Grassi Lakes Hike in Canmore

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Grassi Lakes is one of the most popular Canmore hiking trails. It’s an easy stroll through an evergreen forest to a pair of stunning mountain lakes. When the sun is shining, you simply won’t believe the incredible colors in the water.

The Grassi Lakes hike is so enjoyable that we make time to do it almost every year. It’s a short and easy trail with a spectacular reward – a great combination. No wonder it’s one of the most popular Canmore hikes.

Spring pussy willows grow near the Grassi Lakes in Canmore, Alberta

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Grassi Lakes Hike Highlights

Without question, the highlight of this easy hike is the Grassi Lakes. If you visit on one of the many sunny days in Canmore, the color of the lakes is an incredible deep greenish-blue. You really need to see the color of the water in person as the pictures don’t do it justice.

You won't believe the water color of the Grassi Lakes near Banff

The color of the water in this post has not been digitally enhanced. #nofilter

The Grassi Lakes hike leads hikers through a dense evergreen forest along the lower slopes of Mount Rundle. Watch for breaks in the trees to enjoy views of Ha Ling Peak and Ship’s Prow towering overhead on the left and Mt. Rundle straight ahead.

Being in a wildlife corridor, you have a decent chance of seeing some animals on this hike. Many Rocky Mountain Sheep call the rocky slopes behind the Grassi Lakes home – watch for them perched up high.

A Rocky Mountain Sheep on a rocky slope on a hike in Kananaskis Country

There’s also a Great Horned Owl who nests in the cliffs behind the Grassi Lakes. Being a wild animal, you aren’t guaranteed of a sighting, but he’s there quite a bit. Owls are usually very hard to see in the wild and this is an excellent chance to see one.

Want to improve your chances of seeing wildlife in Banff? Photographer Jayden Daniels shares his best wildlife spotting tips.

In the spring, the Grassi Lakes hike has some of my favorite alpine flowers including Bluebells and Indian Paintbrushes.

The Grassi Lake trail is found within the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park. If you are interested in Olympic history, the Canmore Nordic Centre was home to the alpine events in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic Games. It’s a few minutes away on the drive back to Canmore.

Grassi Lakes Trail Stats

Distance: The one-way distance from the parking lot to the Grassi Lakes is approximately 2.0km (1.25 miles).

Elevation Gain: The elevation gain you’ll encounter to the Grassi Lakes is approximately 170m (560 feet).

Difficulty: There are two different routes to the Grassi Lakes – the Upper Grassi Lakes Trail (the “easy” one) and the Grassi Lakes Trail (the “more difficult” one).

The Upper Grassi Lakes trail has a steady, gentle incline the whole way up. Virtually everyone in reasonable shape will be able to walk to the Grassi Lakes with no difficulty.

Ha Ling Peak towers above a family hiking Grassi Lakes, Canmore

The Grassi Lakes trail is slightly more difficult than the Upper Grassi Lakes trail. It also has a steady, gentle incline most of the way. It is considered more difficult as there is a very short, steep section which requires a small amount of scrambling over a rock. Mobility-challenged hikers may find this section difficult, but most won’t break a sweat.

The Grassi Lakes Trail offers the best scenery of the two trails. You’ll pass the towering Grassi Lakes waterfall and will also enjoy unobstructed views of Canmore and the surrounding Bow Valley.

Views of Canmore, Mount Lady Macdonald and the Bow Valley from the harder Grassi Lakes Trail

If you prefer, you can do both trails as a loop. To improve your views, we recommend doing the harder trail on the way up and the easy trail on the way down.

We rate both routes of the Grassi Lakes hike as “easy”.

Duration: It should take a typical adult about 45 minutes to hike the full there-and-back distance of the Grassi Lakes hike.

We recently did this hike with our kids (aged 4 & 6), and were able to complete the full distance in 1 hour and 40 minutes.

