Grassi Lakes Canmore Hike in Alberta’s Kananaskis Country

Grassi Lakes is a beautiful Kananaskis hike with views of Canmore, a gorgeous waterfall, and two stunning aquamarine glacial lakes. There are two trails leading to the lakes. One is steeper and more difficult while the other trail is on a gravel road with gradual incline but lacking the views. If you are new to hiking this is probably the best trail around Canmore and an easy day hike from Calgary.

 

Turquoise beauty of glacial waters. Grassi Lakes hike Canmore Alberta scenic hiking trail in Kananaskis Country Canada

 

Summer 2018 was my summer of hiking with my sister! I stayed with her in Calgary and we planned weekly hikes such as Johnston Canyon and Ptarmigan Cirque trail.

Plus we took a mini-vacation to Jasper National Park and drove one of the top scenic drives in the world with a stop at Parker Ridge Trail to stretch our legs and hike to a panoramic glacier view. Read on and you’ll see why Grassi Lakes turned out to be one of my favorite Canmore hikes this summer.

It you are up to dong two hikes I suggest doing the Grassi Lakes hike first then grab lunch in Canmore, and hike the Grotto Canyon trail afterwards. Two completely different hikes in Kananaskis Country but you’ll find both quite easy and suitable for all ages.

READ now: 5 Easy hikes in Kananaskis – best hiking near Calgary

Grassi Lakes trail seasonal closure

Grassi Lakes Interpretive (harder trail) is closed during winter season due to icy conditions. The easy trail remains open year round.

Find the latest on closures and trail conditions at Alberta Parks website.

 

Grassi Lake shimmers turquoise aquamarine shades like a jewel. Best Canmore hike - Alberta Canada

Glacial fed lakes shimmer turquoise aquamarine shades like a jewel

 

Two trails at Grassi Lakes

  • Upper Grassi Lakes Trail = easier route – to the right approx 100 meters up the trail
  • Grassi Lakes Interpretive Trail = more difficult route – to the left approx 100 meters up the trail

Upper Grassi Lakes Trail is the easier route. Too easy if you are a hiker. Trust me, you don’t want to take this easier trail if you are reasonably fit. When you take the Upper Grassi Lakes Trail you will miss out on some exceptional views!

 

Grassi Lakes Trail sign at the trailhead in Kananaskis

Grassi Lakes Canmore hiking trail sign at the trailhead in Kananaskis

 

There is a gradual incline on the gravel road with no steps or difficult areas. Anyone with difficulty climbing up or down steep steps, or people with young children may want to take this easier route both up to Grassi Lakes and back down.

 

Upper Grassi Lakes Trail - the 'easy' trail is a gravel road

Upper Grassi Lakes Trail – the ‘easy’ trail is a gravel road

 

From spring through summer and early fall there are wildflowers along the Upper Grassi Lakes trail. This is a great hike if you are just getting into doing outdoor activities and want an easy pace with a big payout of gorgeous turquoise lakes.

 

Wildflowers at Grassi Lakes Kananaskis Country hiking

Wildflowers at Grassi Lakes Canmore hike in Kananaskis Country

 

The more difficult trail is referred to as Grassi Lakes Interpretive Trail and while it does include some steep areas it is not a difficult hike. Anyone with regular mobility should have no problem doing this trail. As with any activity the key is to pace yourself. Do not try to keep up with other people, go at your own pace and take breaks as necessary.

 

Grassi Lakes Trail in Kananaskis

Grassi Lakes hike in Canmore Alberta – Kananaskis Country

 

Always a great excuse for a break when you see stunning views or a bench. It would be a shame if someone made a bench and no one sat on it, right?

 

Bench made from fallen trees at Grassi Lakes Trail Kananaskis Alberta

Bench made from fallen trees along the trail in Kananaskis Alberta

 

While Grassi Lakes Interpretive Trail can get very busy during beautiful summer days, if you go mid-week you will encounter fewer crowds.  The volume of hiker traffic does decrease a bit because of the other easier trail to the aquamarine lakes.

A lot of folks will to the more difficult hike up to the lakes and take the easier route back down. This helps to alleviate some congestion along the trails.

 

Grassi Lakes hiking trail waterfall

Grassi Lakes hiking trail waterfall

 

Staircase beside the waterfall at Grassi Lakes hiking trail Kananaskis

Staircase beside the waterfall is quite steep but there are railings

 

Which hiking route is best?

We took the more difficult trail on the way up to Grassi Lakes and returned via the easier route. Be sure to take the Grassi Lakes Interpretive Trail (more difficult hike) for the views of  the town of Canmore and their water reservoir plus you pass right by a huge waterfall on the this trail. All of these sites are missed when you take the Upper Grassi lakes Trail (easy trail) along the gravel path.

If you have small children or people with limited mobility the best route will be the easy trail.

 

View from Grassi Lakes Trail overlooking Canmore and Rundle Canal

View from the trail overlooking Canmore and Rundle Canal

 

Grassi Lakes Canmore hike with TWO gorgeous glacier fed lakes

Grassi Lakes Canmore hiking trail with two gorgeous glacier fed lakes

 

Why is it called Grassi Lakes Trail?

