Snowshoeing at Elbow Lake, Hogarth Lakes and Paddy’s Flat

The last three weeks I’ve been on a snowshoeing spree as I try out new locations I haven’t been to yet.  The challenge is that with each passing week, I’m getting a little slower and more reluctant to be too far out into the backcountry as I near the end of the third trimester.  Here are the last three snowshoe trips I’ve done with the best one first :)

Elbow Lake

This was by far my favourite snowshoe that we’ve done … maybe ever?  It’s not a particularly long trail but it could definitely be extended as far as you wanted.  The only caveat is that it’s in the Highwood so it becomes inaccessible after December 1st each year when winter gates are shut on the 40.  The parking lot is really well signed and you walk up an old road for 1.4km until you reach the lake.  Once at the lake there are a few options.  We decided to walk a loop around the lake before heading down, but it seems like when you reach the other end of the lake you could also continue into the obvious valley as far as you wanted.  As we walked around the lake, we noticed there was at least once avalanche runout that crosses the path but there wasn’t enough snow on it to be worried about anything sliding.  Just something to think about if you are doing the loop!  There is no avalanche danger if you only go up to the lake. I loved doing the loop as the views are really outstanding for such a short approach!  As we completed the loop we made note of a few things.  First, there was an adorable decorated tree at the end of the lake which caused me to do a double take.  It’s not often you see something like that in the backcountry and the juxtaposition with the wilderness around it make for some great pics if I say so myself!  Secondly,  if you take the loop in a clockwise direction (which we did) you finish with walking through a backcountry campground.  The campground looks really cute and seems to have compostable toilets which are my favourite to use!  I think this might be a good spot for the baby’s first backcountry trip to due the super easy approach and beautiful location & facilities.  Also, if I came back in the winter with kids, the trail in seems wide enough for a chariot and there are fire pits in the campground we saw others using with their kids.  Last observation was that this seems to be a popular early season backcountry ski location.  It is certainly accessible though based on some of the tracks we saw, it didn’t look like any of the skiing off the lake was very stellar.

Where is it? Start at the Elbow Pass Day Use Lot.  Once you pass the winter gates on the 40, it’s maybe 12km down the road and well signed.
How far? Including the loop around the lake it was 4.6km
Elevation gain? a little under 200m
More info

Trail leading up to Elbow Lake

Trail leading up to Elbow Lake

Views from the lake

Views from the lake

More views from the lake.  How beautiful is this?!

More views from the lake. How beautiful is this?!

The is at the end of the lake, there is a valley that continues on the left hand side.  I believe you can even backpack across to the other side of Kananaskis around Hwy 66.

The is at the end of the lake, there is a valley that continues on the left hand side. I believe you can even backpack across to the other side of Kananaskis around Hwy 66.

The infamous Christmas tree in the middle of nowhere! This really made my day.

The infamous Christmas tree in the middle of nowhere! This really made my day.

Hogarth Lakes

The following weekend we decided to head out to Hogarth Lakes.  The week had been warm with no snow and after a quick call to the Peter Lougheed Visitor Centre in Kananaskis, our suspicions were confirmed that the Burstall/Chester area was the only place with any hopes of having deep snow (other than Highwood Pass which we had been to the last weekend).  Since we were heading out with couple friends who were also expecting, we decided on Hogarth Lakes since it’s very mellow.  The route starts from the Burstall Pass parking lot and after passing through the forest, you wind up completing a loop that wraps around Hogarth Lakes.  By the time we went (last week of November) the lakes were mostly frozen and it was pretty obvious where you could safely shortcut the trail and go on the lakes or where you couldn’t.  The trail was also extremely well signed with little orange diamonds.  Unfortunately it started snowing that morning so the views weren’t great but the snow was excellent and the trail was just long for the pregnant ladies to feel like we got our outdoor quotient for the day! On the way out we happened to see a moose in the middle of the highway!  The poor guy definitely freaked out when he saw us coming and hightailed it.  Earlier that week we had just talked with another couple of friends who had seen a moose in the area licking salt off all the cars.  Apparently they needed to turn on their car alarm to scare the moose off!

Where is it? Burstall Pass Parking lot (there is a map on the bulletin board in the lot)
How far? The whole loop is around 4km
Elevation gain? virtually none.
More info

The weather wasn't providing any nice shots on the hike and I was too slow with my camera to get a good moose shot so this is courtesy of my friend Lexy who was driving behind us and quicker with her phone!

The weather wasn’t providing any nice shots on the hike and I was too slow with my camera to get a good moose shot so this is courtesy of my friend Lexy who was driving behind us and quicker with her phone!

Paddy’s Flat

This last snowshoe almost didn’t happen. I had been feeling off all weekend and as it turns out I got sick with a bad cold the following week.  We decided to visit the Elbow area of Kananaskis and picked Paddy’s Flat as we knew it would be, well, flat and had lots of short options.  In particular we wanted to snowshoe the Interpretive Loop that leaves from the campground.  I hadn’t been to the Elbow area since the June floods so it was interesting to see what had changed.  But first, about the snowshoe.  We made it as far as the entrance to the loop when we discovered the beginning of the trail was washed out.  We checked out the rest of the campground and enjoyed first tracks in the fluffiest snow ever while looking for an easier (and alternate entrance).  We didn’t find any and with all the fresh snow, it was very difficult to see where the trail might be.  We weren’t sure how much of the trail (which skirted the river) would be passable due to the flood and I was feeling tired so we aborted.  Not our most successful day out but it was sunny and snowy which was good for my mental health!  I could definitely see coming back here with kids as the campground loops are very short and there is a playground. I also saw a really great sledding hill on the right side of the road just before the gates to Paddy’s Flat campground.  I’m sure I would love kids would love to sled on it and we saw several families.  Looked to be a lot of steep and mellow options too.  A lot of people were also out in the area chopping down Christmas trees.  While I love the tradition of cutting down a tree together as a family, I think I would have a hard time doing it in Kananaskis (even though it’s legal in some areas).  I have a soft spot for the area since I’m there so often in the summer.

Where is it? Paddy’s Flat campground gates
How far? The loop is supposed to be 2.2km but we never attempted it after walking roughly 2km in the campground
Elevation gain? very little if you’re just walking around the campground
More info

Nearby Elbow Falls.  We overshot the Paddy's Flat gates and decided to take a look while we were here.  The usual boardwalk is still closed from flood damage.

Nearby Elbow Falls. We overshot the Paddy’s Flat gates and decided to take a look while we were here. The usual boardwalk is still closed from flood damage.

Hubby trailblazing on fresh powder! I might have had him break trail for me a few times when I got tired.

Hubby trailblazing on fresh powder! I might have had him break trail for me a few times when I got tired.

The washout at the beginning of the trail :(  Wish I could win the lotto and donate it all to Kcountry so they could fix things up.

The washout at the beginning of the trail :( Wish I could win the lotto and donate it all to Kcountry so they could fix things up.

This is a silhouette of a 35 week pregnant lady trying to snowshoe in -15C. I don't think the lighting angle did me any favours!

This is a silhouette of a 35 week pregnant lady trying to snowshoe in -15C. I don’t think the lighting angle did me any favours!  Side note, to keep my bum from getting cold I wrapped a polar fleece scarf around my lower half and secured it in place with my SI support belt.  Not the most glamorous look but at least I as warm!

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2 Comments

  1. In love with your blog already. I live in Calgary and can’t get enough of our amazing rocky mountains…keep up the beautiful sharing!!

    Ashley

    Reply

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