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If you’re looking for an easy hiking trail to stretch your legs around Canmore then Grassi Lakes Trail is for you! This short but sweet trail will have you hiking to a waterfall and two stunning lakes all with a mountain backdrop.
Although the Grassi Lakes Trail is a popular hike in Canmore, it’s great for the entire family and is one of the best things to do in Canmore. During our visit, Bailey and I even took along a great friend of ours… Polly (a labrador cross poodle!) We enjoyed the short hike to the lakes before finding a small beach to relax at. Despite the crowds, it’s a really peaceful hike once you get off the main trail.
Here’s what to expect and some must-know tips about hiking to Grassi Lakes.
Grassi Lakes Hike Overview
Distance: 4 kilometer loop or return
Elevation gain: 125 meters
Time needed: 2 to 3 hours
Grassi Lakes Trail isn’t a hard trail and is considered one of the easiest hikes near Canmore – especially when compared to the Ha Ling Peak Hike.
For beginners or people who don’t consider themselves “hikers”, it’s a great trail to get out amongst nature and maybe even spot some wildlife. In fact, there are actually two different trails you can take to get to the lakes. At a Y in the path, you’ll choose between two paths, the easy and hard route (which I talk about more below.)
Related read: If you’re a more advanced hiker, consider tackling Heart Mountain Trail located just on the outskirts of Canmore. It’s significantly harder than Grassi Lakes, but the views are so worth it!
Grassi Lakes FAQs
Yes, you can – but the water is really cold! I have read that you cannot on other blogs but it is not stated on the Alberta Parks or Parks Canada website nor is it signposted at the lakes.
Allow 2 hours to fully enjoy the trail and the lakes. If you want to stop for a picnic then 3 hours is perfect.
Yes, bears do frequent the area. It is best to carry bear spray and hike in groups.
Yes, however, the more difficult trail is closed due to ice buildup on the trail. Instead, take the easy trail and enjoy one of the best things to do in Canmore in the winter!
What to Pack for the Grassi Lakes Hike
Bear Spray – All of Canmore and the surrounding area is bear country. Be sure to pack bear spray for hiking on Grassi Lakes Trail.
Hiking shoes – If you plan on doing the more difficult trail then good shoes will really come in handy. Not only is it slippery, but also wet in spots. Also, if you plan on hiking in spring expect snow on some parts of the trail.
Swimsuit – You can swim at Grassi Lakes, so if your keen for a dip in the icy cold water, bring your swimsuit and maybe a towel for afterward!
Water – Although the water at Grassi Lakes looks drinkable and probably is, be sure to bring your own water. I’d say 1 liter per person would be enough.
Bug repellent – That’s right, those pesky mosquitoes will get you at Grassi Lakes.
Parking and the Grassi Lakes Trailhead
Grassi Lakes Trail starts at a small car parking lot on Ken Richie Way. The parking lot has lots of parking spots, but due to the popularity of the trail, it’s often completely full by 10 am. An alternative parking spot is available on the Three Sisters Parkway Road just at the turnoff to Ken Richie Road. From this parking lot, you’ll need to walk a few hundred meters to the main parking lot.
During the busy summer months, both parking lots may be full. This means people (including us) park on the side of the road on the Three Sisters Parkway. However, it is worth noting that Alberta Parks has put out a notice asking people to not do this as they risk getting a parking ticket.
Once parked, the trail begins just past the bathroom (drop toilet) available for hikers. If you need to use the washroom this is the only place to do it on the trail.
The trail begins with a steady incline and only a few hundred meters up from the toilet, you’ll need to choose which trail you will do!
The Two Different Hiking Trails
The Easy Trail
The “easy trail” on Grassi Lakes Trail is perfect for young children, people with small dogs, or those who don’t consider themselves fit. On the easy trail, you’ll enjoy a flat and wide path with a gradual climb all the way to Grassi Lakes. Even a stroller could tackle the easy trail!
The More Difficult Trail
The “more difficult” trail to Grassi Lakes isn’t actually all that hard, however, it does require a little more skill than the easy trail. On the more difficult trail you can expect a steeper climb in some parts, a thin trail that comes close to large cliffs and over wet, slippery rocks.
On this trail, there is a railing in some sections to help hikers. I personally wouldn’t recommend this to young children unless they have some experience.
Hot tip: If you want to hike one trail up and the other down, hike the hard trail up an easy trail down. It’s just safer and Bailey and I were glad we chose to do it that way!
Hiking to Lawrence Grassi Waterfall
If you chose the more difficult trail then you’re in for a real treat. After hiking for around 20 minutes you’ll reach Lawrence Grassi Waterfall. At this point on the trail, you’ll be high above the valley and you’ll also be welcomed with magnificent views.
From the trail, it can be hard to get a great view of the falls, and to be honest the views of the valley are what makes hiking the more difficult trail so worth it! Bailey and I stopped here for a quick break and got some cool photos.
