A Day Hiking to Picklejar Lakes in Kananaskis Country

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!

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Picklejar Lakes hike Kananaskis

How to Get to the Picklejar Lakes Trailhead

The Picklejar Lakes are located in Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park which is within Kananaskis Country. You can find the Picklejar Lakes trailhead along Highway 40 (aka Kananaskis Way).

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!

Picklejar Lakes hike in Kananaskis
Picklejar Lakes trail in Kananaskis

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.

Picklejar Lakes hike in Kananaskis
4th of the Picklejar Lakes
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!

Picklejar Lakes hike in Kananaskis
Picklejar Lakes hike, Kananaskis

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.

Picklejar Lakes hike in Kananaskis
Trekking towards Lineham Ridge

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.

Picklejar Lakes hike in Kananaskis
Coming around the corner of the loose rock section; first Picklejar Lake
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.

Picklejar Lakes hike in Kananaskis
4th Picklejar Lake

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.

Picklejar Lakes hike in Kananaskis

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:
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.


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

Picklejar Lakes hike Kananaskis

Where to Stay in Kananaskis Country

Unless you plan on camping, there are very limited options for accommodations within Kananaskis Country itself. Here are a few options for every budget:

  • 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
  • Hostels – Hostels are almost always cheaper than staying in a hotel or air bib. Kananaskis is home to the HI-Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel.
  • Budget HotelCrosswaters Resort in Kananaskis Village.
  • Luxury Stay – the Kananaskis Mountain Lodge is one of the most luxurious getaways in the Banff-region. The mountain lodge is home to the Kananaskis Nordic Spa which has the nicest heated pools and saunas! Alternatively, check out the Mount Engadine Lodge.
  • Stay nearby – as I mentioned, accommodations in Kananaskis are limited. Instead you may want to look for hotels in Canmore or Banff.

Picklejar Lakes Kananaskis

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!