What Is It 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. It is a popular trail in both, for hiking in summer and snowshoeing in winter.
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 the 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, the main trail 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.
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 Yaktrax: 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.
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!
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.
I should mention there is a high risk of Avalanche hazard at the lake. Winter travel along the shoreline is strongly discouraged even though during summer the trail and shoreline are ideal spots.
The Rawson Lake trail is popular in both the summer and the winter. I recommend both, hiking and snowshoeing, this 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.
Older children with advanced snowshoe experience.
If you have my book, you know that I rate hikes on a child’s walking ability, not on an adult’s walking ability.
Daylight hours – as with all winter sports, it is always advisable to start early so you will finish in daylight.
Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Kananaskis
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.