Grassi Lakes Hike is a little uphill trail to emerald and turquoise lakes with a few benches waiting for you to chill out and enjoy a breathtaking view of the mountain town Canmore in the Canadian Rockies.
There are several walks and small hikes in Canmore and all of them have stunning views. Canmore is located in a narrow Bow Valley with giant mountain peaks wherever you look. Combine that with the ever-changing colour of Bow River and you can easily spend a nice day outside just wandering around town.
When you’re ready to go just a little bit further, pack a picnic and head to Grassi Lakes Hike above Canmore.
In this blog post, you’ll see lots of photos to show you what is this hike about, safety rules (you’re in a bear country), and also a non-hiking option to see the Grassi Lakes. Enjoy!
For more activities, read our post 47 fun outdoor things to do in Canmore
More hiking ideas:
- 15 best day hikes near Calgary
- Hiking in Jasper National Park: 17 best hikes for all levels
- 20 best hikes in Banff National Park
- Hiking in Yoho National Park
Pros & cons of the Grassi Lakes Hike
- Close to Canmore
- Possible to visit without a car
- Great effort to views ratio
- Bird’s eye view of Canmore
- Refreshing picturesque lakes as a reward
- Benches for a picnic
- Extremely busy trail, go early in the morning and try to avoid weekends
Where is Grassi Lakes Trail & how to get there
Grass Lakes consist of Upper and Lower Lake located at 1,525 meters above sea level. They are just outside of Canmore in Kananaskis Country (about 1 hour from Calgary, the nearest major city).
From downtown Canmore, it’s just a 5.5 km drive up the Smith Dorrien Spray Trail (Three Sisters Parkway). After about 2 km past the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park on your right, continue further until you see a sign for Grassi Lakes Trail.
Grassi Lakes parking
Just before the last turn on the dirt road to Grassi Lakes, there’s overflow gravel parking on your right. You would park here in case there’s no parking at the main parking lot. You reach the main parking for Grassi Lakes taking the short dirt road downhill on your left.
The parking lot has been expanded to its limits, and there are no picnic tables anymore but only a couple of outhouses.
Another option would be to walk up to the trail. If you take several shorter trails along the Bow River and up to Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park, it’s only a 3.7 km walk or a bike ride.
There is no public transport available.
Grassi Lakes Hike in Canmore
- Distance: 4 km roundtrip
- Elevation gain: 220 m
- Difficulty: easy
- Best time to go: May to October (a great winter hike as well)
- Gear: water bottle with filter (you can fill up from the waterfall or lakes), windproof jacket, running shoes (the trail is easy), bear spray
I cannot even count how many times we’ve been up to Grassi Lakes. It’s a beautiful short hike if you’re short on time or as in our case, have family and friends over visiting Canada.
Grassi Lakes Trail
The sign with a trail map at the beginning of the hike explains two different routes:
- Difficult trail – Lower Grassi Lakes Trail through the forest is a narrow path with a few rocky stairs, a waterfall, and an occasional view of Canmore and Bow Valley. It’s a moderate trail even when for some reason it’s called difficult.
- Easy trail – Upper Grassi Lakes Trail has a slight incline on a wide dirt trail through the forest and you can see the Ha Ling Peak in front of you. The trail is so easy that I would recommend it to anyone, especially to families. Grassi Lakes Hike is an amazing day trip with kids from Calgary.
As you can see in the photo below, the easy trail on Grassi Lakes Hike is suitable for all fitness levels. In case you have very small children, you can even bring a running stroller.
The combination or the option of going out-n-back the same trail is up to you. We’ve decided to take the Lower Trail up to the Grassi Lakes and then down on the Upper Trail.
A few minutes into the hike, the first views open up as you see the Rundle Forebay and Canmore below. The beauty of Grassi Lakes Hike is for the little picturesque rewards until you reach the lakes. The next one is a small waterfall, a great place to cool off and fill up your water bottle (if you have a filter).
Lower Grassi Lake
Before you know it, the emerald Lower Grassi Lake is in front of you. Picnic benches are scattered around the lake and due to the trail’s heavy use, even the path around has been repaired. The rocky mountain peak you see on your left is another popular hike Ha Ling Peak.
Ha Ling Peak is another very popular and scenic hike but if you’re craving solitude, choose the nearby moderate option Mount Lawrence Grassi hike for the same views.
Upper Grassi Lake
Further up is a turquoise Upper Grassi Lake. The warning you’ll see on the trail up is due to the hazards from the cliffside frequented by rock climbers. The huge rock wall above the Upper Grassi Lake is very popular in the rock climbing community.
And that comes with a risk – as I understood the story, a group of climbers were on the wrong side of the cliff when a girl fell to her death followed by a big boulder. This is the first incident I’ve heard of in 7 years.
Suffice to say, you’re entering at your own risk. Keep an eye on the rock climbers and only stop for photos once you reach the top.
