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Grassi Lakes Hike: Guide to Canmore’s BEST Easy Hike

Grassi Lakes Hike: Guide to Canmore’s BEST Easy Hike

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If you’re looking to stretch your legs on an easy hiking trail in 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 very popular hike, 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.

Grassi Lakes Trail is open year-round, so you can catch its incredible views if you’re visiting during the summer or winter in Canmore!

Regardless when you take on this hike, you’ll want to be well-prepared. So we put together this guide full of must-know tips, the best viewpoints, and what to expect as you hike the Grassi Lakes Trail.

Grassi Lakes Hike Overview

Distance: 4-kilometer loop or return (2.5 miles)

Elevation gain: 125 meters (410 feet)

Difficulty: Easy

Time needed: 2 to 3 hours

Grassi Lakes Trail is considered one of the easiest hikes near Canmore, it is also one of the most scenic hikes in the area. The combination of both factors makes this trail super popular, as it’s accessible to most travelers and lets everyone enjoy the great outdoors! 

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. There are two trails you can take, (which I’ll explain in detail below), but I recommend the Upper Grassi Trail for beginners. The path is wide, flat, and has a gradual climb that leads to Grassi Lakes.

If you’re up for more of a challenge, you can choose the more difficult path to the left (called Grassi Lakes Trail) when you reach the “Y” about 100 meters into the trail. With this trail, you’ll get sprawling views of the valley below, as well as Lawrence Grassi Waterfall– it’s worth the effort!

But, this is the Grassi Lakes Hike, of course, so you will eventually reach the lakes. Here you can call it the end of your hike or spend some time exploring around either lake. More trails lead to scenic viewpoints or rock climbing locations to extend your adventures, just be aware of falling rocks, slippery rocks, or mountain bikers on the Riders of Rohan trail. 

We spent a few hours here, moving at a leisurely pace, and explored further than the main trails. If you’re a fast hiker, you can complete this hike in less than 2 hours. But I’d say, slow down and enjoy the views!

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!

Kananaskis Conservation Pass

A Kananaskis Conservation Pass is required to explore the Kananaskis region. These passes can be bought at the Kananaskis Visitor Center or online in advance and cost $15 CAD per vehicle per day or $90 CAD per year (for two vehicles).

Grassi Lakes FAQs

Getting to the Grassi Lakes Trailhead and Parking

A lady poses for a photo wiht a dog on the Grassi Lakes Trail
Meet Polly!

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 sign on the Grassi Lakes trail showing the two different hiking trails
It’s time to choose your trial!

The Easy Trail

The “easy trail” is the Upper Grassi Lakes Trail. It is one of the hikes around Banff that’s 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.

The easy trail extends for about 1.6 km before connecting back with the other trail, right before you reach Grassi Lakes. I recommend packing a picnic lunch and spending some time at the lakeshore to enjoy this goregous part of Banff wilderness, this is a super fun activity with the whole fam. Just be sure to pack out your trash and leave no trace!

The More Difficult Trail

The “more difficult” trail is the Grassi Lakes Trail. It 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.

Even though the Grassi Lakes trail is more difficult, it is about the same length as the easier Upper Grassi Lakes trail, it’s just the elevation gain that will make it more challenging. Although, if you’re an avid hiker, you might find this track to be rather doable.

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 safer because you avoid the slippery downhill section and you get to see both trails. Bailey and I were glad we chose to do it that way!

Hiking to Lawrence Grassi Waterfall

Views of the valley from the hard trail on the Grassi Lakes Trail
Lawrence Grassi Waterfall on the grassi Lakes Trail

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. Here, you can get epic views of the Ha Ling Peak, which is another epic hike in Canmore!

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 Read: 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

Grassi Lakes with the mountains as a backdrop
A dog takes a drink from Grassi Lakes, Canmore

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 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.

Although you have reached Grassi Lakes, the trail does continue on further if you’re feeling up to it.

Hiking Further for Amazing Views

Viewpoint of Grassi Lakes

Once we explored Grassi Lakes we decided to hike 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 this 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. All in all, the Grassi Lakes Hike was an easy way to get your legs moving and enjoy the beautiful Canadian wilderness- it gets a 5-star rating in my book!

Animals to Look for While Hiking Grassi Lakes

Although Grassi Lakes trail is super popular and typically gushing with people it is still possible to see bears during your time on the trail so be sure to have bear spray with you and be well informed on how to use it along with making loud noises in hopes to deter them from coming near you.

Thankfully, bears are not the only type of native animal you can spot on the Grassi Lakes Trail, mountain goats also live here and will roam around the rocky craigs overhead, just watch out for falling rocks because they can kick them down in your direction!

The Great Horned Owl also comes here to nest! If you are visiting during the spring this is when baby owls are being raised so this is your best chance at spotting the family. They are located inside a cave and there will be a sign placed by the park ranger alerting hikers that owls are nesting. The Great Horned Owls aren’t scared of people so if they are here you’ll see them! A good pair of binoculars will help though.

