Things To Do: Hiking to Chester Lake

Kananaskis Country, Alberta

Hiking at Chester Lake, Kananaskis

After a very wet spring in southern Alberta, summer had finally arrived at the lower elevations. Surprisingly, winter still had its firm grip at 2225 m/7300 ft when I went hiking at Chester Lake in Kananaskis, Alberta in late June.

   Rating - Moderate
   Distance - 4.5 kilometers
   Elevation Gain - 300 meters
   Duration - 3 hours round trip
   When to go - mid-summer to early fall (mid-July to October); snowshoe in winter (December - March).

Located 1.5 hours west of Calgary, Alberta, Chester Lake is a popular hiking trail in Kananaskis Country. When I arrived at 8:30 AM, there were no other cars in the parking lot and I enjoyed an outdoor adventure all to myself. It was a total escape from everyone and everything back in Calgary.

Chester Lake Hiking Trail

The first part of the trail was along an old forestry road. The climb was moderate and could be done on a bike, however, after kilometer 2.7, bicycles were prohibited. The short distance wasn't worth the cycling effort.

As the path began to climb towards the alpine basin, it wound its way through a spruce forest. The morning sun filtering through the trees felt warm on my skin yet wasn't strong enough to melt the pockets of lingering snow on the ground.

After 30 minutes in the forest, the grade eased and the terrain opened into a large meadow surrounded by Larch trees. In fall, the entire upper basin must ignite in autumn colours but right now, at the end of June, I re-entered winter. The air temperature was around +10C but a hard snowpack at least 1 meter thick still covered the alpine meadow.

I was a little surprised to find a hidden winter wonderland at this time of year. Chester Lake was still frozen except around the edge. On the opposite side, where a rough narrow trail should have been, a late spring avalanche had tumbled down Mount Chester and into the lake.

The snow became softer close to the water. I sunk to knee height every so often and my boots were getting wet and cold. My goal destination was the Elephant Rocks, a group of glacial erratics, just as short distance away. But as I hiked up another incline and sunk to my waist in snow, it became too exhausting to go any further and I reluctantly abandoned the effort.

How to Get to Chester Lake

View Hiking to Chester Lake (Kananaskis, Alberta) in a larger map

Distance to Chester Lake

  • Calgary - 149 kilometers (1.5 hours)
  • Canmore - 54 kilometers (45 minutes along the Smith Dorian Highway)
  • Banff - 70 kilometers (1 hour along the Smith Dorian Highway)

I turned around and vowed to hike to Chester Lake later in the season, when summer had returned to the upper elevation of Kananaskis.

Check out more things to discover in Alberta, including stunning scenery, great hikes and outdoor adventures, and interesting roadside attractions.