Rawson Lake Snowshoe Trail

Category: Winter Hikes + Snowshoeing

8 km Return, 305m (1,000 ft) Elevation Gain

What Is The Rawson Lake Snowshoe Trail Like?

This very popular summer trail in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park doubles as a snowshoe trail. It takes you to Rawson Lake, which is nestled at the base of some spectacular mountain scenery. You gain a lot of elevation in the first half of this trail, however, the many switchbacks make the task less daunting. The Rawson Lake trail is a popular trail in both, for hiking in summer and snowshoeing in winter.

Three Mountain Family Hikes rawson lake snowshoeing
Rawson Lake, winter view, late afternoon on a cloudy day, 2014.
rawson lake snowshoeing
Rawson Lake, Summer, 2009.

We first hiked this trail in the summer in 2009, when my boys were 6 and 8. We snowshoed it 5 years later.  The first time seemed like a never-ending hike. I remember a lot of rest stops and bribery along the first part of the trail. What a difference 5 years make! I had a hard time trying to keep up with them.

Like all of the popular snowshoe trails in the Rockies, the main trail of Rawson Lake becomes hard-packed and can get icy on shady or steeper parts. I highly recommend snowshoes with traction, such as the MSR Lightning Ascent, when doing most of the popular trails in Kananaskis. These have amazing grip but still allow you to “float” through the POW. This trail is not maintained in the winter so any obstacles that fall across the trail stay there until spring trail maintenance is done. Here is where floating through the POW comes in: you might need to trek through some powder to get around the obstacle.

rawson lake snowshoeing
Starting out on snowshoes, but for how long?

You will find that the more you venture out during winter, the better you will become at knowing what gear you like and need for a certain trail. For example, my youngest son always starts on his snowshoes but if the trail is hard-packed, he quickly switches to my Yaktrak XTR. He loves to play in the deep, fluffy snow but can’t see the purpose of wearing snowshoes on a hard-packed trail. Thankfully, he also carries the Yaktrax because I become a “mommy sherpa” and somehow get talked into carrying his snowshoes.

Rawson Lake Snowshoe,
Switched to the Yaktrax: XTR
how to snowshoe rawson lake
Yaktrax: XTR

Touching on winter gear and snowshoes: my husband and I have the MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes with the lifts. They take the stress off your calves when climbing up steeper portions of the trail. Trust me, they work!

msr lightning ascent snowshoes
MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes
snowshoeing rawson lake
Having fun off-trail
snowshoeing rawson lake
It was sunny when we started

Remember how I stated that the more you venture out during winter the better you will get at knowing which gear to take? Well, this snowshoe adventure was a great reminder of why we pack the extra gear to keep us warm. We got a late start on our Rawson Lake trail snowshoe so by the time we made it to the lake the temperatures were starting to drop. The clouds were rolling in. Thankfully, my oldest son carried the Jetboil on this trip and he was very keen to make the hot chocolate. We all needed something warm to drink when we reached our destination.

TIP: Always take warm fluids on a thermos, layers, hand and foot warmers and an extra pair of socks.

jetboil while snowshoeing rawson lake
Using the JetBoil to boil some water for hot chocolate

I should mention there is a high risk of avalanche hazard at the lake. Read my blog post about avalanche awareness if you’re leery of winter hiking in the Rockies! Winter travel along the shoreline is strongly discouraged even though during summer the trail and shoreline are ideal spots.

snowshoeing rawson lake
I deliberately stepped off the trail at the lake to see how deep the snow was.
drinking hot chocolate in the snow in rawson lake
Lunch and hot chocolate at the lake. The sun was going down fast. We made it back to the car just before it got dark.

The Rawson Lake trail is popular in both the summer and the winter. I recommend both, hiking and snowshoeing Rawson Lake trail.  In the summer, you can fish for trout. It is only catch and release fishing and you should review the fishing regulations for Rawson Lake before you go. Fishing is not allowed in the winter.

Rawson Lake summer fishing
Trying out their luck, Rawson Lake

Who Is The Rawson Lake Snowshoe Trail For?

The Rawson Lake trail is perfect for older children with advanced snowshoe experience.If you have my book, Take A Hike With Your Children, you know that I rate hikes on a child’s walking ability, not on an adult’s walking ability.

When Should We Do The Rawson Lake Trail?

I recommend hiking and snowshoeing the Rawson Lake trail during daylight hours – as with all winter sports, it is always advisable to start early so you will finish in daylight.

Where Is The Rawson Lake Trail and How Do We Get There?

The Rawson Lake trail is located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Kananaskis.

To get to the Rawson Lake trail, take highway 1 to highway 40 south to Kananaskis Lake trail to the Upper Kananaskis Lake Parking Lot and day- use area. Take the south side of the Kananaskis Lake Trail, past Sarrail Falls, access to the Rawson Lake trail is on the left, after Sarrail Falls. it is clearly marked.

rawson lake snowshoe trail sign
Rawson Lake trail sign
snowshoeing rawson lake
The start of the trail is an easy flat walk that follows the Upper Kananaskis Lake Shoreline Trail.

Practice Snowshoeing Etiquette

I’ve written a wonderfully informative blog post on snowshoeing etiquette and snowshoeing tips when snowshoeing Rawson Lake, or anywhere in the Rockies. Or if you’re wondering what to wear snowshoeing, I’ve got you covered there too! 

Pick Up A Copy Of Take A Hike With Your Children

My sold out book, Take A Hike With Your Children, is now available on Amazon as an eBook. Pick up your copy today, and begin exploring the Rockies!

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