How to Visit Grassi Lakes in the Bow Valley

If you’re looking for a quick, yet beautiful hike in the Canmore/Kananaskis region I’ve got you covered. I’ll tell you all about how to visit Grassi Lakes and the different (short) trails you can utilize to reach these turquoise lakes.

Grassi Lakes is one of the most popular attractions in the Bow Valley so you can expect crowds. However the hike is quick and easy so it should definitely be on your Rocky Mountain bucket list!

Now, let’s go hiking!

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When To Hike Grassi Lakes

The Grassi Lakes trail can be hiked year round, however you do have to be mindful of avalanche cycles in winter/spring. The lakes will freeze late fall and thaw early spring.

I haven’t hiked Grassi Lakes at this time of year myself, however I could image hiking to the lakes after the first snowfall of the season before the lakes freeze would be magical. Looking at the bright blue turquoise lakes surrounded by sparkly white snow… Wow.

The Grassi Lakes trail is a very popular hike so you can expect lots of people to be visiting the lake at all times. Your best bet is to hike early in the day in order to avoid some of the crowds.

ice climbing at Grassi Lake waterfall
Ice climbing at Grassi Lakes waterfall

Did you know you can also go ice climbing at the Grassi Lakes waterfall? I tried this with a guided tour and it was such a unique experience!

How To Get To Grassi Lakes

The Grassi Lakes trailhead is located just outside of Canmore and is an entry point for Kananaskis Country (my fav hiking destination in the Canadian Rockies). There’s no bus or shuttle, so if you don’t have a car you’ll need to rent one to access the Grassi Lakes trailhead

I’ve marked two options for the Grassi Lakes trailhead, however the official trailhead is marked as option 1.

  • Option 1 – this is the trailhead I used, so I’ll talk more about this one next.
  • Option 2 – I haven’t utilized this trailhead myself so I can’t comment on the trail conditions. I know this route does connect to Riders of Rohan which is a downhill biking route so make sure you don’t hike that way! Apparently this route is only 1km roundtrip.
grassi lakes trail, Bow Valley
Grassi Lakes

About Grassi Lakes Trail

  • Distance: 4.3km
  • Elevation gain: 233m
  • Rated: easy
  • Type of trail: loop
  • Estimated time: 1-2hrs

The Grassi Lakes trail is well trafficked, easy to follow, and features simple terrain. This hike is ideal for families, people of all ages and ability levels, and it’s great for pets.

Shortly after starting the hike, the Grassi Lakes trail will split in 2 directions. You can hike one way for a bit more of a challenge and the other way for a very easy hike to the lakes.

grassi lakes trail, Bow Valley
Viewpoint hiking to Grassi Lakes

The “harder” trail features more rocky terrain and a little bit more elevation gain, however I’d definitely recommend taking this route either on the way there or back because it features beautiful views of Ha Ling and the Grass Lakes waterfall.

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Hiking Grassi Lakes Trail

The trailhead starts at a gravel parking lot and dips into the forest right away. You’ll have very limited views if you take the easy route, however if you take the harder route you’ll have the occasional sneaky view through the trees that feature the Bow Valley and the town of Canmore.

The best viewpoint by far is that of Ha Ling and the Grassi Lakes waterfall right before you reach the Grassi Lakes.

Grassi Lakes waterfall
Ha Ling & the Grassi Lakes waterfall
Grassi Lakes

Once you arrive at the end of the trail you’ll find 2 sparkly turquoise lakes. These lakes are shallow and freezing cold! My friends and I took a quick dip – fully clothed like the absolute clowns we are – in these frigid lakes, which actually might have been a bad call. At the time I didn’t know any better, however afterwards I heard that you’re actually not allowed to swim in Grassi Lakes?

To this day I don’t know if this is actually true or not, so if you plan on taking a quick dip do your research!

OR if you know the answer, leave a comment below.

grassi lakes trail, Bow Valley
Overhead view of Grassi Lakes

Rock Climbing

For any rock climbers out there – Grassi Lakes is a popular rock climbing destination as well! The backside of the Upper Lake has multiple routes set up, but beware of rock fall as this is common.

My friends and I actually bouldered up the backside, which again in hindsight was not the smartest. This is when I first moved to Banff and was super excited to explore. I had essentially no knowledge of mountain safety and did anything I wanted without considering repercussions. Whoops! I’ve since learned from my ignorance.

