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Grassi Lakes Hike in Canmore: The popular trail

grassi lakes viewpoint

The Grassi Lakes hike is the most popular trail in Canmore by number of visitors. And for good reason! It’s easily accessible for all fitness levels so it’s enjoyable for everybody.

Whether you are visiting Canmore solo, or with your family, this is a hike that should definitely be on your list. Everyone can take part! It is heavily trafficked due to its popularity so expect to see other people enjoying the area too.

The Grassi Lakes hike is a year-round trail. This means you can visit during the summer sun or the winter snow. However It can get slippery in winter so make sure you have hiking boots with good grip and consider bringing hiking poles. In the summer it is simply beautiful.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you purchase something through my links I may make a small commission at no extra charge to you.


Quick Grassi Lakes Trail Stats

Trail length:

3.4 km

Elevation:

178m

Time to complete:

1-2 hours

rundle forebay ground level near grassi lakes hike entrance
View from the car park of the rundle forebay behind the trailhead

How to get there

From downtown Canmore it takes 13 minutes to drive to Grassi Lakes. If you opt to walk instead, it will take you roughly 1 hour by foot.

From Canmore, you will follow the Three Sisters Highway past the Nordic Centre and around the rundle forebay reservoir.

You will continue along until you reach a fork in the road and will bear left along Ken Richie Way. Continue only a few minutes down this side road and you will arrive at the Grassi Lakes hike entrance and car park.

There is a reasonable sized car park if you travel by vehicle, but be aware it can fill up quickly in the peak season. It’s sometimes recommended to go earlier or later in the day to miss the rush of visitors.


Conservation Pass

Since 2021, it is now mandatory for all vehicles that travel through the Bow Valley Region or Kananaskis County to have a conservation pass. Make sure to book your pass in advance before your journey so you don’t miss out. You can purchase your pass here.


Gassi Lake trail sign
Grassi Lakes sign

The Trailhead & Amenities

The trailhead begins just next to the car park behind the toilets so you can’t miss it. It is clearly signposted unlike some other trails in the area (EEOR trail I’m looking at you).

The route starts and finishes in the same place so you’ll finish the hike by the car park too.

There are some useful amenities before you reach the entrance so you might want to take advantage while you can.

There are 2 public toilets in a wooden hut available for use as well as 4 porta-loos at the time of writing. As far as public toilets go, they were all pretty well looked after.

If you need somewhere to sit down there are about 3 or 4 picnic benches for public use as well. This is your last opportunity to rest until you get to the top of the trail. This is also the last chance you have of disposing of any rubbish you have with you in the few rubbish bins.


Following the trail

Compared to some of the complex hikes in the area, this is a very easy route to follow. It’s basically impossible to get lost.

If you would like to follow an offline map however, AllTrails is a widely used hiking website that tracks out the exact route for thousands of trails around the world. This includes this hike. You’ve probably seen me recommend them on many posts by now, but I use them on every hike I do!

You can download their app below:


Want more Canmore hiking inspiration?

A more difficult trail is the EEOR Hike in Alberta – The East End of Rundle check it out!

sign with an easy route and difficult route
The sign to decide which route to take

Grassi Lakes hike has different routes to take

In the first few minutes of starting the hike you’ll pass 3 signs. One of them introduces the hike and gives a brief insight into the local landscape. The second asks you to treat the area with respect. The third sign is where you will decide which route to take.

As with all hikes in the great outdoors, treat the land with respect and always pay attention to hiking safety tips. There are always going to be dangers while hiking but knowing what to be aware of can help you avoid them

You have 4 different ways to complete this trail. So when deciding which route to take, there are a few different factors to consider that we will discuss below.

  • #1 Up the more difficult trail and down the easy way
  • #2 Up the easy trail and down the more difficult way
  • #3 The easy trail there and back
  • #4 The difficult trail there and back
paved route for grassi lakes

The Grassi Lakes Easy Hike

The ‘easy trail’ is exactly that. A slow gradual incline the entire way. There are no steep parts or any rocky sections as it is paved the entire way. This is a wide path and is used as a fire and safety route during emergencies.

