The Shark Lake snowshoe trail is a very enjoyable easy Kananaskis snowshoe trail near the very popular Mt. Shark cross-country ski area. If you are looking for some solitude, the Shark Lake snowshoe isn’t well known, making it a great alternative to the Chester Lake snowshoe trail and other the other super-popular Kananaskis snowshoe trails.
With its rugged mountain landscape, it’s hard to find a flat Kananaskis snowshoe trail, but the Shark Lake snowshoe trail comes pretty close. This easy Kananaskis snowshoe trail manages to stay level by wrapping around the lower northern slopes of Tent Ridge (2,545m).
While snowshoeing to Shark Lake (also known as Marushka Lake) you’ll enjoy amazing views of the Spray Lakes and the beautiful mountains along its shores. The payoff of the Shark Lake snowshoe trail is a beautiful frozen lake with the towering snow-capped Mt. Shark looming over 900m overhead. It’s a very serene, beautiful winter mountain scene.
Shark Lake Snowshoe Trail
- Shark Lake Snowshoe Highlights
- Shark Lake Snowshoe Trail Stats
- Shark Lake Trail Location
- Spend the Weekend at Mt. Engadine Lodge
- Shark Lake Trail Map
- Snowshoeing Shark Lake with Kids
- Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
- Shark Lake Trail Safety
- Shark Lake Snowshoe Trail Logistics
- What to Bring for Hiking Shark Lake in Winter
- Shark Lake Foot Traction Recommendations
- Even More Fun Things to do in Kananaskis in Winter
- Banff Planning Resources
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Shark Lake Snowshoe Highlights
The first leg of the Shark Lake snowshoe trail is very wide providing a sense of space, while still feeling like you are in a wintery evergreen forest. You’ll enjoy occasional views of the surrounding mountains across the Spray Lakes including Mount Nestor (2,972m), Mount Fortune (2,332m) and Cone Mountain (2,910).
The Shark Lake snowshoe trail is hard packed through this stretch, but there is tons of deep snow to enjoy just off the trail. I haven’t seen this much deep snow anywhere outside the upper meadow of Chester Lake.
At the 2km mark, Mt. Shark (2,786m) comes into view. It’s so close and the snow-covered peak is nearly 1km overhead. I love being so close to a towering mountain peak, especially when it is snow covered in winter. So beautiful!
At this stage the Shark Lake trail narrows and the evergreen trees are close on both sides. For a few short & fun stretches of trail, you may even need to duck as you walk through a tight tunnel through the evergreen branches!
There are many young pine trees all along the trail. When covered with snow they create the cutest little cones of snow.
As you near Shark Lake, you come to an open meadow – the lack of trees provides great mountain views. The final stretch of the Shark Lake snowshoe trail is through an atmospheric forest with long strands of Old Man Beard Lichen hanging from almost every tree branches.
Shark Lake will likely be covered with snow. Winter provides an opportunity to snowshoe to the center of the frozen lake and enjoy the mountain views all around. Before venturing onto any frozen lake, make sure you are knowledgeable about ice safety. If you are unsure, don’t go on the ice, even if you see snowshoe tracks on it already.
Shark Lake Snowshoe Trail Stats
How Long is the Shark Lake Snowshoe Trail?
The Shark Lake snowshoe trail wraps around the lower, northern slops of Tent Ridge. The total there-and-back distance of the Shark Lake trail is 8km.
How Steep is the Shark Lake Snowshoe Trail?
The Shark Lake snowshoe trail is about as flat as you’ll find anywhere in Kananaskis or Banff National Park. There are a few hills along the trail, but they are either short or have a very gentle slope. The total elevation gain you’ll encounter snowshoeing Shark Lake is 190m for an average slope of just 2%.
How Hard is the Shark Lake Snowshoe Trail?
If you can manage the moderate distance, the Shark Lake snowshoe trail is otherwise a very easy Kananaskis snowshoe trail. The main trail has hard-packed snow and is very flat for a mountain snowshoe trail. Shark Lake is a kid-friendly snowshoe trail – our kids (aged 5 & 7) were able to complete it without issue.
We have included Shark Lake in our list of easy Kananaskis snowshoe trails.
How Long Does It Take to Snowshoe Shark Lake?
It should take a typical adult about 1.5 hours to snowshoe the full there-and-back distance of the Shark Lake Trail.
We recently did the Shark Lake snowshoe with our kids (aged 5 & 7). There’s so much deep snow for them to play in, it took us quite a while longer. We did the Shark Lake snowshoe with our kids in just over 3 hours.
