Rawson Lake & Sarrail Ridge
Nestled next to postcard-worthy Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes, Rawson Lake has big boots to fill. Yet, it's sapphire waters set beneath towering Mt. Sarrail provides a peaceful oasis reminiscent of Lake Louise without all the crowds. With an outstanding effort-to-reward ratio, the 3.5 km (one-way) hike up to the lake is a must do for anyone wanting to soak in a picturesque day in the Canadian Rockies. For those looking to unleash a sense of adventure, extending the hike on an adrenaline rushing climb to Sarrail Ridge delivers an epic reward. Located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Rawson Lake re-affirms our love for this region located in south Kananaskis, about a 90-minute drive from Calgary.
The hike starts at the south end of the Upper Kananaskis Lake day use parking lot. The first section of the trail is shared with the Upper Kananaskis circuit route and traces the shoreline lending superb views overlooking the lake. Within 20 minutes on the path, a small wooden bridge takes you over charming Sarrail Creek Falls.
At a marked signpost, the trail forks left to start the gradual climb to Rawson Lake. Moderate switchbacks eventually level out and the forest opens up to the lake's edge situating you smack dab in the face of Mt. Sarrail. The trail continues down the left side of the lake where spots for lunch are dotted along the shoreline.
If all the magnificent mountain air has you craving for more, you may find yourself wandering further down the lakeside trail 'just for a look.' About halfway down the lake, a sign notifies hikers they have reached the end of the trail and an unofficial boot-beaten path continues along scree slopes. The sign makes mention of the area being grizzly habitat so be sure to keep an eye out (especially up in the meadows) and make plenty of noise to warn unseen bears of your presence.
As the trail bends around the back of the lake it disperses due to heavy brush but converges again across an inlet stream where it turns sharply up a gully. At this point, the trail steers up towards the Sarrail ridgeline and the effort significantly escalates. As an unofficial trail, the climb lacks slope-gradiating switchbacks and is not recommended for the faint-hearted. Depending on conditions, it may be very hard to gain traction on the steep trail so it's best done on a dry day with good tread on your feet. The painstaking climb is all made worth it when turning around to admire Rawson Lake turn an ever deeper blue as you gain elevation.
After about an hour of climbing (this would vary depending on ability), the trail crests along the narrow ridgeline and opens up to a jaw-dropping vista looking down onto Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes stretching down the Kananskis Valley. The breath we were trying to catch up on was quickly taken away as we plunked down and enjoyed this surreal sight beneath us.