The Hike to Elbow Lake
Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis
The hike to Elbow Lake is a short but sweet trek in the Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park section of Kananaskis Country. It's home to a backcountry campground and as the name states, a lake. This lake is indeed the source of the Elbow River, which provides a lot of the drinking water for the city of Calgary downstream. This is a great hike for the family to do, since it's only 1.4km to the lake itself. The parking lot is easy to find, although it is not accessible from December 1 to June 14 due to the annual closure of the road south of the turnoff towards the Kananaskis Lakes.
Views from the south end of the parking lot near the trailhead.
Once you find the parking lot you'll be able to start the hike. Initially it's a pretty steep ascent, which I found tough the first time I did the hike. Having done it a couple times since then I didn't find it as bad.
Although in the above photo the trail doesn't look steep, I assure you it is.
There is a bench part of the way up which is nice to take a short break at. It's also a bit of a sign that the worst of the uphill battle is almost over.
These are the views from the bench looking back the way you just came.
You'll feel some relief on your legs in the next sections after the bench, which will be most welcome. Like I always say, going up is the hard part. There's still a little bit of incline to overcome, but it's not bad at all. Once the trail begins to level out you'll know Elbow Lake is close.
The trail actually slightly descends in the last 50 meters or so before you reach the lake.
Once you've slightly descended you'll have arrived at Elbow Lake, and it's quite a pretty lake with some equally beautiful towering mountains around it.
The views at Elbow Lake are quite amazing.
Another angle of the lake which is what you would first see upon reaching it.
So now that you've made it to Elbow Lake, now what? Well you could have your lunch if you packed it at one of the picnic tables in the backcountry campground. Additionally you could add on another hike to your day from here, such as going up to the Rae Glacier. Maybe you plan on backcountry camping at the campground here, with sites that can be reserved through Alberta Parks' Online Reservation System. If you just planned on coming to Elbow Lake and that's it, head back the way you came to get back to the parking lot. It will take a lot less time heading back due to it being almost all downhill. A couple years ago I think it only took me maybe 10 minutes heading back. I was also jogging on the way back which reduced the time to get back.
Hope fully you enjoyed reading my hiking guide for the hike to Elbow Lake in Kananaskis, stay tuned for a hiking guide to the add on to this trail the Rae Glacier, which includes Elbow Lake, in the coming weeks!
Enjoyed the Elbow Lake Hiking Guide? Watch a video of the hike below!