Kananaskis Country is one of the most beautiful parts of Alberta that everyone should get out and enjoy. You don’t have to summit a mountain to feel fulfilled. There are plenty of easy hikes in Kananaskis to adventure on.
Whether you’re with your parents, young children, on a sunset hike, winter hike, sunrise hike, or just want a nice day out in the mountains without too much work. And stress involved, we’ve broken down some of our favorite easy Kananaskis hiking trails for you. Ranked from easiest to hardest!
Kananaskis Conservation Pass
Visitors are now required to hold a Kananaskis Conservation Pass. The area covered in the pass includes Kananaskis and the Bow Valley corridor. Passes may be purchased online and are attached to a license plate number. Requirements are around vehicles and parking, not the individual. This includes parking at the Canmore Nordic Center or Grassi Lakes.
This is a new law in effect for 2021, and we hope the newly generated revenue increases the budget for Alberta Parks. Better conservation and visitor experience is a win for all.
Kananaskis Conservation Pass Prices
- Daily Pass: $15 (registers one vehicle)
- Annual Pass: $90 (registers two vehicles)
Easy Hikes in Kananaskis for All!
Blackshale Suspension Bridge
- Length: 1 km
- Elevation Gain: 52 meters
- Time Estimate: 30 minutes
If you are looking for the easiest hike in Kananaskis, head to the Blackshale Suspension Bridge. This hike is exactly what it sounds like, a suspension bridge over Blackshale Creek. This is a loop hike that is quick and easy and will take you across a beautiful bridge. You can complete the hike going in either direction, and it may take you as little as 10 minutes, depending on how quick of a hiker you are.
For Canadian Rockies hikes, this one isn’t the most exciting, with little views and the main highlight crossing the bridge itself. It’s best done in conjunction with another hike nearby or after a day out by Kananaskis Lakes.
- Length: 3.4 km
- Elevation Gain: 151 meters
- Time Estimate: 1 hour
Troll Falls is a popular winter Kananaskis hike for families as it’s short and easy and will lead you right to a frozen waterfall. If planning a trip in the winter, hiking poles and microspikes may be helpful for you.
The trail is hectic in the summer during the weekend days, so try and go during the weekday if possible.
- Length: 4.3 km
- Elevation Gain: 233 meters
- Time Estimate: 1.5 hours
In the summer, you can take the “hard” or “easy” trail with the hard trail passing by a waterfall ( not to worry, it’s not that difficult). The easier trail follows a long path with mild elevation gain the whole way.
At 4 km in length and only 233-meter elevation gain. During the summer weekend days, this trail is insanely busy. It’s best to go on a midweek day in the early morning or towards sunset if you try to stay away from the crowds.
- Length: 2.8 km
- Elevation Gain: 120 meters
- Time Estimate: 1.5 hours
Elbow Lake is another popular and short family hike as it’s a nice, well-maintained trail all the way to the beautiful Elbow Lake. Around Elbow Lake is the Elbow Lake campground, so if you are new to camping or want to test out some near geat, this is a great easy Kananaskis hike to walk to with a load on your bike for the night.
If you want to keep trekking past Elbow Lake and long for a long strenuous day, consider hiking up to Piper Pass, it’s stunning and a less popular trail in Kananaskis.
- Length: 4.2 km
- Elevation Gain: 271 meters
- Time Estimate: 2 hours
One of my favorite easy Kananaskis hikes is Ptarmigan Cirque. Especially during the larch season as there are thousands of larch trees in the area. During late September, this whole area turns a golden yellow.
To start, park near the Highwood Meadows Trailcross Highway 40 and follow the well-trodden trail and walk until you get a stunning open vista of the larches.
For a longer and slightly more difficult hike, you can consider Pocaterra Ridge (mentioned further down) across highway 40.
- Length: 9.7 km
- Elevation Gain: 424 meters
- Time Estimate: 2-4 hours
Chester Lake is a popular winter hike as there is a fantastic snowshoe trail. During the fall, it’s also a beloved hike as there are many amazing larches in the area. It’s another short and sweet hike on this list that is great for beginner hikers or families with children or grandparents in town.
Most of the trail is pretty boring, but eventually, it will open up as it takes you to Chester Lake itself. It’s here you can walk around the entire lake and the surroundings and take in all the colors!