See the Grassi Lake falls from the harder Grassi Lakes Trail

Grassi Lakes Hike Location

The Grassi Lakes trailhead is in the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park, just minutes south-west of Canmore. It’s a 30-minute drive from the Banff townsite and a 12-minute drive from downtown Canmore.

It’s possible to reach the Grassi Lakes trailhead by using the Roam transit bus, but it’s not super-convenient. Take the Roam route #5 bus to the Prospect Heights West bus stop.

From here, it’s a 3.8km hike via the Powerline Trail to the Grassi Lakes trailhead. Taking the bus results in a 11.6km round-trip – which is still do-able in an afternoon for anyone in reasonable shape.

Please note that Grassi Lakes is one of the most popular Canmore trails and the parking lot can fill up quickly on weekends and holidays. There is an overflow parking lot available if needed.

Grassi Lakes Trailhead Location

An interpretive welcome sign for the Grassi Lakes Trail

Hiking Grassi Lakes with Kids

One of the many reasons the Grassi Lakes hike is so popular is that it is a great family hike near Canmore. It has a nice, wide trail allowing families to walk side-by-side up to the lakes – a nice upgrade vs. walking single file on most mountain hiking trails.

Once at the top, kids will enjoy exploring the paths around the Grassi Lakes. There are bridges to cross, rocks to climb on and plenty of other kids to play with.

A father shows his toddler where the Great Horned Owl is nesting behind the Grassi Lakes Canmore

The Grassi Lakes trail is pretty easy and most kids who get a reasonable amount of activity should be able to make it to the top. The first time our daughter did this hike herself, she was just under 3 years old.

If you are lucky, you’ll see the Great Horned Owl who lives in a little cave on a rocky cliff on the backside of the lakes. He likes to sit there and watch the action.

A Great Horned Owl lives on a rock climbing cliff near the Grassi Lakes in Kananaskis

There are toilets at the trailhead. This is a very popular trail, so there will be few chances to have enough privacy to duck behind a tree, so make sure everyone goes before they leave.

If you are considering hiking Grassi Lakes with a baby, we don’t recommend a stroller, although it would be possible if your stroller has large wheels. The trail is gravel with some larger stones protruding, making it difficult for strollers with small wheels. If possible, a baby carrier is a better option for hiking with a baby.

Grassi Lakes was the very first hike we took our baby on. Having her in a baby carrier made it an enjoyable experience for everyone.

We have some great resources for hiking with kids on our Family Can Travel site. Check out our best tips for hiking with kids, the best hiking gear for kids and the 9 Best Hiking Songs for Your Family.

Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break

There are plenty of places to have a picnic lunch on the Grassi Lakes hike. There are picnic tables in the trees near the start of the hike. There’s also a bench along the trail about halfway to the top.

With such great scenery at the top, the best place for a picnic is around the Grassi Lakes. There’s lots of benches and large rocks to rest on while you enjoy the incredible colors of these mountain-fed lakes.

Canmore's Grassi Lakes is a great place for a family picnic

The Grassi Lakes hiking trail is so close to Canmore that you could easily do the hike in the morning and then go into town for lunch at one of Canmore’s excellent restaurants. Alternately, it could also be done post-lunch in the afternoon.

Grassi Lakes Hike Safety  

Grassi Lakes may not be in Banff National Park, but it is still in the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains making this prime bear country.

We love bears and would hate for any harm to come to them or you, so please take the time to educate yourself by reading Safe Travel in Bear Country. Don’t be fooled into thinking this hike is too busy to see any bears; bears can appear anywhere at any time.

The Grassi Lakes hiking trail is located within an important wildlife corridor which gives mountain animals the chance to bypass the town of Canmore. Animals need the freedom to move, so please stay on the designated hiking trails. The upside of this is that your chances of seeing wildlife are pretty good on this hike.

A reflection photograph of trees and mountains on Grassi Lakes near Banff National Park

With many towering rock cliffs, be aware that areas around the Grassi Lakes hike are rockfall hazards.

