The Rawson Lake Winter Hike
Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis, Alberta
The hike to Rawson Lake is a great hike for pretty much all ages. It's located in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, and the trail starts at the Upper Kananaskis Lake Day Use Area. Although this is a great hike to do in the summer (and I'll cover that in a different hiking guide in the future), this hiking guide is for doing the trail in the winter. Before I dive into the hike itself, it's worth noting that you should always be prepared when hiking at any time of year and bring the appropriate gear, in this case some basic winter survival stuff like a knife, snowshoes, space blanket, small shovel, and first aid to name a few things.
Your journey will start at the big sign post, and the trail will initially follow the south side of the Upper Kananaskis Lake.
On this day my friend Jesse has joined me again to tackle another fun hike in Kananaskis. It's a fairly warm day out in early March, even though it looks super cold in the pictures because of the multitude of snow. The first kilometer of the trail along the lake shore is easy and doesn't require much effort at all. Even though we brought them with, we opted to not use snowshoes because the trail seemed hard packed. Luckily we made the right call as the trail was completely hard packed the entire way. If you're attempting this hike when it has recently snowed you'll want snowshoes.
Jesse really liked the beautiful views of the Upper Kananaskis Lake along the first section of the trail.
You'll cross over the frozen and snow covered Sarrail Creek on a recently built bridge, and then you'll come to an intersection of trails. The signage is clear and will point you left, taking you towards Rawson Lake. This part of the hike gets steeper, and the snow on the trail makes it even tougher. Well, either that or when I did it I was a bit out of shape.
Jesse and I continued onward towards our goal of Rawson Lake, stopping for the ocassional break.
Jesse and I found ourselves stopping every once and a while to cool off. Since it was a warmer day and we were wearing winter attire, we were both sweating a lot. By stopping and taking our jackets off we not only cooled down but more importantly dried off, because if for some reason we were stranded out there overnight we could catch hypothermia easily if we were soaking wet.
After passing many people on the trail we eventually arrived at the lake, and it's quite the sight in the winter.
Although the sights at Rawson Lake were incredible, I could barely see them. The sun was reflecting off the snow and giving me was called snow blindness, where the light reflecting is so bright you can barely even open your eyes. Luckily Jesse came to the rescue and just happened to have an extra pair of sunglasses with him (he always wears sunglasses no matter where we go), and I was able to enjoy the views,
We walked out onto the frozen expanse of the lake to grab some more pictures.
While we were quite safe from avalanches at the north end of the lake, the south end looked like avalanche terrain. Some people passed us at the lake who thought it was a good idea to attempt going up to the Sarrail Ridge along the south west of the lake. I warned them against it because they seemed unsure of where it was and didn't looked well equipped for handling that ascent. They disregarded my advice however, and they eventually disappeared from sight at the far end of the lake. A few minutes later they came walking back though, probably because of the massive snow drifts on that trail heading up. The Sarrail Ridge can be an incredibly dangerous hike to do earlier in the season because it's steep and when there's snow and ice present it makes the trail slippery, so it's best to wait until summer to do.
When we finished enjoyed the sights at the lake we started the easy hike back to the vehicle.
On our way back we opted to hike across the Upper Kananaskis Lake instead of following the shore line trail. This gave us amazing views of the surrounding area and for more I felt like I was an explorer.
If you are hiking across the frozen lake make sure to always check the conditions either online or a one of the Kananaskis park offices. After both of us taking many photos on the frozen lake we made it back to the vehicle and headed back to Calgary.
I really enjoyed doing this hike for the first time, and I'm looking forward to checking it out again in the summer soon to see how it differs from the winter trek. It's a fun early season hike/snowshoe that's really accessible for a variety of ages.