What To Expect
This popular Kananaskis snowshoe trail goes to Chester Lake, a beautiful mountain lake nestled at the base of, you guessed it, Mt. Chester. It’s an ideal hike for families and snowshoers with previous experience. If you’re looking for more of a beginner trail, check out the Hogarth Lakes Snowshoe Loop instead.
The length, 6.8 km return and elevation, 287m, may not seem like much in the summer.
However, when you are dressed in extra winter layers, possibly trudging through deep snow with snowshoes on your feet, it can quickly tire little ones and parents out. FYI – it happened on a regular basis with my youngest until we switched him to ice grippers for hard-packed trails.
Also, this trail gets firmly packed down and can become icy and slippery on the steeper trail sections.
My snowshoe partner was wearing snowshoes with only toe cleats on them. She had a few slips on the steeper, icy sections. Thankfully, her hiking poles kept her upright several times. Parents, if you are carrying a little one in a front carrier or backpack, you too may want to consider hiking poles for balance.
The trail takes you through a lower Alpine forest of pine and spruce trees covered with the sage green of Old Mans Beard, the longer darker strands of Witches Hair and the bright green of the Wolf Lichen, all of these lichens are abundant along this trail.
The trail widens just before the meadow.
and levels off once you reach the mountain meadow.
The trail then takes you through the meadow and to the lake with no noticeable elevation gain, which is a welcomed break for little legs and old (mine) calf muscles.
The trail is in Simple Class 1 Avalanche terrain.
We set up lunch just before the lake. My old dog, Dakota (R.I.P) was mooching a snack from my friend, but he had some competition from Canada’s National Bird, the Whiskey Jack, a species of mountain bird that always seems to show up the minute you pull out your lunch. Dakota had a treat; the Whisky Jack, although persistent, wasn’t so fortunate.
Chester Lake trail is in Class 1 Avalanche terrain. Stay on the trail. To find out more about avalanche safety, read my blog and definitely check out Avalanche Canada.
Shared Trail With Cross Country Skiers
Sections of this trail are shared with cross-country and backcountry skiers. Please follow proper trail etiquette and don’t walk on the ski tracks.
Why don’t have I photos of my boys snowshoeing this trail with me?
Well, the one time they did snowshoe this with me, my camera battery ran out! So here are a few “throwback pictures” from different years.
Thanksgiving Weekend, 2013
And a few more photos all the way back to 2007!
Chester Lake wasn’t our destination on this particular day, Hogarth Lakes was, but someone, (me) had to use the outhouse. The boys were ECSTATIC when they saw the amount of snow and couldn’t wait to get their snowshoes on.
We never made it across the road to Hogarth Lakes, which is a very easy family-friendly and beginner-level snowshoe. You can read about it here.
FYI- I wouldn’t have attempted the Chester Lake snowshoe with them at this age: I firmly advocate for less is best when children are trying out a new activity. After all, you want them to enjoy it!
What Types of Snowshoes do you need?
Check out my blog, Snowshoeing 101: A comprehensive Gear Guide.
As previously mentioned, this is a VERY popular trail and gets hard-packed. A decent pair of ice grippers might be sufficient, particularly if it hasn’t snowed for a while. Ice grippers are very easy to put on and come with a carrying case so you can pack them away and not worry about the spikes puncturing your pack. My youngest son prefers these over snowshoes on hard-packed trails but always wants to switch with me when he wants to play in the deep snow.
Families with older children with advanced snowshoe experience. These are children are capable of getting up and down the trail on their own.
Adults with some snowshoe experience who want to try a longer distance with some elevation.
When To Go?
Daylight hours – as with all winter sports, it is always advisable to start them early in the day.
How to Get There
From Canmore, take the Smith Dorien Road (742) to the Chester Lake Parking lot.
From Calgary, take Highway 1 West, exit at 118, and continue on Highway 40 to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. You will connect to the Smith Dorrien Road, continue along this road to the well-marked Chester Lake Day Use Parking lot.