This is one of the rare hikes in the area where you will see most dogs on-leash. It’s such a popular hike that people feel social pressure to comply with the law.

We recommend checking the Kananaskis Trail Report for Grassi Lakes trail conditions and potential trail closures before you head out.

Hiking Grassi Lakes in Winter

If you visit Canmore and Banff in winter, you can still easily enjoy this hike. With snow-covered trees lining the trail and snow-capped mountains all-around, the winter scenery can be magical.

I’ve never seen the Grassi Lakes frozen over due to the cold, but I understand it is possible in very cold conditions.

Snow covered trees surround the beautiful Grassi Lakes

The harder route is closed in winter as the spray from the Grassi Lakes waterfall creates unsafe ice conditions.

Many winter hikers will use cleats and hiking poles for more stability on the trail. On our most recent winter outing, we had our cleats in our day bags, but we found we didn’t need them (and we never use poles – just a personal preference).

Given the snow cover on the trail, the cleats would have probably made it a little easier, but we still made it up with little effort. Don’t be afraid to try this hike in the winter if you are visiting without them.

You can also snowshoe to Grassi Lakes, but snowshoes are unnecessary as the snow will be hard packed due to the amount of daily foot traffic. Given the choice, we’d use cleats over snowshoes on this trail in winter.

Grassi Lakes are a winter wonderland

Be aware that the sun is low in the sky in winter and will duck behind a mountain in the mid-afternoon, creating an artificially early dusk. When the sun goes away, the wind will pick up and the temperature will get noticeably colder immediately. If you hike Grassi Lakes in the afternoon in the winter, be sure to dress warmer than you think you’ll need to.

Another fun winter activity nearby is to go cross-country skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre, which is only a few minutes away. This is a former Winter Olympic venue, so it’s a world-class facility. There’s rentals available and trails to match all ability levels.

Want more winter activities? Check out these easy snowshoe trails in Kananaksis.

Grassi Lakes Trail Logistics

  • There are washrooms in the parking lot. It’s a popular hike, so you won’t get much privacy around the trail.
  • There are no drinking water facilities, so fill your hydration packs before you leave.
  • Dogs are allowed on-leash.
  • This is one of the most popular Canmore hikes, so to avoid the crowds and parking lot congestion, try to visit early in the day on a weekday if possible.
  • Bikes are not allowed on the Grassi Lakes trail.
Grassi Lakes is one of our favorite family hikes in Alberta

Grassi Lakes Trail Map

You don’t need a hiking map for the Canmore Grassi Lakes hike. It’s virtually impossible to get lost on this hike – simply enter the trail from the parking lot and follow the crowds along the single trail.

If you’d like a digital map of the hike and the ability to track your stats (distance, elevation gain, etc.), we use and recommend the AllTrails app.

If paper maps are more your style, I highly recommend Gem Trek hiking maps. They are the gold standard for Banff hiking maps and we own the entire set. They are exceptional 3D topographic maps which I love looking at for hiking inspiration. The Grassi Lakes Trail appears in the map entitled, “Canmore & Kananaskis Village”. 

You can order one off Amazon before your trip, or you can pick one up while here as they are widely available.

What to Bring Hiking in Kananaskis

You don’t need a lot of hiking gear to enjoy hiking in Kananaskis. Our list of hiking essentials contains the hiking gear and clothing you’ll need for the variable Kananaskis weather and trail conditions.

Footwear Recommendation

The Grassi Lakes trail surface is hard-packed gravel with some larger rocks protruding, making a slightly uneven surface. Unless you are doing this hike in winter, you won’t need any special hiking shoes for this hike.

If you plan to do lots of hiking during your visit, you’ll need a proper pair of hiking shoes.

More Kid-Friendly Hiking Trails We Recommend

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Just outside Banff National Park and the town of Canmore, is this incredible hike to Grassi Lakes. This easy hike near Canmore, Alberta will astound you when you see the color of the water.
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