Beautiful & Easy Grassi Lakes Trail in Canmore

The Grassi Lakes are a collection of two lakes with stunning crystal clear turquoise-colored water. Along the Grassi Lakes Trail, you are treated to diverse landscapes including lush forests, Ha Ling Peak views and cascading waterfalls. The highlight of the Grassi Lakes trail is undoubtedly the vibrant Grassi Lakes themselves, which are fed by glacier meltwater, giving them their distinctive hue. The Grassi Lakes trailhead is located just outside of Canmore, making it a popular hike because of its accessibility and easy hiking trail suitable for all skill levels. Find in our complete guide all you need to know about the Grassi Lakes Trail. 

How to get to Grassi Lakes?

Grassi Lakes Trail head begins on Ken Ritchie Way, which is accessible along the Smith Dorrien Spray Lakes Road, also known as Three Sisters Parkway. It’s only an 11-minute drive (6.7 km) outside of Canmore town, past the Canmore Nordic Center.

Where to park for Grassi Lakes?

The Grassi Lakes Trail is extremely popular, so on weekends and summer days you can expect the trail, and thus the parking to be crowded. Therefore the Grassi Lakes Trail parking has been expanded with an overflow parking along the Smith Dorrien Spray Trail on your right (coming from Canmore). 

This is the place you need to park in case there’s no parking at the main parking lot. This adds another few hundred meters to the hike as you will then take the road downhill on your left to the Grassi Lakes Trailhead. 

What is the best time for the Grassi Lakes hike? 

While the Grassi Lakes Trail is accessible year-round, there is definitely a best time to visit them. First of all, a sunny day. Only with sunshine the sprawling turquoise-green color of the lake is fully visible. A dull sky won’t enhance the color as much as sunshine does. 

Regarding the best time of the day, you should try to come in the early morning or late afternoon to beat the crowds. Grassi Lakes Trail is extremely popular and can often be crowded. 

However, in the early morning the lakes are often still in the shadow. We hiked the Grassi Lakes Trail on a morning in autumn and saw the beautiful fall colors which made a beautiful contrast with the bright blue glassy water! 


Grassi Lakes Trail key facts 

The Grassi Lakes consist of the Upper and Lower Lakes, situated at an elevation of 1,525 meters above sea level. But because you start hiking at an elevation of about 1,400 meters, the incline of the hike is minimal. And because of the short distance, Grassi Lakes Trail is a perfect family-friendly hike in Canmore.

Distance: 4 km roundtrip

Elevation gain: 125 meters (410 feet)

Difficulty: Easy

How long does it take to hike Grassi Lakes Trail Canmore?

The Grassi Lakes trail is a short but sweet 4 km round trip with a little elevation gain of 250 meters. If you’re a fast hiker and don’t stop too long at the lakes, then you can finish the loop in an hour to 1.5 hours. 

But if you’re like us, taking in the scenery, capturing photos and exploring the little spur trails, then you can expect to take around 2 – 2.5 hours. 


Grassi Lakes Trail directions

As you make your way from the trailhead a few meters onto the path, you will soon see there is a fork in the trail. Here you can choose two different routes, the ‘Easy’ trail and the ‘More difficult’ trail. You can easily hike the Grassi Lakes Trail in a loop, which I highly recommend you do! Just make sure to tackle the ‘More difficult’ trail first, because that’s easier done when going up instead of going down.


Only along the ‘More difficult’ trail, you will be able to see a few very nice points of interest. The first viewpoint you encounter has stunning views over the Rundle Forebay, Bow Valley and Canmore town. You will reach this viewpoint after about 20 minutes of hiking.


It’s a nice short break before you make your way further up towards the Grassi Lakes. But not before you spot the next point of interest, the Lawrence Grassi Waterfall. This stunning waterfall seeps down the rocks from the Grassi Lakes with Ha Ling Peak as a backdrop. A truly impressive sight! 


The Lower & Upper Grassi Lakes

From here on you continue your way up along stairs until you reach the Lower Lake. This is the first lake you will encounter. It has a beautiful backdrop, but the second, Upper Lake is definitely the prettiest!


Continue along the lakeshore and you will pass several benches, perfect for a short rest and to take in the scenery. If you follow the shore around the Upper Lake you will see a high cliff face where you will pass rock climbing locations. Be aware of falling rocks here, so keep enough distance from the cliff face. 


