Middle Lake Interpretive Trail in Kananaskis

Author: Celine Brewer

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The Middle Lake Interpretive Trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park is an enjoyable easy Kananaskis hike. Hikers along the Middle Lake Trail will enjoy a variety of landscapes including a mountain lake and a pleasant forest setting.

Hike this easy Bow Valley Provincial Park trail on a calm day and you’ll be rewarded with a stunning mountain reflection on the lake. Late spring will reward hikers with wildflowers. Hiking this short Kananaskis hike in the fall, the mountain reflection gets a pop of color with the changing leaves of the aspen trees.

In any season, the Middle Lake Interpretive Trail is a fun, short hike.

view from Middle Lake trail from Bow Valley Provincial Park Kananaskis

Middle Lake Interpretive Trail – Quick Details

Trailhead: Middle Lake trailhead

Distance: 2.5 km loop

Elevation: 85m elevation gain

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Middle Lake Hike Highlights

The Middle Lake hiking trail begins immediately from the parking lot. Where you see two trails leading away from the parking lot, the one on the right is the Middle Lake hike.

start of Middle Lake trail - easy hike in Kananaskis

The first steps of the Middle Lake trail lead you through an open meadow with just a few trees. This open environment provides amazing 360 degree views of the surrounding Kananaskis mountains, including Yates, Twin Towers, Engagement mountain, Doorjam, Loder and Yamnuska.

The open meadow is a perfect location for crocus to bloom in early spring. Also watch for subtlety beautiful Potentilla flowers later in the hiking season.

After only 100m of walking you’ll reach an elevated viewpoint of Middle Lake. Take the time to visit and read the signs about how Middle Lake was formed.

mountain views from start of Middle Lake hiking Trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park

After filling your brain with interesting information about glacial lakes, sit on the bench and soak in views up the Bow Valley all the way north to Three Sisters and beyond.

Below the viewpoint is the trail sign for Middle Lake Interpretive Trail. Follow the trail to the left for the Middle Lake trail. To the right are the Moraine and Elk Flats trails.

It won’t take long to start seeing numbered sign posts along the Middle Lake trail. They used to provide paper copies of interpretive booklets at the trailhead. Today, you can print your own at home with this link to the Middle Lake trail pamphlet.

Interpretive signs along Middle Lake trail, Kananaskis

The trail follows the shores of Middle Lake for another 200m. Watch for paintbrush and shooting star wildflowers if you can take your eyes off the beautiful lake and mountain scenery.

shooting star wildflower along Middle Lake Kananaskis

At the 0.3km mark of the Middle Lake hike you will leave the lake and enter a meadow with long, flowing grass and scattered evergreens. Watch for the very interesting old man whiskers flowers scattered about.

alberta wildflowers along Middle Lake hiking trail Kananaskis

The meadow walk lasts for 100m until you reach the beginning of the loop portion of the Middle Lake trail. Follow the trail to the left and enter the forest.

Lots of small shrubs thrive along the bottom of this evergreen forest, including many wild rose bushes. Brilliant blue dragonflies zip around looking for their next meal.

blue dragon fly along Middle Lake hike Bow Valley Provincial Park

The spruce forest becomes more dense along the Middle Lake trail after another 200m. On a warm day you’ll appreciate the nice shade from the evergreens as the trail starts to climb very gently.

The forest gets a little spooky at the 0.7km mark of the Middle Lake trail. This section of forest is filled with evergreens without needles on their lower branches. The net effect of them all together seems a little haunted…

forested section of Middle Lake Interpretive Trail Kananaskis
orchids along Middle Lake trail in Kananaskis

The loop portion of the Middle Lake hike is roughly triangle shaped. At the 0.9km mark of this easy Kananaskis hike, you reach the first corner of the triangle and the trail curves sharply to the right. The forest thins out slight as the trail starts to descend again. Watch for beautiful blue clematis flowers snaking their way up the lower branches of the trees and bushes.

Watch for a massive Douglas fir tree after 1.2km Mark of the Middle Lake trail. This leaning giant Douglas Fir tree is several hundred years old.

Beyond the ancient Douglas Fir tree, the Middle Lake trail alternates between forest and meadow, giving hikers a refreshing change of scenery. As usual for the Bow Valley Provincial Park, watch for a multitude of wildflowers growing in the meadows.

girl walking in Meadow along Middle Lake Interpretive Trail

After 1.6km of hiking along the Middle Lake trail you’ll reach the second corner of the triangle as the trail turns hard right again. The hiking trail continues downhill, this time through a forest mixed with evergreens and aspens. If you are lucky, you may find a few columbine wildflowers along the side of the hiking trail.

You leave the forest behind after 1.9km of hiking on the Middle Lake trail as you reach the shores of the lake again. We’ve seen muskrat in the reeds along the shoreline here, so stay quiet and keep your eyes peeled.

There are a few benches along the trail to stop and enjoy the excellent Kananaskis views. There’s a very short, steep section of trail to contend with, but it should not be an issue for most hikers on this easy hike in Kananaskis.

Middle Lake hiking trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park area of Kananaskis

The loop portion of the Middle Lake hike ends after 2.2km of hiking. Take a moment to enjoy the incredible views of Mt. Yamnuska ahead of you as you walk the final 300m to the Middle Lake parking lot.

