Rummel Lake Hike in Kananaskis

Author: Celine Brewer

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The Rummel Lake hike one of our favourite year-round Kananaskis hikes. For a moderate amount of effort, you get to enjoy a beautiful walk through a mountain forest, an open meadow with incredible vistas of the Spray Lakes Valley and a beautiful mountain lake in an intimate setting, with enormous Rocky Mountains looming overhead.

The incredible Kananaskis scenery can be enjoyed all year round, but Rummel Lake is perhaps most beautiful in the fall. The entire hiking trail is lined with bushes whose leaves turn brilliant yellow, pink, red and purple. And when the hike reaches the right altitude near Rummel Lake, you’ll encounter the brilliant golden needles on larch trees.

Rummel Lake has many larch trees, making it one of the top larch hikes in Kananaskis in fall. It’s not as popular as Burstall Pass, Ptarmigan Cirque or Pocaterra Ridge as it lacks a large, continuous stand of larch trees. But, if you can forgive Rummel Lake for having somewhat scattered larch trees, it’s a beautiful Kananaskis hike for fall colors.

Rummel Lake in Kananaskis
Larches at Rummel Lake are past their peak in early October 2020

Rummel Lake Trail – Quick Details

Trailhead: Rummel Lake trailhead

Distance: 10.3 km out and back

Elevation: 434 m elevation gain

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Rummel Lake Trail Highlights

The Rummel Lake hiking trail begins as a well-groomed, double track hiking trail through a mixed forest with very tall conifer trees. The initial stretch of the Rummel Lake trail is a steady uphill, with a few flat sections.

hiking Rummel Lake in Kananaskis with kids

If you are hiking Rummel Lake in September, you’ll start to notice the fall colors right away, with many small shrubs next to trail glowing golden, pink, red and purple in fall. The fireweed leaves are especially beautiful as they change color each fall. In the morning, the colors start to glow as the sun comes up over the mountains – a beautiful sight!

Views along Rummel lake trail in Kananaskis - fall hikes

The Rummel Lake trail does a near 180 degree turn after 0.7 km of hiking. This marks the beginning of the steepest part of the hike, which lasts for about 1.5 km. This leg of the Rummel Lake trail is bound to get your heart pumping, but most people in reasonable shape ought to manage no problem.

After 1 km, you’ll enter a small clearing with nice views of Mount Engadine straight ahead. The Rummel Lake trail becomes more covered in roots after this stage, making hiking shoes or boots a good choice for this moderate Kananaskis hike.

If you are one of the first groups out on the Rummel Lake trail each day, you have a good chance of seeing grouse on the trail. We were recently the first group hiking to Rummel Lake and we saw three separate grouse on the way up.

grouse in Kananaskis Alberta - Rummel Lake Trail

Along this steeper segment of the Rummel Lake trail, you’ll be treated to a few breaks in the trees. If you need a short break, stop and enjoy the views of Mt. Smuts and Commonwealth Peak across the valley.

Our favourite spot along the Rummel Lake hike is at the 2 km mark when the trees get smaller and less dense affording you amazing views in all directions. If you like birds, keep your eyes and ears open as this clearing has tons of our feathered friends.

From this opening on the Rummel Lake trail, Mt. Sir Douglas and Mt. Burstall come into view straight ahead, while The Tower, Mt Engadine and Old Goat Mountain emerge from the shadows behind you along with an outstanding vista of the Spray Lakes Reservoir.

children sitting on bench along Rummel Lake hiking trail

As the Rummel Lake hiking trail winds through the clearing, you’ll arrive at a long wooden bench with great views. This bench marks the trail Junction with the High Rockies Trail. Go left to stay on the Rummel Lake trail.

You’ll reach another trail junction for the High Rockies Trail at the 2.5 km mark – go right and follow the sign to Rummel Lake. The High Rockies Trail is a popular Kananaskis mountain biking trail, so there’s a sign here reminding bikers that there are no bikes allowed on the Rummel Lake trail.

Trail sign marking junction from High Rockies Trail to Rummel Lake

After leaving the High Rockies Trail behind, the Rummel Lake hike re-enters a tall forest. The trail surface now has a significant amount of tree roots, which can be troublesome for some hikers.

If you can manage the tree roots, it’s a beautiful stretch of forest with old man lichen swinging from the tree branches and a wide variety of cool looking mushrooms growing in the shady patches.

Steep section with roots on Rummel Lake hiking trail

The Rummel Lake trail passes 2100m of elevation after 3.5 km of hiking, which is the elevation where larch trees start to grow. Sure enough, take a look around you and you’ll see a few larch trees scattered through the forest – primarily on the left.

