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Grassi Lakes Hike in Canmore

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 Kananaskis hike is the water color of 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 Canmore

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

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, Miners 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 the kid-friendly Grassi Lakes 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

How Long is the Grassi Lakes Hike?

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

How Steep is the Grassi Lakes Trail?

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

How Hard is the Grassi Lakes Hike?

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 with kids to 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”.

Grassi Lakes Hike Time

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 the Grassi Lakes hike with our kids (aged 4 & 6), and were able to complete the full distance in 1 hour and 40 minutes. As we’ll discuss in a bit, Grassi Lakes is one of the most popular kid-friendly hikes in Canmore.

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 the Grassi Lakes hike is one of the most popular Canmore trails and the parking lot can fill up quickly on weekends and holidays. There is an overflow Grassi Lakes parking lot available if needed. Unless you plan to hike Grassi Lakes in the later afternoon or early in the morning, we don’t recommend it as a good hike for social distancing.

Grassi Lakes Trailhead Location

An interpretive welcome sign for the kid-friendly Grassi Lakes Trail

Hiking Grassi Lakes with Kids

One of the many reasons the Grassi Lakes hike is so popular is that it is one of the best kid-friendly hikes in Canmore. It has a nice, wide trail allowing parents and kids 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 of this kid-friendly hike, 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.

See wildlife on this kid-friendly hike in Canmore. A father shows his toddler where the Great Horned Owl is nesting behind the Grassi Lakes Canmore
Finding the Great Horned Owl at Grassi Lakes

The Grassi Lakes trail is an easy Canmore hike 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 kid-friendly 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 lower Grassi Lake. The Great Horned Owl likes to sit there and watch the action. It’s quite rare to spot an owl in the wild, so kids who love wildlife will really like the Grassi Lakes hike.

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

There are toilets at the Grassi Lakes trailhead. This is a very popular kid-friendly hike, so there will be few chances to have enough privacy to duck behind a tree. Make sure all your kids goes before they begin the hike.

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

Grassi Lakes was our very first hike with a baby. 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 trailhead. 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.

The kid-friendly Grassi Lakes hike is a great picnic spot near Canmore

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, you could also hike Grassi Lakes after 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 kid-friendly 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 and deserve 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 the Grassi Lakes hike.

easy Canmore hikes - Grassi Lakes Trail

With many towering rock cliffs, be aware that areas around the Grassi Lakes hike are rockfall hazards. Obey all “Area Closed” signs.

The kid-friendly Grassi Lakes hike is so popular that it’s one of the rare hikes in the area where you will see most dogs on-leash. It’s such a popular Canmore hike that people feel social pressure to comply with the law.

We recommend checking the Grassi Lakes Trail Report for 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 Grassi Lakes trail and snow-capped mountains all-around, the winter scenery can be magical.

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

Snow covered trees surround the beautiful Grassi Lakes in winter

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

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

If you are hiking Grassi Lakes with kids in the winter, try these microspikes for kids. We have them for our kids and they work great!

Given the snow cover on the Grass Lakes 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 the Grassi Lakes hike in the winter if you don’t have cleats.

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 the Grassi Lakes trail in winter.

Canmore's 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 go on an afternoon hike to Grassi Lakes 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 XC skiing facility. There’s rentals available and trails to match all ability levels.

Want more winter activities? Check out these easy snowshoe trails in Kananaksis or one of these easy winter hikes in Banff and area.

Grassi Lakes in Spring

The Grassi Lakes hiking trail is a popular hike all-year round. The gentle slope of the hiking trail makes Grassi Lakes a great choice for an early-season hike near Canmore. The Grassi Lakes water color from the freshly melted mountain snow is especially beautiful in spring.

Hiking Grassi Lakes in spring

If you hike Grassi Lakes in spring (April or May), it’s hard to predict the trail conditions you will encounter. Chances are that the hiking trail will be a combination of ice, snow, dirt and mud.

Before you hike Grassi Lakes in spring, take a moment to consider the weather from the previous week. Did it snow a lot? Was it really warm? The trail conditions will change frequently on the Grassi Lakes in spring.

In spring, the snow starts to melt during the day and then freezes overnight. This cycle leads to ice on the Grassi Lakes trail in spring, making it more treacherous than usual. If you have them, it’s never a bad idea to have a pair of microspikes in your daybag, just in case.

Grassi Lakes Trail Logistics

  • There are washrooms in the Grassi Lakes parking lot. It’s a popular kid-friendly 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 kid-friendly family hikes in Kananaskis, 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 Grassi Lakes 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 Gem Trek hiking map entitled, “Canmore & Kananaskis Village”. 

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 the Grassi Lakes 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.

Kid-Friendly Kananaskis Hikes

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