West Wind Pass
- Length: 4.7 km
- Elevation Gain: 356 meters
- Time Estimate: 2-3 hours
A fun and rewarding hike that gives you superb views of Spray Lakes is West Wind Pass. However, some of the elevation gain on the trail may really get your heart pumping – it gets pretty steep in some sections.
When you make it to West Wind Pass, you’ll have great views towards Canmore on one side and epic views of the Spray Lakes. This is a popular hike in the summer – especially on weekends. Head here during the mid-week at off-season times for optimal enjoyment.
If you have a little more in you, consider continuing on to summit Windtower, or Rimwall Summit is also nearby.
- Length: 16.4km
- Elevation Gain: 667m
- Duration: 4-6 hours
Near the Chester Lake trailhead is the trailhead to Burstall Pass. To complete the full route is a longer day than most of the other easy Kananaskis hikes on this list. However, 667 meters of fain spread across 8 km, meaning the gain is gradual almost the entire way.
The hike moves past several marshy lakes and streams before a steeper ascent up to an alpine meadow and then finished on a high mountain pass with grand glaciated mountain views. We loved our time in Burstall pass and spent the majority of our time alone in the woods. It has everything you could want out of a Canadian Rockies hike.
If it’s a little too long of a day for you, don’t worry – you can turn around at any time and follow the same trail back!
- Length: 7.7 km
- Elevation Gain: 593 m
- Duration: 3-5 hours
Starting at Kananaskis Lakes, the trail to Rawson Lake is a popular one in the summertime. The trail to Rawson Lake is an exciting one as it skirts Upper Kananaskis Lake for the beginning of it, passing by waterfalls and streams along the way. The elevation starts around the 1.3 km mark and keeps climbing until you reach Rawson Lake.
Once you make it to Rawson Lake, you can walk around the lake and pick a nice spot to sit and relax. I would suggest bringing some picnic supplies and enjoying the scenery under the mountains.
For those looking for a longer day, consider hiking the steep trail up to Sarrail Ridge. Keep an eye on the Alberta Parks website. This trail frequently closes as there are many grizzly sightings.
Prairie Mountain/Barrier Lake Trail
- Length: 13.8 km for Full Loop, Can be shortened by doing an out and back
- Duration: 2-4 hours
- Elevation Gain: 564 m
Barrier Lake is one of the most popular places to head in Kananaskis. It’s one of the first stops as you are driving into Kananaskis from Calgary, and it can easily be reached in under an hour from the city.
Many choose to sit and enjoy the lakeshore, walk around the lake, or go for a paddle. For hikers, though, the Prairie View Trail is a great easy hike for sunrise, sunset, or even in the winter.
This is a smooth well-maintained trail the entire way, with stunning views over Barrier Lake once you get to the Prairie View Lookout. It took us less than an hour up. Once you make it to the viewpoint, you can head back down the way you came, or make it a look trail by following the Jewell Pass Trail.
If you have a spare 30-45 minutes, continue up to summit Yates Mountain and see the fire lookout!
- Length: 13.5 km as a full loop, out and back shorter
- Duration: 2-4 hours
- Elevation Gain: 699 m
The summit to Yates Mountain requires just 130 meters of elevation gain from the Barrier Lake Lookout. While the views of Barrier Lake are far better at the lookout point, if you continue on to Yates Mountain, you get to say you summited a mountain, see the fire lookout, and get views towards Mount Yamnuska.
I would highly recommend adding it to your day for a little extra challenge as it’s not a hard trail and requires no scrambling.
Mist Mountain Hot Springs
- Length: 8 km
- Elevation Gain: 550 m
- Duration: 3-4hours
The Mist Mountain Hot Springs was an unknown hidden gem just a few years ago but has exploded in popularity.
To reach the hot springs can easily be done in under an hour, but be forewarned if you visit at any time in the summer that isn’t sunrise or sunset, you’re likely going to be waiting in a line to sit in the springs.
The springs consist of just two tiny pools only capable of fitting five or so people. They are also not very hot, which will still leave you feeling pretty chilled even on the hottest mountain day in the Rockies. There’s no privacy or trees for changing, so it’s best to hike with your bathing suit on or with a partner who can hold a towel up over you while you change.
