few minutes away from the end of the trail. There are enough rocks around at the top that you can get out of the wind if it’s blowing. Enjoy your lunch with a view.

From the top you get views of King Creek Ridge along with Grizzly, Denny, Potts and Evan-Thomas Peaks.

Allow approximately two hours to get back to the trailhead. All told it took us 4.25 hours including the lunch stop.

Some of the first views on the way up the South End of Lawson
Some of the first views on the way up
Clematis growing wild in the forest
Purple clematis growing wild in the forest
There are some good drop-offs on the hike
There are some good drop-offs on the hike – keep kids and dogs well back from the edge
Another airy view
Another airy view over to King Creek Ridge – another fabulous hike
Superb views from the high point of Kananaskis Lakes
Superb views of the Kananaskis Lakes
Views looking north from the South End of Lawson hike
Views looking north from the South End of Lawson hike
Looking across the the valley west of the South End of Lawson
Looking across the the valley west of the South End of Lawson
The scrambly section near the summit - but all quite easy
The scrambling section near the summit – but all quite easy
It looks far more treacherous than it is
It looks far more treacherous than it is
The big reason to do this hike is the incredible view
The big reason to do this hike is the incredible view

If you’re looking for more hikes in the Canadian Rockies, particularly family-friendly hikes I’d highly recommend Family Walks and Hikes in the Canadian Rockies by Andrew Nugara, published in 2020.

Where to stay nearby

If you’re into camping, there are several campgrounds nearby in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park though my understanding is that they fill quickly. They include Canyon, Elkwood, Boulton Creek, Lower Lake, Interlakes and Mount Sarrail Walk-In tenting. The Mount Kidd RV Park is also a short drive away.

If you prefer a roof over your head I’d suggest Mount Engadine Lodge, 24 kilometres away. Two other options include Kananaskis Mountain Lodge and the Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel, both about 59 kilometres away.

The view of the South End of Lawson from the highway
The view of the South End of Lawson from the highway

Further reading on hikes nearby

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The South End of Lawson Hike in Kananaskis Country, Alberta

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

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