Shark Lake Trail Location
You’ll find the Shark Lake parking area about halfway between the Smith-Dorrien Highway and the main Mt. Shark parking lot. Look for a big, snow-cleared parking area on the right-hand side of the Mt. Shark road.
The drive from Calgary to Mt. Shark is a decent one, taking about 2 hours and 15 minutes. According to Google Maps you are indifferent time-wise between these two options:
- Highway 1 to Highway 40 south to the Kananaskis Lakes turnoff, then north up the Smith-Dorrien Highway (AB742) to the Mount Shark Day use area. (155km)
- Highway 1 to Canmore, then south on the Smith-Dorrien Trail Highway. (143km) This way is shorter, but the Smith-Dorrien is unpaved with a slower speed limit.
Getting to Mount Shark from Banff or Canmore
The fastest way to get to the Mt. Shark Day Use area from Canmore or Banff is take the Smith-Dorrien Trail Highway (AB742). This very scenic drive should take you approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes from Canmore or 1h 26m from Banff.
Shark Lake Trailhead Location
Once you park, put your snowshoes on and walk further down the road for 1-2 minutes. The Shark Lake trailhead doesn’t have an official trail sign, but you’ll likely see the well-packed snowshoe trail on a hill in the snow. You’ll also notice a small sign with the area rules at the trailhead.
Spend the Weekend at Mt. Engadine Lodge
Given the Mt. Shark day-use area is a 2+ hour drive from Calgary, consider treating yourself to a weekend at the outstanding Mount Engadine Lodge. This remote mountain lodge is the only place to stay for miles around, but it is very close to a lot of great Kananaskis winter activities.
If you drive out Friday night, you’ll enjoy a short 3 minute drive to the Shark Lake parking lot on Saturday morning. In addition, some of our favorite winter activities in Kananaskis are only minutes away from the Mt. Engadine Lodge:
- Rummel Lake snowshoe – 1 minute drive
- Watridge Lake / Karst Springs trail – 4 minute drive
- Hogarth Lakes snowshoe – 8 minute drive
- Burstall Pass snowshoe – 8 minute drive
- Chester Lake snowshoe – 8 minute drive
Shark Lake Trail Map
The Shark Lake snowshoe trail doesn’t appear on the list of official Kananaskis snowshoe trails. Unlike the official snowshoe trails in Kananaskis, there are no orange snowshoe trail markers along the way. There are, however, plastic trail markers tied to tree branches along the Shark Lake trail – look for them if you need help navigating.
There are no trail maps posted on signs anywhere either. There is an unmarked intersection with the Tent Ridge hike, so to avoid confusion, we recommend having a Shark Lake trail map on your phone.
We use and recommend the AllTrails app. To find the Shark Lake trail map within the AllTrails app, search for “Marushka (Shark) Lake Trail”. Be sure to download the snowshoe trail map for offline use before leaving home as you will not have a cell signal anywhere this deep into Kananaskis Country.
Enjoy map downloads and many more premium features with a 7-day free trial of AllTrails+!
Safety experts recommend having a paper backup and compass on hand just in case your phone battery dies. If this idea appeals to you, I highly recommend Gem Trek hiking maps.
Gem Trek maps are the best Banff & Kananaskis hiking trails maps. We own the entire set of these exceptional 3D topographic maps and use them often for hiking inspiration. The Shark Lake Trail appears on the map entitled, “Canmore and Kananaskis Village”.
You can order Gem Trek maps before your trip, or you can pick one up while here as they are widely available.
Snowshoeing Shark Lake with Kids
The Shark Lake snowshoe trail is a very kid-friendly snowshoe trail in Kananaskis. As long as you have the patience to watch your kids have a super-fun (i.e. slow) time playing in the deep snow just off the trail, you’ll have a great family outing.
Our experience snowshoeing with kids is that they tend to get bored faster vs summer hiking. This is likely because they can’t run wild and most of the things they find interesting on a hike (finding treasures, etc.) are now buried under the snow.
Another fun activity to do while snowshoeing Shark Lake with kids is to look for animal tracks in the snow – find as many different kinds as you can and try to guess which animal made them.
Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
There are no good spots to stop for lunch along the Shark Lake trail. Your best best is to stop for a snack or lunch along the shores of Shark Lake. You won’t find any benches or picnic tables along Shark Lake, so bring a winter picnic blanket if you have room in your day bag.
Shark Lake Trail Safety
Kananaskis Wildlife Safety
In the dead of winter, the bears around Shark Lake should be hibernating (be careful in early winter or early spring though!) But that’s not a reason to let your guard down as wolves, cougars, elk, etc. still provide a safety risk to Kananaskis visitors. Take a few minutes and read “Living with Wildlife” by Alberta Parks.