Larches are beautiful even in the spring and summer as their like bright green needles set them apart from the pines and spruce trees. Make sure you intentionally look for the larch trees along the Rummel Lake trail – there are plenty of larch trees, but you aren’t completely surrounded by them at any time.

golden larch along Rummel Lake Trail - Kananaskis larch hikes
Larch tree on Rummel Lake Trail September 14, 2021

You’ll arrive at a lookout for Rummel Creek at the 4.5 km mark of the Rummel Lake hike. The rocky mountain poking its head above the trees here is Rummel Ridge. Just 100m past the lookout, you’ll be crossing Rummel Creek on a wooden bridge.

boy crossing bridge on Rummel Lake hiking trail

As you reach the end of the trail and emerge from the trees, you’ll enjoy one of those “Wow!” moments as Rummel Lake comes into view. It’s a modest sized Kananaskis lake, but with the summits of Mount Galetea (3,185m) and The Tower (3,117m) looming nearly 1 km overhead, it’s a very impressive sight!

The hiking trail emerges into a small meadow where you’ll likely stop for a bit to soak in this magnificent Kananaskis mountain setting. It’s a nice place to stop as the headwaters for Rummel Creek begin here, providing a nice relaxing soundtrack for the scenery.

Meadow as you approach Rummel Lake in Kananaskis

There’s a large rockslide from Mount Galatea on the far side of the lake. If it’s quiet enough, listen for the distinctive “Eeeeeeep” sound of a pika – which love to call these large mountain rockpiles home.

To get up close to the rockpile, and hopefully see an elusive, but incredibly cute pika, cross Rummel Creek via the series of rocks laid out across the water. In the fall, you’ll enjoy the beauty of the golden larch trees which are scattered through the lakeside forest on the way to the rockpile.

Once you are at the rockpile, you’ll notice that there’s a large stand of larch trees extending quite a way up the hill. If you time it right during larch season, it’ll be an amazing sight!

larch trees at Rummel Lake in September

You can also explore the northern shore of Rummel Lake by hiking left from the lakeside meadow. There’s another large grouping of larch trees along this area of Rummel Lake to explore in the fall.

Rummel Lake Trailhead

Despite its popularity, Rummel Lake doesn’t have its own dedicated parking lot. You’ll find the Rummel Lake trailhead on the side of the Smith Dorrien Highway directly across from the junction for the Mount Engadine Lodge, one of the best places to rent a cabin near Banff. Unless you are the first to arrive, the line up of cars along the road will give away its location.

boy hiking on Rummel Lake trail in October

The fastest way to get from Calgary to Rummel Lake is to turn south on Kananaskis Trail (Highway 40) and drive all the way to the winter gate, where you turn right on Kananaskis Lakes Trail. In a few minutes you’ll make another right onto the Smith-Dorrien Trail Highway (AB742). This very scenic drive should take you just over 2 hours.

The fastest way to get from Banff to Rummel Lake is to turn off the TransCanada Highway in Canmore and take the very dusty Smith-Dorrien Trail Highway (AB742). This very scenic drive should take you approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Along the way you’ll pass the Canmore Nordic Centre (home of the Nordic events for the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics). As you climb the steep, winding road past the Nordic Centre, watch for groups of Bighorn Sheep which love to cling to the rocky slopes next to the highway.

Once the highway stops climbing, you’ll pass a few parking lots for some of the most popular Canmore hikes: Ha Ling PeakMiners Peak and EEOR (East End of Rundle). Much of the remaining drive is through a dense forest along the shores of the beautiful Spray Lakes Reservoir.

Look for parking on the road as you approach the turn off for Mount Engadine Lodge.

Rummel Lake Hike Stats

How Long is the Rummel Lake Hike?

The round-trip distance of the Rummel Lake trail is just over 10 km out and back. We did it recently and recorded it to be 11.5 km, but we also explored the area around the lake.

How Hard is the Hike to Rummel Lake?

Due to the length and incline, we rate the Rummel Lake hike as “moderate”.

In all honestly, the trail to Rummel Lake is not that difficult and we’d almost be inclined to rate it as easy to moderate. Shortly after the hike begins, you’ll begin a moderate climb for about 1 km. After that section, there are a few small steep hills and the trail gets covered in roots, so you’ll need to watch your footing.

Rummel Lake hiking trail in Kananaskis

How Long Does the Rummel Lake Hike Take?

It should take a typical adult 3-4 hours to hike to Rummel Lake. That includes time to stop for lunch and taking pictures along the way.

We did this hike with our two kids (who were 7 and 5 years old at the time) and it took us 4.5 hours.

Rummel Lake hike in October in Kananaskis

Rummel Lake Trail Map

The Rummel Lake trail is easy to follow the entire way and it’s well signed. If you are feeling uncertain, you can use the Alltrails app while hiking to Rummel Lake, but you likely won’t need it.

