Exploring the Lakes and Trails of Kananaskis
by Jeff Burns
Go directly to the TRAILHEAD section for detailed descriptions of popular Lake Hikes and Mtn Bike Trails in Kananaskis Country.
Advisory * Due to 2013 Flooding, some trails and bridges may still be closed for reconstruction. Get additional details at Trail Reports and/or the Kananaskis Information Hotline at 403-678-0760.
Important * Remember to check these Links regarding TRAIL CONDITIONS and BEAR ACTIVITY when planning a trip.
Information * For Information about the different areas in Kananaskis Country or to report things such as lost or stolen property, you can contact one of the Four Kananaskis Visitor Information Centers.
"As an avid recreational enthusiast in Kananaskis Country since the early 1990's, I can tell you that my appreciation for this majestic mountain wilderness cannot be overstated, not just because of it's immeasurable value as an Outdoor Adventure Destination (Hiking, Mtn Biking, Backcountry Camping, Fishing, Canoeing & Kayaking), but more importantly it's significance as a protected wildlife sanctuary, the shining result of an enduring environmental legacy shared by generations of Albertans.
The continued preservation of Kananaskis Country relies heavily on the efforts of volunteer based organizations promoting awareness, particularly with regards to protecting the area's natural integrity against invasive and exploitative practices. For more information on the organizations involved in the sustainability of Kananaskis Country, please see Sustain Kananaskis and Friends Of Kananaskis."
- Jeff Burns, www.powderface.ca
What started out as a journal of my favorite backcountry trails somehow evolved into this website, it's intended purpose now to serve as a general guide for anyone interested in exploring the Lakes and Mountain Bike Trails of Kananaskis Country.
I've chronicled what I consider to be some of the best backcountry trails and destinations Kananaskis has to offer, ranging from moderate hikes to long arduous Mountain Bike trips, all of which can be done in a day depending on your ability and level of endurance. These can also be expanded upon to include Backpacking and Backcountry Camping, and I talk about some of the ways in which you can combine these and other trails for extended excursions. Captain John Palliser, an early explorer of the valley, identified the area by taking the name of a local Indian who had overcome some remarkable circumstances. Palliser had written that he had heard of an Indian named Kananaskis, "giving account of a most wonderful recovery from the blow of an axe to the head - which stunned, but failed to kill him." Palliser subsequently named two lakes, two passes and a river Kananaskis; hence the "meeting of the waters" is the most frequently used translation of Kananaskis.
www.Kananaskisvalley.comNot all of my choices will be considered "Hardcore" enough for some, and for others the uphill climbs or rapid descents of these trails might be more than they bargained for, but in my opinion the trips covered here provide everything the average weekend warrior is looking for.
Hopefully by using this website as an online resource you can experience some of the highlights of Kananaskis Country without an assortment of maps and trail guides, giving you a chance to gain some first hand insight into how magnificent this majestic wilderness really is. And if this only serves to whet your appetite for more detailed information on these and many other destinations, the recommended sources for furthering your experience are "Kananaskis Country trail guide" by Gillaen Daffern, and "Backcountry Biking in the Canadian Rockies" by Doug Eastcott & Gerhardt Lepp.
Please use the CONTACT form to comment on the site and make suggestions. If you would like to know more about how you can assist in the preservation of Kananaskis Country, then please visit the Friends Of Kananaskis where you can make donations or take on an active role in one of their volunteer programs.
It was the summer of 1992, and as soon as I steered the car onto highway eight I could feel the despair of rush hour traffic melt away as Calgary began it's fade from sight in the rear view mirror.
Only hours earlier I'd decided to borrow some camping equipment and make my escape to Kananaskis Country, a region still foreign to me other than the winters when I used to ski at Nakiska or Fortress Mountain.
Sliding past Bragg Creek and on to hwy 66, the excitement was taking root as the wilderness began to envelop me and the mountains loomed ever larger, and although this was just a spur of the moment camping weekend I couldn't help but feel I was being lured in to some greater adventure.
Settling into Little Elbow campground I soon realized I hadn't brought an axe to chop firewood with, and when the coleman stove proved inoperable I chose to remain steadfast, even as things progressed to where I found myself at the mercy of a torrential downpour lasting most of the night. As I lay hungry and shivering in a wet sleeping bag fighting the urge to pack up and go home, I had little or no idea that this auspicious beginning would eventually become an obsession consuming every available weekend as I traipsed through the Elbow and Sheep River valleys, Canmore and the Spray valley, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, and the Highwood-Cataract Creek area.
"The Journey" would last ten years and became a metaphor for my own soul searching, a spiritual catharsis laced with moments of deja vu ... flirting with the surreal notion that perhaps I once had been a Stoney Indian wandering these valleys long ago ...
(a 2 minute history)
Before being discovered by Europeans in the mid 1800's, the area was inhabited by Stoney Indians (so named because they used hot stones to cook their meat) who carved paths through the alpine and roamed these valleys hunting Elk, Deer and Bighorn Sheep. Kananaskis, translated to mean "meeting of the waters", was named after one of these local Indians by British explorer John Palliser who led an expedition to the region in 1857.
At the turn of the century the discovery of huge coal seams eventually led to mining in the Ribbon Creek area in the 1940's, and a townsite named Kovach (after district Ranger Joe Kovach) was established at the base of Mt. Allan where miners and their families lived. When operations ceased in 1952 it became a ghostown and remained so until the buildings were demolished in 1969.
By the 1970's Provinvcial Premier Peter Lougheed spearheaded a plan to create recreational and protected wilderness areas in a portion of the Rocky Mountains, for the appreciation of all Albertans and generations to come while also preserving the environment. In 1978 the established territory officially became known as Kananaskis Country.