More: Everything You Need To Know About Living In Banff National Park

Learn from my mistakes and stay safe. You can live vicariously through my photos rather than put yourself in danger to boulder up this terrain.

Bouldering in action

Explore More Hikes In Kananaskis

Kananaskis is an area just outside of Banff that’s made up of multiple Wildland Areas and Provincial Parks. Kananaskis is my favourite hiking destination in the Canadian Rockies, so I urge you to explore more hikes in the area!

Click here to explore more of Kananaskis.


Featured Kananaskis Hikes:
Explore Kananaskis Country by Area:
Visit National Parks Nearby:

Looking for more hikes? Click here to explore all of my trail guides.


Recommended Hiking Gear

The following items are some of my favourites – I never hit the trail without them!

PD Capture Clip

The Capture Clip by Peak Design is a sturdy, safe, and super convenient way to carry your camera while hiking or backpacking.

Find it on Amazon (CAD).

Find it on Peak Design (US).

Hydration Reservoir

A hydration reservoir is SO important. It holds 2L+ of water and keeps you hydrated on-trail. I use the 2L Hydrapak; it never leaks and has a detachable tube.

Day-pack

Things to look for in a good quality day-pack: sternum strap, hip belt (with pockets), and a breathable mesh system for your back. I use the Osprey Sirrus 24L pack (men’s version) and I LOVE it!


What To Wear Hiking in the Rockies

For a detailed guide on what to wear hiking in the Canadian Rockies, check out this post.

Choosing what to wear hiking can be confusing, but the secret to properly dressing for a hike is layering. You can mix and match the tops and bottoms you already own to make up your base layers, however in addition to those clothes you’ll need a few extra things:

Waterproof Jacket

A waterproof jacket is the most important layer for hiking – it keeps you warm and protects you from wind and rain. I use the Marmot Eco Precip Jacket (men’s version) which is totally a bang-for-your-buck. If rain is in the forecast, don’t forget to pack waterproof pants (men’s version) too.

Hiking Boots

A good pair of hiking boots are Gore-tex, provide ankle support, and are durable. I use the Scarpa Kailash boot (men’s version) and they’ve never let me down. You’ll also want a good quality pair of socks. I use Smartwool – they’re great quality and last an entire season.

Puffer Jacket

A puffer jacket acts as your warm layer. I use the hoodless Columbia Women’s Heavenly Jacket (men’s version). Alternatively you can use a fleece zip – I have this one (men’s version) from Columbia. Both of these options are perfect layers to keep you warm on windy, cold, or high elevation hikes.

Rocky Mountain hiking exposes you to different natural elements and conditions – it’s imperative that you’re prepared for whatever nature throws at you. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way!

More: Day-hiking Gear Guide

More: What to Wear Hiking in the Canadian Rockies

Best Place to Stay in Canmore

The “best” place to stay in Canmore depends on your price range. So, here are some suggestions for every budget:

Booking.com
  • Cheap accommodations – if you’re visiting the Rockies, you can bet the cheapest option for accommodations in alwayssss camping. Here are a few popular camping spots in Canmore.
  • Mid-range accommodations – Canmore offers a slew of hotels, each coming in at a different price and each offering something a little different. I’d recommend utilizing Booking.com to compare said prices and amenities to determine which hotel best suits your needs. Some of the benefits of using Booking.com are their price match guarantee, free cancelation on almost all bookings, and clear pricing with no hidden fees.
  • Luxury accommodations – for the bougie traveller (can’t relate), a couple “quote on quote” fancy hotels in Canmore are the Peak by Samsara Resort and the Stoneridge Mountain Resort.
  • Accommodations nearby – another location offering accommodations close to Canmore is the famous Banff National Park. There are tons of hotels in Banff, the most notable being the castle in the sky (AKA the Fairmont Banff Springs).

Happy adventuring!

Taylor ♡


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About The Author


Hey! I’m Taylor – the voice behind The Holistic Backpacker.

After moving to Banff National Park in 2020 I became an outdoor adventure enthusiast and vowed to never stop exploring.

I’m now focused on travelling the world and seeing everything our beautiful home has to offer.

I created The Holistic Backpacker so I could share my adventures and help connect people like you with the same amazing experiences.

I am also an advocate for the environment and do as much as I can to take care of our planet.

Get to know me and my story more here 🙂

I can’t wait to share my adventures with you!

Keep Up With My Adventures!

Sign up for my newsletter and stay up-to-date with my latest adventures, gear guides, and eco-resources.

Taylor ♡