To find the Rummel Lake trail map in Alltrails, simply search for “Rummel Lake Trail”. Be sure to download your hiking maps prior to leaving.

Enjoy map downloads and many more premium features with a 7-day free trial of AllTrails+!

Mountain reflections on Kananaskis Lake - Rummel Lake

A paper map isn’t required for this Kananaskis hike, but if you prefer to hike with a paper map and compass as an additional safety layer, we highly recommend Gem Trek hiking maps. We own the entire set of these excellent Banff and Kananaskis hiking maps. They are exceptional 3D topographic maps which we love looking at for hiking inspiration.

The Rummel Lake trail map is found in the “Kananaskis Lakes” map. You can order it before your trip, or you can pick it up here as they are widely available.

Hiking Rummel Lake Trail with Kids

We’ve been hiking a portion of the Rummel Lake trail with our kids since they were toddlers. It was a fun and easy Kananaskis hike for them to make it to the bench with the incredible views. We often did this in winter and they’d happily run the whole way back down.

kids running down Rummel Lake hiking trail - Kananaskis hikes

When they were 7 and 5 years old, we hiked the entire way to Rummel Lake with them. By this time, they were pretty decent hikers and had very little issue making it to the lake and back. The section in the forest with the large roots slowed them down, but not for long.

family hiking Rummel Lake trail Kananaskis Alberta

Once we reached Rummel Lake, we had time for lunch then headed back through the forest. They still enjoyed a game of tag on the way down, though we had to be more careful hopping over roots.

Boy jumping over roots on Kananaskis hike - Rummel Lake

Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break

The obvious place to stop is up Rummel Lake. Near the rockfall, you can find a rock to sit on and enjoy the stunning Kananaskis views. Alternatively, pack a picnic blanket and find the perfect spot on the shores of the lake.

children sitting on log at Rummel Lake Kananaskis

Rummel Lake Hiking Safety

This trail starts out easy, but it’s not long before you’re watching your step! As you move back into the forest, after the junction with the High Rockies Trail, the roots increase and require a little more focus. Other than that, there are very little hazards on this hike.

mother and children hiking up steep sections on Rummel Lake hiking trail in Kananaskis

It’s also important to educate yourself on Bear Safety in Kananaskis. This should entail carrying bear spray, hiking in a group and making plenty of noise on the way up

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

Chances of a dangerous wildlife encounter in Kananaskis are very low, but you never know what will happen with Kananaskis wildlife, so be prepared.

We recommend you check Rummel Lake trail report which is found within the Spray Valley trail report published by Alberta Parks for wildlife warnings and possible closures before you head out.

Rummel Lake Trail Logistics

larch trees in October in Kananaskis near Rummel Lake
  • On-leash dogs are allowed on the Rummel Lake hike.

  • Mountain biking is not allowed on the Rummel Lake trail, but they are allowed on the nearby High Rockies Trail.

  • There are no toilets at the Rummel Lake parking lot but there is a pit toilet up at the lake.

  • Plan to pack plenty of water and snacks for this hike. Fill your hydration packs before you leave.

  • You won’t get cell service for the entirety of your hike, so don’t count on it for your safety.

What to Bring for Hiking Rummel Lake trail

This isn’t a very long or strenuous hike, so you don’t need to be as prepared with all the proper hiking gear. Check out our list of hiking essentials with the hiking gear and clothing we recommend to get the most enjoyment out of your hike, regardless of the variable Kananaskis weather and trail conditions. Here are a few items that we recommend bringing:

  • Bear spray is a must for your safety. Cannisters are available to buy or rent at many locations in Canmore and Banff. Carry your bear spray in an easily accessible location.

  • Water – the Rummel Lake trail has some climbing, so make sure you bring enough water. A hydration pack is an effective and eco-conscious way to bring enough water for a hard hike.

  • We don’t use trekking poles, but they can help with balance and to take pressure off knees on the descent

  • Bring several layers of clothing with you. The weather can be quite variable hiking in Kananaskis, no matter the season. Also, if you enjoy this hike during larch season, the sun will be lower in the sky and you may be in shade for most of the hike. Bring a daybag as you can expect to put on and take off layers all day.
larch trees in September in Kananaskis near Rummel Lake

Rummel Lake Footwear Recommendation

For the Rummel Lake trail, we recommend proper hiking shoes or boots. With plenty of roots, you’ll want good traction.

boy hiking Rummel Lake trail in Kananaskis

Another Kananaskis mountain lake you don’t want to miss!

Other Kananaskis Larch Hikes

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Don't miss hiking to Rummel Lake in Kananaskis. It's one of our favorite fall hikes that's well worth the effort! Aside from incredible views, this is also a great larch hike in Kananaskis.

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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.