Best Time to Hike the Grassi Lakes Trail

Grassi Lakes, Canmore
So stunning!
Green water at Grassi Lakes in Canmore Alberta
It’s that green!

Grassi Lakes is a trail that is open all year round so each season has its own type of beauty!

It’s hard to beat summertime in Canmore, and Grassi Lakes boasts all its beauty! You’ll be more likely to catch a blue sky day, which makes the color of the lake the brightest shade of turquoise blue. However, this is the top tourist season, so you can expect this time to be the absolute busiest. While it isn’t as popular as visiting Lake Louise or Moraine Lake, you might find the Grassi Lakes Trail to be a bit congested.

My suggestion is to come early, that way you can hit the trail before the late risers and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Spring and fall are also great times to visit, as the temperatures are comfortable. It will still be busy, but not as insane as Grassi Lake is during the summer. Plus, if you’ve never been to Alberta in the fall, you’re in for a treat, it’s goregous! Still, I recommend arriving as early as possible to have the best Grassi Lakes hiking experience.

Hiking Grassi Lakes in the Winter

Daniel and a friend pose for a photo at Grassi Lakes at the end of winter
We had some warm weather April!

As I mentioned earlier, you can hike the Grassi Lakes Trail any time of year, and winter is a completely different experience! If you can plan a Canmore winter holiday, you will definitely want to add Grassi Lakes Hike to your itinerary.

If you want to have a go at Grassi Lakes in the winter the lake typically freezes towards the end of fall (around November). You can hike up when there’s a fresh layer of snow on the ground and the trees and find an awesome view of contrasting colors if the lake isn’t frozen yet! Since this is a relatively easy trail, you can complete it with crampons with no problem.

Be aware though that winter through spring is avalanche season, so don’t be passive about this and check the avalanche reports to make sure conditions are safe before heading out.

After your hike, you can head back to Canmore and warm up at one of its cute cafes or, better yet, check out one of Canmore’s breweries! I love a pint after a hike on a cold winter day.

Related Read: Alberta, Canada is full of outdoor adventure. Check out our guide to the 8 best white water rafting tours in Banff, ranging from family-friendly up to heart-dropping thrilling!

Is Grassi Lakes Hike Suitable for Kids and Dogs?

A lady gets soaked by a dog shaking off at Grassi Lakes after swimming
Bailey getting soaked from Polly!

Absolutely! Grassi Lakes hike is one of the best easy hikes in Canmore, making it suitable for both dogs and children. The trail only goes for 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) and will take a few hours, so as long as your children (both 2 and 4-legged) are up for an adventure, they will have no problem completing it.

The easy route is flat and wide enough that a stroller can handle it. I would only recommend children on the more challenging route if they have some previous experience hiking, as the trail is much more narrow and slippery. We took our dog on the challenging route and had no issues.

What Facilities are at Grassi Lakes Hike?

The Grassi Lakes hike has minimal facilities, but there are drop toilets at the trailhead. This is the only toilet along the trail, and it can get very busy so you might not be able to duck into the woods and use the facili-trees. So I recommend going before you hit the trail, even if there is a line (as there often is).

There are a few benches along the trail, so if you need to stop and take a rest, you’ll be treated to views as you do. You will also find a large parking lot, as mentioned before, but be sure to get there early!

What to Pack for the Grassi Lakes Hike

Bailey hikes up the hard trail to Grassi Lakes, Canmore
A man climbs a rockface at Grassi Lakes, Canmore

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.

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.

Be sure to dress for the weather! It will be rather warm in the summertime, so be sure to pack some water and snacks to stay fueled. The winter will obviously be cold, and you can often catch rain in the spring. Check conditions before you go and make sure you are wearing the proper gear!

Essential Info You Need to Know

Daniel and two friends sit at Grassi lakes in Canmore while there is still snow on the ground
Soaking up them views!

Falling rocks – As mentioned above, Grassi Lakes Trail is home to mountain goats which have been known to send flying rocks over the ledges onto the trail. Keep watch for this and don’t stop in susceptible places.

Check the trail report – In recent years Grassi Lakes has had closures for various reasons other than weather such as an abundance of bear sightings and most recently a closure due to rock fall hazards. Make sure to check the Alberta Parks website for the most updated information.

If hiking Grassi Lakes in the winter – Wear hiking boots with crampons for extra traction.

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.

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, instead, arrive early to get a parking spot.

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 (0.6 mi) 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.

Other Things to do While You’re in Canmore

A lady ice skates on Vermilion Lakes, Banff
Ice skating on Vermilion Lakes

If you’re still putting together your Canmore itinerary here are some of my personal favorite activities across all seasons that I would recommend to anyone!