Due to the ground being smooth this is the safest choice for cyclists too, so be mindful and share the trail while walking. This route takes you uphill through the forest.

There isn’t much to see along the way so you’ll only get a good view once you reach the top. But once you get there, it’s 100% worth it.

This is definitely the safest and best option for people with low fitness levels, children or people with mobility issues due to how slow the incline is.

steep concrete stairs with wood rail in forest
The steep stairs on the difficult trail

The Grassi Lakes More difficult Hike

The ‘more difficult’ trail isn’t exactly hard. But it does have a very steep part at the end. When you choose this route you will walk along the soil and forest floor through the thick forest. This part of the trail is completely flat until about halfway, when it begins a slight incline.

You will continue along this path crossing multiple tiny little streams coming down from the mountains above. If you stay on this trail until the end you will get a nice surprise..

This is when you will see Lawrence Grassi Waterfall as it cascades over the mountain in front of the trail and overlooks the Bow Valley. This can only be seen from the difficult trail as the easy trail is deeper in the forest.

Once you reach the waterfall the trail will begin to get very steep. This is the area you need to take extra care in. There will be stone and wooden stairs that take you all the way to the top of the viewpoint but they are often slippery and muddy from the waterfall.

Safety tip: Make sure you hold onto the wooden fence and handrails when going up or down the stairs. The stairs are very steep and can become quite hazardous when wet.

looking at lawrence grassi waterfall
Taking a break at the waterfall before I started the steep incline.
grassi lakes viewpoint looking at rundle forebay
Me at the final viewpoint overlooking Rundle forebay

Upper Grassi Lakes & Viewpoint

There are two main features of the Grassi Lakes hike.

One of them is to reach the two small lakes at the top of the trail that are wedged in between two mountains. The water is crystal clear and probably very cold coming from the mountain.

There are two small bridges that connect the walkways around the two lakes. You could easily walk around them both in roughly 5 minutes.

Tip: The grassi lakes are safe to swim in. But be prepared even in summer that mountain water will be COLD.

The second feature (and my favourite part of the trail) is the viewpoint overlooking the lake down below. This lake is part of the Rundle forebay and it gives a stunning view.

There are 2 gaps in the treeline at the top of the viewpoint to enjoy the view. Just do not get too close to the edge as there are no safety barriers!

Tip: There are frequent rock falls in this area so try to stay away from the rock faces along the edge of the two lakes. It is very easy to get hurt here so be careful and stay aware.

lake grassi
One of the small bridges near the upper grassi lakes

For people of a moderate to high fitness level, I would recommend going UP the difficult route and coming down the easy route. This was my preferred way of accessing the trail.

I suggest this route for two reasons.

Number one being that I prefer to work hard on the way there (the difficult trail) so I can relax on the way back on the easy trail.

The second reason is because of how slippery the stairs near the waterfall get. Going up the stairs was tricky enough when wet, I would not want to attempt going down that way. That’s an accident waiting to happen.


2 green lakes with tall mountains in background
The two upper grassi lakes with the towering mountains above

Wildlife Awareness

This trail is located in the Rocky mountains of Canada and is in a wildlife zone. This means, if you are not careful you might come across a bear or other wild animal native to this area. When exploring these places, always stay on the marked trails and practice bear safety.

It also doesn’t hurt to play some loud music if you are hiking on your own as this will alert bears to your presence and they’re more likely to avoid you. They don’t like humans.


Places to Stay in Canmore

Luckily Canmore is a small mountain town so most accommodations are nice and close to the downtown amenities and hikes! I have two places I always recommend newcomers to the town which I’ll outline below:

  • Canmore downtown hostel – This is my go-to accommodation when I’m looking for a budget friendly and sociable hostel during my stay.
  • Solara Resort – If you prefer staying in more luxurious accommodations and would prefer a 4* hotel and spa, then the Solara resort is a great choice and only a 4 minute walk from the Canmore shops!

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