I say this not to put you off from visiting, just to manage expectations. The hot springs are a cool spot in the Rockies with amazing views, but unfortunately, they have been a little overshared.
We hit the hot springs at sunset after summiting Mist Mountain (moderate scramble) and hiked down very cold and wet. However, we got great views and fantastic photos.
If you have to experience scrambling in the Canadian Rockies and want a full day out with more challenges, you can consider summiting Mist Mountain.
South Pocaterra Ridge
- Distance: 11.4km
- Elevation Gain: 764 meters
- Duration: 4-7 hours
This is one of the more moderate hikes on this list, but it’s still relatively easy and requires no scrambling.
Pocaterra Ridge is one of the most popular Kananaskis hikes on this list. Mainly because it’s one of the best larch hikes in all of the Canadian Rockies.
Pocaterra Ridge is traditionally a point-to-point hike making for a longer and harder day. However, if you only have one car and looking for something shorter and easy, you have the option to hike South Pocaterra Ridge.
The hike to this “summit” is stunning, and during the larch season, it’s hard to believe your eyes. The most difficult steepest part is towards the end as views open up towards Mist Mountain and Mount Tyrwhitt.
- Length: 9 km
- Duration: 2-4 hours. Depends on where you want to turn around.
- Elevation Gain: 764m
Right across the valley from Wasootch Ridge (mentioned below) is Porcupine Ridge. It’s a very similar Kananaskis hike to Wasootch Ridge, with similar views, but I did find it slightly easier in terms of distance and elevation gained.
The main difference here is the approach to the hike, which will require you to navigate a creek bed and criss-cross ver water a few times. It’s not a problem in the late summer season, but you may get a little wet if you set out the early season while there is still snowmelt.
- Length: 15.4km
- Duration: 6-10 hours. Depends on where you want to stop.
- Elevation Gain: 1,451m
Wasootch Ridge is a favorite near Canmore in Kananaskis Country as it’s easily accessible and close to Calgary. This is the hardest hike on this list, though, in Canadian Rockies terms, it’s still relatively easy. Although you gain elevation quickly in the beginning. Once you make it past the initial grain, you’ll be on a ridge for a large portion of your hike, soaking in plenty of views.
Though it’s dog and kid-friendly, it is a long day at 15.4 km and 1451 meters of gain if you do the full route.
The great news about this hike is that you are navigating a ridge most of the time, and you can turn around whenever you want. So if you get tired before the 7.5 km mark, you can easily turn around.
There’s a scramble at the end that is not commonly noted, but it is not advised unless you are an experienced scrambler who has handled high exposure on ridges.
Gear We Recommend
The vast majority of hikes and easy scrambles in the Rockies, you’ll find us in our trusty Salomon Speedcross.
Arc’teryx Cerium is our pick for the best down jacket. It’s incredibly light, and we bring it on almost every hike in the Rockies.
This nifty clip from Peak Design secures a camera to my backpack strap for easy reach. No more digging in the backpack!
A pair of durable and lightweight hiking poles are a great asset on the hiking trail.
20L feels like the ideal size for quick hikes and scrambles. We love the Nano from Gregory with a hydration reservoir.
There is not much cell service in the Canadian Rockies. In case of emergencies, we carry an emergency beacon with GPS.
Advice for Tackling These Easy Kananaskis Trails
- If this is your first time hiking in the Rockies take a conservative approach – read our post for beginner hikers in the Canadian Rockies too. Pick an adequate hike for your fitness, plan for plenty of time, pack water and food, and don’t be afraid to turn around. If you want to learn more about what to wear hiking we have a great post.
- For some of these longer hikes, like Wasootch Ridge and Porcupine Ridge set a turn around time at the departure
- Always carry bear spray if you plan to hike in Kananaskis. Always practice wildlife awareness when you’re on a trail, and please give animals space.
- Leash your dogs. Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times while hiking in Kananaskis Country.
- If tackling some of these hikes in Kananaskis during the winter months, snowshoes, microspikes, and poles are a huge help. If you plan on hiking a lot in the winter taking an Avalance Safety Course is recommended.
- There is no cell service for most of these hikes, a Garmin Increach, or something similar could save your life!