A Wintry Escape to Chester Lake

There’s nothing like a snowshoe adventure with fresh, new snow underfoot. It cloaks the forest in beautiful soundproofing, settling down on the landscape with a great hush. Snowshoeing up to Chester Lake is a popular winter activity up in the Spray. About a 45 minute drive up and above the town of Canmore, it is a pretty route that follows the Smith Dorrien Road, a well maintained gravel road that rises up through the pass between the Rundle range and the Nakoda Massif, and then along beautiful Spray Lake, into the back country.

We got a late start, leaving for Chester Lake, hoping against hope, that the day would warm up. Strangely, it was snowing lightly, even at -17C (often the snow doesn’t fall when it’s that cold out). With an elevation gain of just over 300m, it is an easy 10km romp through forests, meadows and amazingly dramatic scenery. With a light snow falling on us the whole time, the views played hide ‘n seek with us at times, but it was a beautiful day. Come along on our adventure….

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The trail works its way up and through the alpine forest, at times steeply.
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The first of three meadows occurs after much of the steepness of the trail’s elevation gain is behind you.
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The day was quite dark, with the sun barely able to break through the falling snow and heavy cloud that hung over our heads.
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The trail is well marked with these bright orange signs, posted up quite high so that they can still be found under the deep, heavy snows that the area gets.


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The mountains played hide ‘n seek with us… but when they came out to play, they were spectacular!
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The second meadow was quite beautiful… a wide open area with a stream winding through it, making for some fun dips down & back up as we crossed it on our snowshoes.
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Make no mistake, on a Saturday, with a late start, you will never have this trail to yourself!
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But what does it matter, with views of mounatins rising up all around you like this!?


At lunch, we wandered around the lake’s shore to find a secluded spot. There we tramped down the snow to make a sheltered area in which to sit, set up our tarp underneath us as a barrier for the snow, put on all our layers, ate (to crank up our metabolisms) and drank hot tea, munched chocolate & took in the views. It does get quite cold, once you stop moving, especially if you have been sweating… which we did, hoofing it up that trail.

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Coming down through the forest, it was still snowing… and by now Seamus was a scary looking mutt.
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The light filtering through the forest was incredible on our way back down to the trailhead.

Distance: 10km

Elevation Gain: 330m

Hike/Snowshoe time: approx. 3 hours (1 hour 15 mins up, going hard + lunch break + 45 mins down)

Time to the Trailhead from Canmore: 45-55 minutes

Trailhead Amenities: Very large parking lot + 4 bathrooms.

Click here for more terrific hikes in Kananaskis Country (Canmore Area). And check out more hikes from Canada and our adventures around the world here.

14 Comments on “A Wintry Escape to Chester Lake

  1. I’ve never tried snowshoes. Do they take any more energy than walking the same trail in the summer?

    I sometimes wonder how dogs, and all the wild critters out there deal with the extra cold weather without wearing more clothes. I’d be busy freezing to death.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As for the dogs… it kind of depends on the temps. Seamus could have used his booties (to keep out the ice balls) but a tight fitting jacket makes him colder.

      We have “racing” snowshoes…. not that we race, per say…. but you can walk more normally (they are narrower). We actually began this hike in our boots and spikes because we were starting a bit late in the day (having stayed in our Jammie’s drinking coffee for a wee bit too long) and many had trodden the trail before us but it was sluggish, so we switched. With snowshoes you kind of float or stay on top of the surface, and if they have nice serious teeth on the edges, like ours do, they’re like spikes too, so they grip nicely on the uphill. They’re nothing like the almost circular, wide snowshoes of the 1970s…. the ones that look like tennis rackets.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No matter what, walking (whether it be hiking or snowshoeing) takes more effort in the snow versus the trails in the summer. But I’d take the cold, as far as my energy rations go, over the extreme heat, any day.


  2. Pingback: Spicy Tent Ridge – Trail to Peak: The Adventurous Path

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