Middle Lake Trail Location

The Middle Lake trailhead is found in the Middle Lake day use area Bow Valley Provincial Park, Kananaskis.

Middle Lake Interpretive Trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park Kananaskis

Drive to Middle Lake Interpretive Trail, Bow Valley Provincial Park

The Middle Lake Trail is an easy hike near Calgary. It’s an hour drive from Calgary to Middle Lake, or just a 38 minute drive from Banff to Middle Lake.

Middle Lake Interpretive Trail Statistics

The Middle Lake Interpretive Trail is a hike that virtually anyone can do. This easy hike in Kananaskis is short and relatively flat.

How Long is the Middle Lake Interpretive Trail?

The Middle Lake hike is a pretty short hike, clocking in at just under 2.5km long.

How Hard is the Middle Lake Hiking Trail?

With only 85m elevation gain, the Middle Lake hike is one of the easiest Kananaskis hikes. It’s short, flat and easy but you won’t miss out on some great scenery.

How Long Does It Take to Hike Middle Lake?

It should take a typical adult roughly 40-60 minutes to hike the Middle Lake loop trail.

We recently hiked Middle Lake with our kids (5 & 7) and it took us one hour. That included all the usual stops for butterflies, flowers, dragon flies and to test out any bench we came across.

Middle Lake Trail Map

It would be nearly impossible to get lost on the Middle Lake hike. Once at the parking lot, it’s easy to follow the trail towards the lake, then take the trail to the left (at the bottom of the hill). It’s also well marked and includes interpretive signs along the way.

trail marker along Middle Lake trail in Kananaskis

Hiking Middle Lake Trail with Kids

Like many of the hiking trails in Bow Valley Provincial Park, we’ve been visiting Middle Lake with kids since they were toddlers.

Hiking Middle Lake Trail with kids

Similar to the Many Springs Interpretive Trail and the Montane Interpretive Trail, this is an excellent hike for toddlers. It’s an easy hike to get little legs moving. There’s enough to keep kids interested along the way.

Hiking with kids in Kananaskis on Middle Lake Trail

Now that our kids are 5 and 7 years old, they don’t take very long to complete this hike. What used to be a morning event takes us little over an hour. The beauty of this area is that we can string together a couple of hikes and even a kid-friendly bike ride to make a day of it.

Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break

The most obvious answer to this question is to grab one of the many picnic tables in the Middle Lake day use area. The picnic tables all have nice views of Middle Lake, while some are also in the forest to give welcome shade on a hot day.

The Middle Lake hike is short enough that you likely won’t need to stop mid-way for a break. But that doesn’t mean you won’t want to stop and have a snack or picnic lunch while enjoying the scenery of this beautiful Kananaskis hike.

Picnic table at Middle Lake Day Use in Bow Valley Provincial Park

Aside from stopping on a bench at the beginning or the ones closer to the lake along the loop, there are also picnic tables near the parking lot. However, the picnic tables don’t offer much for views or shade.

Middle Lake Hiking Safety Tips

While the chances of a dangerous wildlife encounter along the Middle Lake hike are low, you never know when you might encounter a bear or other dangerous animal. Be educated and prepared.

Take the time to educate yourself on Bear Safety. And please, make lots of noise as you hike to alert the bears of your presence.

Cougars also live in Kananaskis Country. Learn more about Cougar Safety.

We recommend you check the latest Middle Lake Trail Report for trail conditions, wildlife warnings and possible closures before you head out.

Middle Lake Trail Logistics

On-leash dogs are allowed on the Middle Lake hike. Bikes are not allowed.

There are washrooms in the Middle Lake day use parking lot.

There are no drinking water facilities at Middle Lake, so fill your reusable water bottles or hydration packs before you leave home.

Middle Lake Day Use in Kananaskis

What to Bring for Hiking Middle Lake

Generally speaking, you don’t need a lot of hiking gear on short day hikes in Kananaskis. Check out our list of hiking essentials with the hiking gear and clothing we recommend to enjoy your hike, regardless of the variable weather and trail conditions.

One thing you should always bring is bear spray in an easily accessible spot, like this Scat Belt.

Middle Lake Hike Footwear Recommendation

The Middle Lake trail is well groomed for the entire loop. Unless you are doing the Middle Lake hike in winter, you won’t need any special hiking shoes for this hike.

Kids hiking Middle Lake Trail

Hiking the Middle Lake Trail in Winter

While we haven’t hiked the Middle Lake Interpretive Loop trail in winter, Alberta Parks does list it as a winter hiking trail. We always recommend bringing snowshoes if you are the first on the trail after a large snowfall or microspikes if the trail is icy.

Other Easy Hikes in Bow Valley Provincial Park

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Middle Lake Interpretive Trail in the Bow Valley Provincial Park area of Kananaskis is an easy kid friendly hike. This easy Kananaskis hike features a walk in the forest, wildflowers and stunning mountain views.
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Celine Brewer, a local Canmore resident, is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada. She has a passion for being out in the mountains any time of year. In the summer, you'll often find her hiking or mountain biking. In the winter, she enjoys cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking the most.

As much as she loves the mountains, she also loves travel! When she's not playing outdoors at home, she's either traveling the world with her husband and two kids or working on their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.