• Nicole

Rawson Lake Hike - Winter or Fall?


Winter and Fall mountain image
Rawson Lake Winter and Fall side by side

The Rawson Lake hike is for anyone who loves hiking and would like to go a little deeper in the Kananaskis backcountry to get away from the more popular trails that are closer to Calgary.


The trail itself isn't too crazy. It starts right at the incredibly beautiful Kananaskis Lake and feels like a peaceful nature walk as you make your ways through a forest with glimpses of the lake between breaks in the trees. After the bridge, the incline begins. The incline isn't terribly steep, but it is steep enough to make your breath a little shallower and your heart pounding.


Female on a winter hike in front of trees
The author at Rawson Lake on a Winter hike

If you love forest hikes, you will love this trail because you're in the forest for the entire hike as soon you veer away from Kananaskis Lake en route to Rawson Lake.


It is a two hour drive from where I live to the trailhead, so at a 4 hour round trip, this hike is a treat that I thought would be great to enjoy while the weather was a bit warmer and the roads in good condition. Between the drive and hike, it also made for an incredibly long day and I slept like a baby when I got home.


As we hiked, I thought it would certainly be worth camping in the area sometime in the summer to have a few days to check the boxes off for some of the other hikes in the area while avoiding the long round trip drive.


Relative to the drive time, this hike isn't very long. We completed it - in the snow in 2.5 hours. we stopped for lots of photos, mini breaks and even had a bite to eat by frozen Rawson Lake.


I've now done this particular hike twice; last September 2021 and January 2022. Find the differences other than the obvious (seasons) below:


September:



The views and colours are spectacular. I could have stared at the reflections in the lake forever.


The smell of the forest is absolutely intoxicating.


Female in front of Rawson lake and a mountain
Nicole at the end of the Rawson Lake hike

The lakes are unlike anything I've ever seen. So blue and vast.


Kananaskis Lakes and mountain ranges
Views of Kananaskis Lakes from Sarrail Ridge

If you're feeling up to a serious hike add-on, when you get to the end of Rawson, there is yet another hike - Sarrail Ridge for you to climb. In warmer months, bring poles, lots of water and get ready as this hike is vertical and intense.

This trek comes with a pretty big avalanche risk in the winter, so I would only attempt Sarrail Ridge in the summer or early fall.


Female sitting on a ridge overlooking Kananaskis Lakes
The author sitting on the ridge at Sarrail overlooking Kananaskis Lakes


January:



There's a lot of snow. Stay on the path. We saw with our own eyes people who veered off of the path and ended up with one WHOLE LEG completely sunken down to the thigh in the snow.


Not surprisingly, this trail is still busy in the winter as it is one of the safe hikes to complete in the winter. The trail feels narrower and we were brushing by people who were on their way up as we descended.


The winter wonderland feel of this hike is beautiful, peaceful and still. For the views September is the way to go, but for January was tranquil and I am so glad that I have experienced this trail in the winter.


Stats: 8.7 km

Elevation Gain: 630 m