The Upper Lake has some stunning viewpoints along the shore and a small pebble beach. Mostly you will also be able to see the reflection of Ha Ling Peak in the glassy lake, a beautiful sight! 


After exploring both lakes it’s time to head back to the parking lot. If you came via the ‘More difficult’ trail, then head back via the easy trail, which is a wide gravel road. This just takes about 20 minutes maximum until you reach the parking area. 


Can you swim at Grassi Lakes?

No, unfortunately you can’t take a refreshing swim in the Grassi Lakes. Due to the pristine nature of the lakes, it’s not allowed to go swimming. However, if you want to take a swim close by, then you can do that at Quarry Lake. This is another one of the beautiful lakes near Canmore. 

Quarry Lake Canmore is a stunning lake near Grassi Lakes

Conservation Pass in Kananaskis

To park at provincial parks and public use lands in the Kananaskis Country, a Conservation pass is mandatory. Two options are available for purchase: a daily pass or a yearly pass. Regardless of the number of passengers, only one pass per vehicle is needed. There is no fee if you enter on foot, horse, or bike.

For additional details on the pass, including how and where to purchase it, visit the Kananaskis Conservation Pass website.

Other amazing Canmore hikes 

There are plenty of other amazing hikes to do nearby Canmore in Kananaskis Country Provincial Park. We did the following hikes ourselves and can highly recommend them!

East End of Rundle

East End of Rundle hike offers spectacular views of Ha Ling Peak, Bow Valley and Spray Valley. With the trailhead being closely located to downtown Canmore, EEOR hike (Eeyore as locals say) is a great day adventure for the experienced hiker. The technical terrain of EEOR trail includes very steep, rocky sections and scree slopes. And with only 3 kilometer one way to the summit at 2,545m (8,350 ft) height, you gain 880 meters of elevation. But, you can also choose to only go to the photo spot with the best views on Ha Ling Peak, where you can get in less than an hour hiking. In that way, the East End of Rundle is a short hike with huge rewards. 

Read in our complete guide all the details about East End of Rundle hike


Ha Ling Peak 

Ha Ling Peak is the most popular hike of Kananaskis and is closely located to Canmore. Therefore you can expect Ha Ling Peak to be a busy day hike. The 7.8 km (4.6-mile) round trip gains 750 meters on the way to the summit. This means it’s quite a strenuous hike. The 360-degree views from the summit overlook the town of Canmore, Rocky Mountains and Spray Valley. Because Ha Ling Peak is facing east, it is a great sunrise hike as it can also be easily accessed from the town of Canmore. 

Chester Lake 

Chester Lake is a 9 km (5.8-mile) return hike following a wide gravel track through the forest which opens up in a beautiful alpine meadow that leads to the lake. With only 315 meters (1,033 feet) elevation gain it is a perfect family-friendly Kananaskis hike. The picturesque alpine basin of Chester Lake reflects the rugged beauty of the mountains that surround it which makes it a perfect place to relax and capture amazing landscape photos. The area around the lake is big and offers plenty of space for people to sit down and picnic. Remember, pack in what you pack out. 

Read in our complete guide everything about Chester Lake hike Kananaskis


Smutwood Peak

Smutwood Peak is one of the most beautiful hikes in Kananaskis. The 18 km out-and-back trail with almost 1000 meters of incline isn’t for beginner hikers. But the views are extraordinary with the sharp Mount Birdwood and Birdwood Lakes as the centre of attention. The trail takes you through a stunning alpine meadow up Smutwood Pass where the last part towards the summit includes a bit of scrambling. 

Read in our complete guide everything about Smutwood Peak hike


Where to stay near Grassi Lakes Trail

Coast Canmore Hotel

The spacious and newly refurbished rooms of Coast Canmore have stunning views of the surrounding mountains. With comfy big beds, it is the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring. With an on-site restaurant and bar, indoor pool and meeting rooms, Coast Canmore has a great price-quality ratio. 

We really enjoyed staying in Coast Canmore Hotel, especially the views on Ha Ling Peak from bed! 

→ Check here current availability and prices for Coast Canmore


More Canada travel inspiration

I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about Grassi Lakes Trail in Canmore. For more travel inspiration about British Columbia and Alberta, head over to our other Canada travel guides. See below our Canada guides per National Park to prepare for your trip.

Read here our incredibly extensive guide about RVing in Canada


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East End of the Rundle Hike – Complete Guide

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