Shark Lake Snowshoe Trail Report
It’s always a good idea to check the Shark Lake snowshoe trail conditions before you leave home. Given this isn’t an official Kananaskis snowshoe trail, Alberta Parks doesn’t publish a Shark Lake trail report.
Thankfully Alberta Parks publishes a Watridge Lake Trail Report as well as a Mount Shark area report. These are a 4 minute drive from the Shark Lake trail, so should be a good proxy. Check both trail reports for a good idea of what to expect on your winter Kananaskis adventure.
Shark Lake Avalanche Risk
We highly recommend consulting the Kananaskis Avalanche Danger Report published by Avalanche Canada before you go. The Shark Lake trail is well below the treeline and seems to be a low avalanche risk.
Take a look at this Google Maps satellite shot and you’ll see evidence of avalanche tracks on the eastern slopes of Mt. Shark above Shark Lake – none of which made it near the lake.
We are not avalanche experts, so please educate yourself and make smart decisions while enjoying the beauty of Shark Lake in winter.
Shark Lake Snowshoe Trail Logistics
- There are no toilets at the Shark Lake parking lot or trailhead. If you need to go, drive 4 minutes further down the Mt. Shark road and use the facilities in the main Mt. Shark parking lot.
- There are no drinking water facilities, so bring plenty of water from home.
- There is no camping or fires allowed in the area.
- Dogs are allowed on-leash.
What to Bring for Hiking Shark Lake in Winter
It’s really tough to decide how to dress for winter hiking or snowshoeing in Kananaskis. If you snowshoe at a fast pace or decide to have fun in the deep snow, you’ll get hot pretty quickly, even when it’s cold outside.
The Shark Lake snowshoe trail runs along the northern slopes of Tent Ridge. Given the sun is low in the sky during the winter months you’ll likely be snowshoeing in the shade most of your trip. This, coupled with your close proximity to the Spray Lakes, means a good chance of wind. If the shade or wind finds you, it will get noticeably colder. You’ll be adding layers quickly to keep warm!
Shark Lake Foot Traction Recommendations
The Shark Lake snowshoe trail is pretty flat, with only a few hills of any consequence. You could probably walk the Shark Lake trail in winter without any traction device on your, but our experience tells us that traction devices are always a good idea – you never know when you’ll hit an unexpected icy patch.
If you are going to snowshoe Shark Lake, make sure you have multiple crampons underneath your snowshoes – some on the front toe and a pair under your heel. Also, if possible, look for a pair of snowshoes with double-rachet bindings and avoid snowshoes with any form of buckle bindings – they tend to come undone, which gets annoying quickly.
Winter Hiking Traction Devices
If you are going to winter hike Shark Lake you should have some form of traction device on your feet.
We own and highly recommend Kahtoola MICROspikes. Look at the steel spikes on the bottom of the Kahtoola MICROspikes and you’ll see why we love these traction devices so much. They are a scaled-down recreational version of the crampons you’ll see on mountain expeditions.
Yaktrax are another popular multi-purpose traction device used around Banff for winter walking or running. They are popular as they are very comfortable for walking on winter hikes or snow-covered walking trails in Canmore or Banff. The lack of spikes makes them comfortable to walk on, but they are not great for ice walking.
No matter which traction device you use for your feet, you should consider using trekking poles to help your balance. We’ve tried trekking poles and to be honest, we don’t like them nor use them, but we seem to be in the minority. Trekking poles are widely used around Banff and Kananaskis in winter.
It makes sense… winter hiking on snow or ice in the mountains is often very slippery and trekking poles add two more points of contact with the ground, thus greatly reducing your odds of slipping.
Shark (Marushka) Lake is a very enjoyable easy snowshoe trail in Kananaskis. It’s packed with great scenery, and best of all, you should have the trail mostly to yourself. It’s a great alternative to Chester Lake is you are tired of crowds!
Interested in other easy winter trails around Banff and Kananaskis? See our list of Easy Winter Hikes around Banff and Easy Cross-Country Skiing Trails in Banff and Area.
Even More Fun Things to do in Kananaskis in Winter
Banff Planning Resources
- How to Get to Banff National Park
- Getting Around Banff without a Car
- Expert Tips to Spot Banff Wildlife
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Dan Brewer, a life-long Alberta resident, calls Canmore home along with his wife and two kids. He is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada, where he gets to share his passion for the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Dan, along with his family, love being outdoors doing one of the many activities they enjoy in the mountains: hiking, mountain biking, paddleboarding, skiing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
When he's not in Canmore enjoying one of his favourite local hikes, you can find him hoping on a plane to explore a new country with his family or working on one of their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.