  • Go ice skating on a frozen lake – if visiting Canmore in the winter one of the most epic and non-touristy experiences to have is to go skating on one of the area’s frozen lakes (usually frozen solid by mid-December). A few of my favorites are Gap Lake, Lake Louise, and Vermilion Lakes. If you don’t have your own skates you can easily rent a pair from Gear Up in town.
  • Explore the Canmore Caves – one of the best and most popular adventure tours on the outskirts of Canmore is this Canmore Caving adventure tour. You’ll rappel down into the Rat’s Nest Cave system and explore underground through narrow spaces before reaching a clear pool of water with impressive stalactites and stalagmites. This tour lasts 6 hours, costs $179 CAD, and includes all climbing gear and your own guide so you don’t get lost.
  • Whitewater Rafting – an iconic Canadian activity that is sure to provide lots of scenic views, thrills, and laughs! After a safety briefing, this whitewater rafting tour will have you splashing through rapids for around 2 hours. It costs $130 CAD and is available in the summer from mid-May until mid-September.
  • Wildlife Safari – Canmore is home to an abundance of wildlife, including black bears, grizzlies, moose, bighorn sheep, foxes, cougars, elk, coyotes, lynx, mountain goats, wolves, and more. Spotting wildlife on your own is often a coinflip so I recommend going on a wildlife tour with an expert who knows where and what to look for along with how to do so in a safe manner. This private half-day wildlife safari tour is a fantastic option that spends 2 hours on a drive through the Rocky Mountains and a 1.5-hour nature walk to track wildlife. It is pricey at $325 per person but it’s worth it if you’ve been dying to see the native animals!
  • Visit some breweries – The craft beer scene is alive and well in Canmore, which is great because after a busy day outside, who doesn’t want to have a cold brewski or two? There are actually a few different breweries in Canmore you can visit! A couple of my favorites are The Grizzly Paw when I’m looking to enjoy a super delicious meal along with some beer and Sheepdog Brewing inside of a small garage for awesome vibes and a huge on-tap selection with lots of unique flavors.

Where to Stay in Canmore

Bailey with her dog in a hotel in Canmore
Be sure to choose a pet-friendly hotel if you’re traveling with a furry friend!
Bailey lays on the bed in Coast Canmore Hotel
Coast Canmore Hotel is our go-to hotel in Canmore!

The truth is that there are so many hotels in Canmore that it can be hard to know which one to choose for your stay. Well luckily for you, Dan and I have stayed in a lot of different hotels in Canmore and have been able to narrow it down to our absolute favorites!

Here are the best places to stay in Canmore including our personal top choice, a budget option, and one for those looking for absolute luxury!

Coast Canmore Hotel & Conference Centre – Our Top Choice

Coast Canmore Hotel & Conference Centre is our absolute favorite place to stay in Canmore. It is affordable without sacrificing any of the comforts you’ll need for a relaxing and enjoyable stay – suitable for almost all travelers and budgets. They have an onsite pool, hot tub, and fitness center along with a delicious bar and restaurant (Table Food + Drink).

Coast Canmore Hotel is located right in the heart of downtown Canmore walking distance from 8 Street (Main Street in Canmore), and just across the road from the Canmore Shops where you have a selection of restaurants, cafes, and takeaway places.

Oh, and did I mention the views from the hotel windows are breathtaking!?

On top of all of that, Coast Canmore Hotel offers a variety of different rooms to choose from, including some that are even pet-friendly (super handy when we are traveling with Rex!) The average cost per night ranges between $200-$300 CAD.

You can book this hotel easily on Booking.com. Be sure to book as far in advance as possible because these guys are usually fully booked!

Canmore Downtown Hostel – Budget Backpackers Option

If you’re a budget backpacker and looking for a hostel then Canmore Downtown Hostel is your best choice! These guys offer clean and comfortable facilities, dorm beds as well as private rooms, and a social atmosphere perfect for meeting other backpackers yet reviewers mention it is quiet at nighttime. The shared lounge room even has incredible mountain views! A dorm bed in a co-ed room averages around $35 CAD.

You can book Canmore Downtown Hostel on Booking.com or Hostelworld.com.

The Malcolm Hotel – Luxury Escape

If money isn’t an issue, then The Malcolm Hotel may be the luxurious option you’re looking for. It’s an easy walk to the main part of town or there are shops and restaurants on the same street, although you may never want to leave the property! There’s a rooftop swimming pool and hot tub that are especially amazing at sunset. I also like the games room with giant scrabble and a pool table and the views from the rooms are picture-perfect.

However, rooms here don’t come cheap and are often up to twice the price of most hotels in Canmore. But if luxury is calling your name, check availability and book a room at The Malcolm here.

If you want more options you can look through all hotels in Canmore here!

Renting a Car in Alberta

A car drives along the Icefields Parkway
The drive is mesmerizing!

If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.

Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel from Destinationless Travel take a selfie at Grassi Lakes, Canmore
Thanks for reading!

The Grassi Lakes Trail is one of Canmore’s best hikes, and the great thing is that it’s suited to almost anyone! Whether you choose to take the easy route or the more challenging route, you will be rewarded with incredible views at the end. After completing the hike in both the summer and winter, I know you’ll enjoy it no matter what season you tackle it!

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!

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