It is thanks to Lawrence Grassi that we have this trail. Mr Grassi emigrated to Canada from Europe and worked as a miner in Canmore Alberta starting in 1916. Throughout his time in the region he earned recognition from the Alpine Club of Canada, Canadian Hosteling Association, the national park system, the people of Canmore, and the Canadian government for his extensive work on the trails in the national parks of Alberta and British Columbia.

Lawrence Grassi enjoyed the mountains and participated in making the mountains around Canmore a better place for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Clearly he found something he loved to do and we are fortunate to continue to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

 

Lawrence Grassi tribute posted at Grassi Lakes Hiking Trail

Lawrence Grassi tribute posted at along his namesake hiking trail in Kananaskis

 

What makes the Grassi lakes so colorful?

Grassi Lakes beautiful turquoise to aquamarine color is due to the source of the water supply. Rock flour, also known as glacial flour, is present in the lakes. The source of water for Grassi Lakes is the Spray Lakes Reservoir from the Spray River which is a tributary of the Bow River. The Bow River originates from Bow Lake which is fed from the Bow Glacier.

READ MORE: Bow Summit Peyto Lake Trail Icefields Parkway Banff

 

Grassi Lake Canmore hike pristine turquoise glacial waters

Grassi Lake Canmore hike with pristine turquoise glacial waters

 

What is rock flour or glacier flour?

As glaciers erode a fine powder of rock silt is created by rocks grinding against one another. This powdery rock flour travels along the waterways created by the glacial melt waters. Each glacier has qualities and rock formations that create a special blend of glacier flour unique to that particular region.

Peyto Lake is a fine example where you can see the intense color of the lake as well as the shallow water flowing from the lake. The color of glacial fed lakes is amazing. The color changes with amount of rock flour and other silt floating in the water.

Read now: 5 Awesome Glacial Lakes in the Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rocky Mountains rock flour may contain fine particles of limestone, sandstone, shale, and other sedimentary rock. The United States Rocky Mountains are primarily igneous and metamorphic rock and contain mostly granite and gneiss.

You will find there are more glaciers in the Canadian Rocky Mountains compared to the United States Rocky Mountains. In addition the Canadian Rockies are more rugged and jagged in appearance.

If you want much more detailed information on why glacier fed lakes are turquoise I highly recommend reading Scientific Explorer’s blog post here.

 

 

Grassi Lakes Trail map. Canmore hiking trail in Kananaskis Country Alberta Canada

Grassi Lakes Trail map

 

Grassi Lakes Trailhead parking area in Kananaskis Alberta

Grassi Lakes Trailhead parking area

 

Hike info

Type of hike

Out and back

Distance

3.8 km (2.3 miles) round trip

Elevation gain

173 m (568 ft)

Time

Allow 1 hour to 90 minutes

Difficulty

Both trails are easy, one is super easy :)

Best time to hike

June through September. Harder trail is closed during winter while the easy trail is open year round. Weather in the mountains is often unpredictable. Bring layers and cold weather clothing options.

Are dogs allowed on Grassi Lakes hiking trail?

Yes, but dogs must be on leash at all times

Facilities at trailhead

Trash and recycle bins, pit toilets

 

Directions to Grassi Lakes trailhead

  • From Calgary take the Trans-Canada Hwy 1 West (signs for Banff) approx 90 km (56 miles)
  • Take exit 93 towards Three Sisters Parkway/Bow River Campground
  • Continue on Three Sisters Parkway/AB-742 for approx 8 km (5 miles)
  • Turn LEFT onto Ken Ritchie Way and continue 1.3 km (.8 miles) to Grassi Lakes Trail parking area

 

Rock climbers at Grassi Lakes rock climbing area in summer at Kananaskis Alberta

Rock climbers at Grassi Lakes rock climbing area

 

Grassi Lakes rockfall hazard map and rock climbing, trail boundary info

Grassi Lakes rockfall hazard map and rock climbing, trail boundary info

 

Waterfall at Grassi Lakes Trail Canmore hike

Waterfall at Grassi Lakes Trail Canmore hike

 

First glimpse of Grassi Lake

First glimpse of the lake

 

Turquoise beauty of glacial waters. Grassi Lakes hike Canmore Alberta scenic hiking trail in Kananaskis Country Canada

 

Enjoy hiking in Kananaskis!

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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 4 of living a nomadic life, roadtripping around the USA and Canada and writing about her experiences with a focus on hiking and cultural encounters. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

2 Replies

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  1. Jo Harmon says:

    Amazing place and great article of it’s history. Pictures are beautiful.

    • Thank you Jo! I enjoy these type of hikes where there is an element of historical information provided. It is fortunate that Lawrence Grassi put so much time and effort into making this hike available to future generations. The colors of the lakes are remarkable and mesmerizing to see in person.
      Cheers,
      Susan

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