As we passed the waterfall, the rocks were very slippery. This is the most dangerous part of the trail so we used the railing to help ourselves get up safely.
Soon after this, we made a quick scramble as the trail became steep to the top, and arrived at Grassi Lakes shortly after.
Related blog: If you love waterfalls be sure to check out our guide to planning the best Icefields parkway road trip. It includes stops at lots of waterfalls along the way.
Onto Grassi Lakes
After taking a quick break from the steep climb, Bailey and I had caught our breath and were ready to see Grassi Lakes. Unfortunately, when we had first arrived it was cloudy, however, the sun did decide to come out which really gives Grassi Lakes their cool green color!
I will say, to truly get the most out of a visit to Grassi Lakes, pick a day with sunshine. You can’t beat those amazing colors the sun gives the lakes!
Once you reach the top the path is mostly flat around the lakes which gives your legs a great break. There are also lots of places to sit so Bailey and I decided to enjoy our lunch. I must admit, it was busy at this stage and the Grassi Lakes area was filled with people. If you want to avoid the crowds, my recommendation is to leave before 9 am!
With that said though, a quick walk to the other side of the upper lake meant we could sit back and relax in peace! This side of the lake isn’t technically part of the trail but there are some nice clearings with small beaches.
If it’s warm enough you can swim at Grassi Lakes and both Polly and some other hikers did. I will warn you though, the water is freezing! Unfortunately, I could only get in up to my ankles!
Although you have reached Grassi Lakes, the trail does continue on further if you’re feeling up to it.
Hiking Further for Amazing Views
Once we explored Grassi Lakes we decided to hike on further. As we did, the trail began to climb again as we hiked through the gorge and past huge rock faces that are very popular with rock climbers.
After around 10 minutes we reached the viewpoint over Grassi Lakes. This area was really steep and slippery so be careful (especially if you’re traveling with children.) From the viewpoint we got an uninterrupted view of Grassi Lakes. Here is one of the best photography spots in the Canadian Rockies – it’s well worth the climb if you ask me!
Afterward, we headed down the trail. Deciding to take the easy trail down, it only took 25 minutes to reach the bottom parking lot again.
Essential Info You Need to Know
1. This is Bear country
The Grassi Lakes area is very busy, however, it is still possible to encounter a bear here. Be sure to carry bear spray and hike in groups. Alberta Parks does put up signs if a bear has been spotted in the area, but do not solely rely on these.
2. Parking on the street
We did read that Alberta Parks has begun fining people for parking on the side of the road both on the Three Sisters Parkway and Ken Richie Road. For this reason, we don’t recommend doing this and instead, arrive early to get a parking spot.
3. Alternative hiking path to Grassi Lakes
If all parking lots are full you can drive further up the Three Sisters Parkway to Whitemans Pond. Here you can park and walk down to Grassi Lakes via a 1-kilometer trail that starts from the end of Whitemans Pond.
Although this isn’t the main trail, it is used by rock climbers/tour guides who don’t want to carry their gear for an extra kilometer. You can find this trail on Google Maps.
Canada Travel Essentials
Before you decide to head off and explore the gorgeous mountains, lakes, towns, and cities around Canada it’s important to have the right equipment. Of course, it’s likely you’ll have most of the basics already but there are some common items people forget that I never travel without.
Crampons: In winter crampons are super handy, but what people don’t realize is that they come in handy in summer too. In fact, up until mid-July, you can still expect icy conditions in the mountains. The pair I use is only $29 and they have lasted me 3 seasons so far!
Waterproof shell: Most people will have this item but I thought I’d include it anyway since it’s so handy in Canada. The Columbia waterproof jacket is a lightweight windproof jacket that will seriously save you in many situations. The best part though? It comes in pink!
Scent-proof bag (for bears): Most people think you only need to keep the smell of food away from you when you’re overnight camping. However, bears can smell the food in your bag while you’re hiking and the best way to avoid an encounter is to use a scent-proof bear bag. Basically, you put your food in the bag and the bear cannot smell it while you’re hiking. This is one item most people never have (I never hike without it) but it could save you and the bear.
Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.
Dry bag: I have expensive camera equipment so I always travel with a dry bag large enough to fit some of my equipment. It can be a camera, book, binoculars, or even my keys. Regardless, a dry bag gives me peace of mind! The MARCHWAY bag is really good quality, and when not in use, takes up only a small amount of room.
Binoculars: I love my binoculars! Seriously they have come in hand so many times especially when I’m looking for wildlife. The best part is, I use a set that only costs $27 and they serve my basic needs without any issues!
Before you go…
The Grassi Lakes hike is one of Canmore’s best, and the great thing is that it’s suited to almost anyone!
Bailey and I both hope this guide to Grassi Lakes has helped you plan your upcoming adventure.
If you loved this guide then you’re probably going to love our other Canada blogs or these related articles below. Thanks for reading!