The Picklejar Lakes hike in Kananaskis is a half-day adventure which unveils 4 shimmery blue lakes in the beautiful Canadian Rockies. Having lunch or taking a quick polar dip in Picklejar Lakes in undoubtedly the perfect way to spend a warm summer day in the mountains.
The Picklejar Lakes hike is actually considered a “gem” in the Canadian Rockies and is surely a hike you don’t want to miss.
Want to find more of my Kananaskis trail guides? Click here!
Now, let’s go hiking!
- How to get to Picklejar Lakes trailhead
- About the Picklejar Lakes hike
- Hiking to Picklejar Lakes
- Recommended hiking gear for the Rockies
- What to wear hiking in the Rockies
- Where to stay in Kananaskis
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Picklejar Lakes hike Kananaskis
How to Get to the Picklejar Lakes Trailhead
The Picklejar Lakes parking lot is located across the street from the actual Picklejar Lakes trailhead. In the parking lot you’ll find a bathroom along with a few picnic tables, however if you want to find the trailhead you’ll need to cross the street, turn left, and walk a minute. At the trailhead you’ll find a sign warning about bear activity – this is how you’ll know you’re in the right place!
The Picklejar Lakes hike is one of those “deep” hikes in Kananaskis. The drive is about an hour and 40 minutes from Banff and just under 2 hours from Calgary.
Although the drive is long, the hike – if not the drive – is totally worth it! The hike features 4 lakes and the drive through Kananaskis is just… *Chef’s kiss*
Keep in mind Highway 40 experiences a seasonal road closure from early December to mid June (more info) and that you’ll need a Conservation Pass if you intend to visit anywhere in the Kananaskis region.
Picklejar Lakes hike Kananaskis
About the Picklejar Lakes Hike
- Distance: 11.6km
- Elevation gain: 706m
- Type of trail: out & back
- Rated: hard
- Estimated time: 4.5hrs
The Picklejar Lakes hike is a bit lengthy, but worth every step. The trail is well trafficked and is best hiked from June to September.
The trail can be difficult to follow at some points, so it’s recommended that users download the Alltrails map or bring a satellite device like the Garmin inReach Mini.
You can expect to find forested areas, dusty paths, and loose rock along the Picklejar Lakes hike. This keeps things interesting and ensures hikers don’t get bored along the way.
Safety Precautions for Picklejar Lakes
The Picklejar Lakes hike is located in prime grizzly territory. That sign at the trailhead I mentioned is actually retelling a story of one hiker who was mulled by a bear a few years back. With that being said, here are a few bear safety tips:
I personally hiked this trail solo (where are my fellow solo hikers at!?), however in hindsight I definitely should have gone with a group!
Tips for the Picklejar Lakes Hike in Kananaskis
- Hike to the lakes on a warm, sunny day – this is when the lakes can be enjoyed best.
- Find golden Larch trees in the fall.
- Bring a picnic and plan to spend the afternoon chillin’ at the lakes.
- In case of inclement weather, ensure you pack a waterproof jacket (this jacket is my fav / men’s version) and a puffer jacket (men’s version) for warmth.
- Proper hiking boots with ankle support are super beneficial for the loose rock section closer to the lakes. I always use these hikers (men’s version) for mountain terrain.
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Picklejar Lakes hike Kananaskis
Hiking to Picklejar Lakes
First up on the Picklejar Lakes hike in Kananaskis is an absolute slog through a forested section. This part is honestly quite boring, however you do get to listen to the relaxing sounds of a little stream nearby.
After the forested area (a few kilometres) you’ll trek out into an exposed section compete with a dusty path. Make sure you turn around here, you’ll have the most INCREDIBLE view of the valley behind you – honestly, this view was my favourite part of the hike!
You’ll then start gaining some heavier elevation in a partly exposed/partly forested area. If you look ahead you’ll see Lineham Ridge; you’ll be hiking left around the peak (not summiting). This area contains more exposed roots and rocks and it’s also where things can get a little confusing. Make sure you stay vigilant and pay attention to the path.
After you trek around Lineham Ridge, you’ll arrive at the loose rock section. This part is quick and fairly easy to follow. Once you round the corner, you’ll enter the basin and have your first look at the Picklejar Lakes.
Finding the Picklejar Lakes
There’s a grand total of 4 lakes in the basin. Continue walking straight past the first lake and you’ll easily find the third and fourth lake. The second lake is situated a bit more to the left, so you’ll have to follow the trail through some trees to find it. Don’t worry though, it’s nearly impossible to get lost if you go off exploring here – you’re completely surrounded by the large walls of the basin.
As I mentioned, try to complete this trail on a warm, sunny day. I unfortunately hiked on a mostly cold and rainy day which meant I didn’t get to enjoy the lakes to their full potential. The lakes were also a bit murky due to high winds so I didn’t see their true blue colour.
The lakes are coooold, but they create the perfect natural pools to take a quick swim in (more like a polar dip, actually) on a warm and sunny day. Anglers will find Picklejar Lakes to be a perfect place for fishing, too. Apparently caching fish here is as easy as “pulling pickles out of a jar,” hence the name. More information for fishing in Alberta can be found here.
I ended up finding some shelter from the wind/rain in the trees by the third lake. I whipped out my Stasher bag here and enjoyed one of my fav hiking snacks; trail mix.
For those of you who haven’t heard of Stasher bags – these are sustainable, reusable silicone bags. They’re perfect for packing hiking snacks in or for cooking DIY backcountry meals in. I use these on a day-to-day basis, to organize my belongings during travel, and for all-things-outdoor. Check them out!
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:
- Cool Experiences: Yamnuska scramble, Mist Mountain hot springs, Grotto winter canyon walk.
- Ridge Walks: Pocaterra Ridge, Sarrail Ridge & Rawson Lake, Opal Ridge, Tent Ridge, and Wasootch Ridge.
- Summits: EEOR and Ha Ling.
- Incredible Scenery/Lakes: West Wind Pass, Picklejar Lakes, and Grassi Lakes.
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!
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).
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
Picklejar Lakes hike Kananaskis
Where to Stay in Kananaskis Country
Unless you plan on camping, lodging options are a bit limited in Kananaskis. Here are a few options for every budget:Booking.com
- Hostel – HI-Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel.
- Glamping – Sundance by Basecamp. Sundance gives you the opportunity to camp in a regular tent, glamping tent, or tipi.
- Mid-range hotel – Crosswaters Resort in Kananaskis Village.
- Luxury Stay – the Kananaskis Mountain Lodge is one of the most luxurious getaways in the Banff-region. At the lodge you’ll find the Kananaskis Nordic Spa which is the most sought after spa in the region. Mount Engadine Lodge is another unique option which gives you the opportunity to lodge in yurts, glamping tents, and cabins. Gourmet food and great views included.
- Stay nearby – If these Kananaskis stays aren’t what you’re looking for, check out lodging options in nearby Canmore or Banff.
- Camping – Kananaskis offers tons of camping facilities scattered throughout the area and they almost always have availability. If you’re one to free-camp, Kananaskis has PLUZ (Public Land Use Zones) and Wildland areas, both of which you can random camp in for free. This is something I have yet to figure out in the Kananaskis region, but if you’re interested you can find more information about it here
Picklejar Lakes Kananaskis
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About The Author
HI, 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 now spend my days travelling the world, climbing mountains, and spending nights under the stars in the Canadian Rockies backcountry.
I created The Holistic Backpacker so I could share my adventures and help connect people like you with the same amazing experiences.