The Grassi Lakes hike is perfect for friends and families and a great way to pass a few hours. It’s an easy Canmore trail with a wide path that leads through the forest up to two sparkling turquoise lakes. This is a classic if you’re looking for a quick hike near Canmore!
However, because of its ease and accessibility, you can expect plenty of crowds on the trail, especially on weekends during the summer. Nevertheless, Grassi Lakes is a great hike everyone should try at least once during their trip to the Canadian Rockies. Let’s break down what to expect!
Grassi Lakes Hike Guide
1 – 4 hours
Grassi Lakes Trailhead
When is the Best Time To Hike Grassi Lakes?
It is possible to hike to Grassi Lakes year-round, but attention must be paid to avalanche cycles in winter/spring. Avalanche control work is regularly done on Mt Rundle, and it is not advised to hike in the area during these periods, you can stay up to date on avalanche work in the winter on Alberta Parks. It’s also worth noting that the lakes will usually freeze in late fall and thaw in the early spring. Still we find Grassi Lakes a great year round hiking destination in the Rockies.
About the Grassi Lakes Trail
The trailhead for Grassi Lakes is 2 km past the Canmore Nordic Center at the Canmore Reservoir. There is a decent-sized parking lot with enough room for about 100 vehicles, but this parking lot fills up quickly on the weekends.
When the parking lot is full on weekends, you’ll find rows of cars along the road and uphill parked on the Smith Dorrien Highway. If it’s this busy, we’d recommend hiking somewhere else around Canmore or Kananaskis, but it’s hard to deny the appeal to the Grassi Lakes trail, especially for the ease. It’s truly an accessible trail year round, perfect for families.
From the parking lot, a wide gravel trail that is well maintained leads up the lakes. It’s a gradual uphill climb that is easy for most to climb. However, it is a 200-meter climb, so don’t be surprised if you start to warm as you make your way to the lakes.
There are two routes to lakes: an easy main trail and a “hard” trail that moves away from the main trail. Both trails, in our opinion, are easy. However, the hard trail is often not passable in the winter and spring. It’s quieter but challenging to pass slow-moving parties in the summer and can become congested.
For most, we’d recommend you stick to the easy trail as it’s well-graded and maintained. However, we prefer the hard trail as it has far better views and only has a section at the end, which is steeper than the easy path.
The first section of the trail is a nice walk in the woods and doesn’t offer much for views. That doesn’t last for long, and eventually, the trail opens up to some lovely views down to the Bow Valley and Ha Ling Peak above. On the way up to the two shallow lakes, a few viewpoints offer wonderful panoramic views of the town of Canmore down below.
The best viewpoint is just before you reach Grassi Lakes, so make sure not to miss it, even though the lakes may be tempting. The sparkling lakes nestled below Ha Ling Peak and the East End of Rundle (another famed hike— advanced level) are a wonderful sight to be seen by all visitors.
Both lakes have a trail that circumnavigates them, so we like to walk around in a figure-eight loop. Several trails branch off from the trails. One leads up towards Whiteman’s Pond and the Smith Dorrien Highway. It provides some views over the lakes and more views of the Bow Valley.
For the more adventurous and locals, several rock faces are popular for rock climbing. Routes are pretty easy to find with a large number of bolts in place. However, please take this area seriously. A woman lost her life two years ago bouldering.
Unless you’re confident in your skill set, we’d advise you to stay away from the rock walls as there is always the risk of rockfall from overhead. Another word of warning, be careful in your exploration and avoid the trail named Riders of Rohan, as it’s for downhill mountain biking.
Grassi Lakes Trail Duration
The hike is a short 2km (4km round trip) jaunt that climbs a slight hill at an elevation of 250m. You should expect to take around 2-3 total for the hike as the lakes are gorgeous and nice to explore for a little while. Although, if you’re really moving and not stopping for photos, etc, the Grassi Lakes hike could easily be done in 1.1.5 hours (round trip).
Gear We Recommend for Hiking in the Rockies
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 trails around the Rockies, especially if you have knee problems.
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, though there is at Grassi Lakes. In case of emergencies around the park, we carry an emergency beacon with GPS.
Grassi Lakes Trailhead Info
The trailhead begins just off of Spray Lakes Road, on Ken Ritchie way, around 2 km past the Canmore Nordic Center. As you’re driving from Canmore, you’ll see a small sign that says “No Exit” on the left and a gravel parking lot on the right. Drive down the hill to the parking area and sign for the Grassi Lakes Trail. I’ve dropped the GPS coordinates where you need to take a left coming from Canmore.
When Can You Hike Grassi Lakes?
On a nice day, Grassi Lakes is one of the most popular hikes in the area, so it’s best to get on the trail early or later in the evening. That way, you have a parking spot and quiet trails in the summer months. In addition, hiking earlier in the day ensures cool temperatures, as daytime temperatures can get pretty warm.
