Rawson Lake Trail, Alberta

Distance: 4.4 miles round trip. Elevation change: 5,635 ft to 6,670 ft
Time to Lake: 1 hour 20 minutes
Total hike with stops: ~2.75 hours

Having spent the night in a humid and cool Jeep without enough blankets (83F at 8pm…40F at 12am) , we were ready to get outside and do some exploring. The Rawson Lake trail was first on our list. Not wanting to run into any early morning grazing bears, we were reluctant to begin closer to sunrise. We waited until around 9:30am to begin and at that point there was still only 1 other car in the parking lot and it didn’t look like they were heading up anytime soon. Advantage of being first up the trail: you have the place to yourself. Disadvantage to being first up the trail: you get to clear the spiderwebs hanging across the trail.

The trailhead is located at a parking lot next to Upper Kananaskis Lake and followed the shoreline for a bit with peak-a-boo views of the lake through the trees with a few larger openings. Not too far into the trail we crossed a flood damaged bridge at Sarrail Creek Falls. We stopped for a few minutes here to check out the view of the lake and the falls.

Kananaskis Guardian

Rock man looking out to Upper Kananaskis Lake along the Rawson Lake Trail
Canon EOS 6D, Tamron 24-70mm
45mm, f/8.0, 1/200 sec, ISO-100


Sarrail Creek waterfall on the Rawson Lake Trail
Canon EOS 6D, Tamron 24-70mm
24mm, f/14, 1/20 sec, ISO-100

Shortly after the waterfall the trail begins to head steeply up the hillside into the forest. The sound of the waterfall disappeared pretty quickly. The trail was in pretty good shape and we stopped occasionally along the way up. It seemed like it was uphill for quite a while before leveling out.


Hiking uphill through dense forest
Taken with a Samsung Galaxy S4

Once the trail leveled out we were able to pick up some speed. There were several places where flat logs were put in place of the dirt trail. We kept our eyes peeled for bears as we went through the forest. After an hour and 20 minutes or so we arrived at Rawson Lake. It was cloudy when we arrived, very quiet, and no one was around. It was a bit buggy close to the water and the sky wasn’t quite right for us to begin taking a time-lapse so we decided to explore the trail further along the lake.

We followed the lake around the trail and stopped for a few pictures. We decided it was time for a snack break so Jess moved to get some food out of my pack. Just as he did that, I looked straight ahead and saw a grizzly less than 250 feet from where we stood! I could not believe my eyes. I had only ever seen a bear once in the wild, a black bear out in Colorado from very far away. This one was not far away and it was standing there staring at us. We looked back at it somewhat stunned. It took a couple of steps in our direction. We then began slowly walking backwards up the trail and right then it turned and walked off away from us. At this point we felt safe enough to try to steal a few snapshots of it. My camera was not ready so I lost time fumbling with it and only ended up with the blurry Sasquatch looking photo below, ha! And THAT was our introductory experience to the Canadian Rockies!


Can you see the grizzly?

After that exciting experience we went back to where the trail meets the lake. On our way back we ran into a couple of girls heading out in the direction of the bear, so the polite and still excited folk we were, we warned them of the bear. We picked a spot along the shore and set up for a time-lapse and I took a few photos. The water was perfectly calm while we were there which made for some nice reflections. The morning light on the huge rock wall reflecting into the water made for a few nice shots. We have a pretty cool time-lapse from this place to process soon.


Forest reflections at Rawson Lake
Canon EOS 6D, Tamron 24-70mm
47mm, f/14, 1/30 sec, ISO-100


Rawson Lake
Canon EOS 6D, Tamron 24-70mm
24mm, f/7.1, 1/250 sec, ISO-100


Rawson Lake
Canon EOS 6D, Tamron 24-70mm
38mm, f/7.1, 1/200 sec, ISO-100

Once we were done at the lake, we made it back down to the parking lot in about 50 minutes. We passed a lot of people heading up the trail as we were coming down. The lakeshore portion of the trail is also part of a trail that loops around the lake. Once we got down to that portion there were more families hiking along. After getting back to the parking lot we decided to enjoy a nice lunch with a view of Upper Kananaskis Lake followed by utilizing the wifi connection at the visitor’s center to tell everyone about our bear sighting!


Post-hike lunch break overlooking Upper Kananaskis Lake
Canon EOS 6D, Tamron 24-70mm
24mm, f/7.1, 1/400 sec, ISO-100


If you’re interested in seeing time-lapses from our Canadian Rockies trip, keep an eye out on our new Facebook page: ELEMOTIONphoto

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One thought on “Rawson Lake Trail, Alberta

  1. Pingback: Canadian Rockies Time-lapse | Stephanie Coffman Photography - Blog

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