Hiking Chester Lake in Kananaskis is a wonderful experience, especially during larch season. But snowshoeing Chester Lake upon newly fallen snow is magical.
Snow covered evergreens create a fairytale backdrop in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta’s Kananaskis Country.
It’s already several years (okay, decades) since I stepped into snowshoes, so Chester Lake in November felt like my first snowshoe trip.
And since it’s my first full winter in over twenty years, I want to embrace the wintry weather with outdoor activities. If you haven’t tried snowshoeing yet I think you should give it a try, at least once.
Kananaskis has many places for snowshoeing and Chester Lake is one of the popular trails. Rawson Lake is another great snowshoe trail in Kananaskis.
Also check out 5 easy hikes in Kananaskis for more outdoor adventures.
Let’s have a look at snowshoeing Chester Lake Kananaskis now.
Where is Chester Lake?
Chester Lake is in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Kananaskis Country, south of Canmore. The drive there includes several kilometers on an unpaved road, and you need winter tires once snow has accumulated on the road.
From Calgary to Chester Lake takes about 2 hrs to drive the 147 km. Take Trans-Canada Hwy 1 west to exit 118 for Hwy 40 (Kananaskis Trail) south.
Continue to the exit for Kananaskis Lakes Trail and turn right onto Smith Dorrien Trail, continue for 20 km, and watch for the sign and parking lot on the right.
From Canmore to Chester Lake takes about 1 hour 15 minutes to drive the 47 km. Take Three Sisters Parkway south (AB-742) which turns into Smith Dorrien Trail and watch for the sign and parking lot on the left.
There is a large parking lot but when it gets full you can usually park alongside the road.
Chester Lake Hike Info
Distance: 8.3 km (5.2 miles) round trip to/from lake – add 1 km (.6 mile) walk around the lake
Type of hike: Out and back
Elevation: 419 m (1,375 ft)
Time: Allow 3 – 4 hours
Dogs allowed: Yes, dogs must always be on leash
Remember to allow sufficient time to get back to the trailhead before dark. During the shortest winter days, the sun sets around 4:30 pm in Southern Alberta.
I do not recommend snowshoeing Chester Lake alone unless you are an expert at snowshoeing and outdoor survival.
And don’t worry about buying snowshoes, you can easily rent outdoor gear to see how you like it first.
Chester Lake Trail Description
Most of the elevation gain is during the first 2.5 km (1.5 miles) through the forest.
You need to watch for the signage near the beginning of the trail or you’ll wind up on the x-country skiing trail instead of the snowshoe trail.
I know this because my sister and I missed the sign on the way to the lake!
Now, a lot of people like to take the x-country skiing trail on the way up and the snowshoeing trail back down, or vice-versa. That’s what we did and I’m glad we did both routes because they are a bit different.
The x-country skiing trail to Chester Lake is the same as the well-marked hiking trail you would take in the summer, and it features a couple of open meadows with beautiful mountain views.
Although sometimes the mountains get hidden behind clouds.
While the snowshoeing trail to Chester Lake meanders through the forest until just before the lake. There is one small creek crossing along the snowshoe trail.
The hike around the lake gets tricky with early snowfall. There are rocks and uneven ground so it’s difficult to snowshoe around the lake until there is sufficient snow to blanket the area.
Another option is to snowshoe towards the left of the lake to the Elephant Rocks, about half a kilometer away.
There are a few places to rent snowshoes in Calgary, Banff, and Canmore. Do an internet search to find the most convenient rental shop for you.
In Calgary, the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre offers excellent rates for outdoor gear rentals. Check the UC website for prices/hours/FAQ about their rentals.
I rented from Sports Rent on 16 Ave NW Calgary (Trans-Canada Hwy 1) the evening before our snowshoeing trek.
After 4 pm Sports Rent allows you to rent snowshoes without paying for an extra day’s rental fee. Total cost was $15.75 including tax for 1 day rental. Pickup after 4 pm and drop off before closing time the next day.
The snowshoes I used were Faber Mountain Pro aluminum 8” x 28” size, which is suitable for up to 200 lbs (90.7 kg) fully loaded with gear.
I was concerned that the shoes would be difficult to walk in, but it didn’t take much time to get used to the wider stride of walking in snowshoes versus walking in hiking boots.
If I were to buy snowshoes, I would purchase a more suitable size for my weight, but the rental snowshoes worked out fine and I would rent them again.
What to Wear Snowshoeing
You want to wear layers while snowshoeing because of variable weather conditions in the mountain regions and as you exert energy you may want to remove a layer or two.
Often, at Chester Lake the wind is vicious so even if you are warm while snowshoeing, you’ll want extra winter hiking clothing in your pack especially if you stop for a picnic lunch at the lake.
Choose clothing that allows movement as well as comfort.
You’ll want to bring the following clothing for snowshoeing:
- Base layer
- Outer layer
- Head covering
- Gloves or mitts
- Winter hiking boots and wool socks
Thermal underwear is a good choice for a base layer. Merino wool is lightweight but keeps you warm and doesn’t itch like traditional wool.
Wool socks are the best for hiking and snowshoeing.
Mid-layer you can wear a hoodie and a flannel jacket or vest on top. Yoga pants or stretch hiking pants are fine as snowshoeing pants.
For outer layers you should have a waterproof jacket and an insulated coat such as a down jacket. And for your pants outer layer a pair of waterproof or water resistant lightweight pants are a good option.
Gaiters are good for keeping snow from getting in your boots.
Bring a toque, balaclava, scarf, mittens, or gloves or both! I find mitts are warmer than gloves.
In addition, you should also bring the following snowshoeing accessories:
- First-aid kit
- Trekking poles
I hope you get outdoors in winter and enjoy Chester Lake snowshoeing at least once.
Save it to Pinterest and share!