Seasonally, it’s a go year-round, although the lakes do freeze over in the coldest winter months, and you may need snowshoes or crampons. However, generally, it’s well-trafficked enough to where the snow is packed down and easy to walk along. A good pair of hiking poles should be more than enough. The more advanced hike closes in winter and should open up around late April or early May.
How Long Does it Take To Hike to Grassi Lakes?
That all depends on you and your pace and how long you hang around at the lakes. I am a pretty fast-paced hiker and can make it up the trailhead in under a half-hour. This means a round trip quick hike for outdoor time and cardio could easily take one hour. However, if you want to take things slower, take photos, and enjoy your time at the lakes, I would allow two to three hours to fully enjoy.
Last time we went up to Grassi Lakes, I took my mother, who is not a hiker, and we made it up to Grassi Lakes in under an hour on the hard trail, took plenty of photos, and walked back down on the easy trail in about 2.5 hours.
How Hard is the Grassi Lakes Hike?
The Grassi Lakes hike is one of the most accessible hikes in Canmore and Banff. It’s often suggested to beginners, families, and the elderly because it is short, has a slight incline, has an elevation gain of 203 meters, and provides fantastic views. If you’ve done Tunnel Mountain in Banff, you can expect Grassi Lakes to be easier.
Should You Bring Dogs and Kids to Hike Grassi Lakes?
Absolutely! Grassi Lakes is ideal for young children, older grandparents, and pets! We’ve even seen people push strollers up the easy trail to Grassi Lakes. Granted it would be difficult as it’s not a smooth path, but if you’re willing, go for it!
Grassi Lakes Hike Notes
- Grassi Lakes is one of the busiest trails in Canmore, especially on weekends. Arrive early or later in the day to avoid the crowds in the summer. During the winter, you’ll have no problem spacing out from everyone!
- Be careful of falling rocks. There are many climbing and bouldering routes at Grassi Lakes, so pay attention that you aren’t standing directly under climbers. Plenty of mountain goats and sheep are in the area, that can kick down small rocks. There have been deaths from people getting hit by overhead rockfall, so always pay attention.
- Stay on the trail! There are signs everywhere asking visitors to stay on the trail to protect the environment, but still, we always see lots of people walking off for photos.
- Leave No Trace! Being a busy hike, there is always trash left about. There are no garbage facilities on the trail, only at the trailhead. Make sure to pack out what you bring in and leave the area as pristine as you found it.
Wildlife Awareness On Grassi Lake Trail
You should practice good wildlife awareness if you’re on any hikes in the area. The region has frequent sightings of black bears, grizzly bears, moose, coyotes, and cougars. They all present a threat to humans, and we should reduce our impact on their natural lives.
Before any hike or walk-in Banff National Park or Kananaskis Country, pack bear spray, check the park websites for wildlife information (Parks Canada and AB Park), and then check again for notices at the trailhead.
On the trail, make noise by banging hiking poles, talking, whistling, clapping, or singing. This is particularly important around blind bends and corners, although there aren’t many on the Grassi Lake Trail. It’s also a busy trail, so you generally don’t need to make too much noise, but always be bear aware.
This means staying alert, traveling in a group, minding children and pets, and finally, carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it. If you’ve come to the park without bear spray, Valhalla Pure Outfitters in town sells spray and holders with employees who will demonstrate how to use it properly.
What To Wear on Grassi Lakes Hike
Grassi Lakes is easy and straightforward enough that you can hike up in anything you want, as it’s much more of an uphill walk than a hike. That being said, you should wear proper footwear; in the winter, you’ll need to dress warm!
The most basic principle of what to wear hiking is layering. Anyone who has spent time in the wilderness or mountains can speak to the fact your temperature can fluctuate a lot on a hike. So, the goal of clothing is to help regulate your body temperature, element protection, and moisture management. Temperature management is best done through a layering system. You can see ours if you want to learn more about what to pack for a day hike or what to wear on a hike.
Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies
- Hiking in the Rockies: Purchase an AllTrails subscription to have a mobile map on you as you hike.
- Tours (New in 2024): The Banff Blog is partnering with one of the leading tour companies in Western Canada so readers can experience the magic of the Rockies with other travelers – without having to think about a thing. See all our 2024 tour offerings here!
- Hotels in the Rockies: There are many places to stay, from luxury hotels to wilderness cabins. See all our favorites here.
- Pack for the Rockies: See our complete Alberta packing list here.
- Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Rentalcars.com. Or embark on an epic campervan trip. We like to compare prices on Motorhome Republic and Outdoorsy.
- Fly For Free: Turn your spending into airline miles and points with travel credit cards (that’s what we do!). See our favorite travel credit cards. We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals!
- Hop On, Hop Off: This tour is taking Banff by storm. It’s exactly what it sounds like, hop on and off a bus bound for all the best attractions at your own pace!
- Travel Insurance: We don’t recommend traveling without travel insurance. We recommend checking out HeyMondo, which offers competitive rates for all travelers.