Because of the increased popularity of Grassi Lakes Hike, the area has to be protected more than before. Therefore you cannot go around the lake where you see a sign of a protected area or swim in the lake (as you see me dipping my legs in the lake long before it was prohibited).
You can turn around wherever you want even though the trail continues through the canyon up all the way to the dirt road Smith Dorrien Spray Trail. It’s this canyon trail that rock climbers use to get down to the cliff. If you go all the way up to the road, you can often spot bighorn sheep by the road and also a very nice Whitemans Pond.
The non-hiking option to see Grassi Lakes that I mentioned in the beginning, is exactly this trail. If you drive up the road and continue beyond the sign for Grassi Lakes, you can park by the Whitemans Pond and walk down the stairs to Grassi Lakes.
We turned around after we soaked up all the views via the Upper Trail back to the Grassi Lakes parking lot.
Grassi Lakes Hike in winter
When we’ve visited Grassi Lakes in winter, I was surprised the lakes weren’t frozen and showed us their breathtaking colours. The emerald colour in contrast with the snow is mesmerizing.
So it’s official now – Grassi Lakes is the best hike in Canmore year-round.
Usually, only the easy trail is open in winter, the difficult trail is very icy and often closed. Either way, I recommend wearing microspikes and checking the trail conditions before you go.
8 Awesome winter hikes in Canmore
Tips for Grassi Lakes Hike
Trail report for Grassi Lakes
Before you head out, check current trail conditions on the Alberta Parks website. If the conditions are hazardous, often due to ice, the trail is closed.
Packing list for Grassi Lakes Hike
Our hiking essentials include:
- Paper map of the area and downloaded map of the hike on the phone (in case of Grassi Lakes, you don’t need a map as it’s very straightforward)
- External battery for the phone (especially for using GPS on the phone)
- Lifestraw water bottle with a filter so we can drink from anywhere
- Extra snacks
- Windproof & waterproof jacket (yes, in summer as well)
- Fleece or down jacket as unexpected snowstorms happen in summer
- My absolute favourite trail running shoes
- Bear Spray
- Microspikes in winter
And a few other items as well. For a full list of our gear, check out our hiking packing list for summer in the mountains. You can see the full list with links to purchase our favourite gear on our Amazon page.
Kananaskis Conservation Pass
For hiking to Grassi Lakes, you need to purchase a pass. All vehicles parking at the provincial park and on public land in Kananaskis Country and the Bow Valley must purchase a Kananaskis Conservation Pass.
You can buy it online or in person at Kananaskis Visitor Centers & Canmore Nordic Centre day lodge. The day pass costs 15 CAD for one vehicle, and the yearly pass costs 90 CAD for two vehicles.
It’s free if you visit on Wilderness Wednesdays, the first Wednesday of every month.
There’s a misconception among newbies in the Canadian Rockies that if you’re hiking an extremely busy trail, such as Grassi Lakes, you don’t have to carry a bear spray. This decision is not supported by Alberta Parks or Parks Canada.
In the Canadian Rockies, you’re in bear habitat. That means you should always carry a bear spray, know when and how to use it and make noise while hiking and running (so you don’ surprise any bears)! On busy trails, bears might be used to hearing human sounds so you need to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Just because you’re talking loudly, it doesn’t mean the bear will get scared and run away. Carefully read these instructions on how to behave around them.
There have been several encounters with bears on Grassi Lakes Trail and it was closed for a short period of time in summer due to bears frequenting this area. You can either purchase a bear spray at Visitor’s Centre, in Canmore’s outdoor stores or rent one just for a day.
*In the spirit of full disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. We appreciate your support!
Essential info for visiting Canmore
Calgary to Canmore
If you’re looking for options on how to get to Canmore from Calgary, read our comprehensive post with the cost breakdown, there are several bus options. We’ve done all the research to save you time.
For more information about the Canmore area, current trail conditions, maps or campgrounds in the Canadian Rockies, visit Travel Alberta Canmore Visitor Information Centre or call them at +1 800-252-3782. There are picnic tables, a restroom (open 7 am-10 pm daily), free WiFi and water for your campervan/RV.
To see current weather and conditions in Canmore, check out their webcams from different parts of town.
Where to stay in Canmore
Campgrounds are a popular option; see the list here. If you like adventurous trips, book a Smile Campervan from us. It gives you the most freedom while road-tripping the Canadian Rockies.
A budget-friendly option would be staying at Airbnb; we’ve compiled a list of the 12 best Airbnbs in Canmore with breathtaking views.
Another option is staying in a hotel or lodge; you can find great deals on Booking through this link.
Our favourite hikes in the Rockies:
Canmore & Kananaskis:
Banff National Park:
- Sulphur Mountain
- Johnston Canyon in summer and in winter
- Aylmer Lookout
- Glacier Lake
- Mount St. Piran
- Healy Pass
- Boom Lake
- Rockbound Lake
Jasper National Park:
Yoho National Park:
Kootenay National Park
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