I am an avid hiker with a focus on easy to moderate trails in natural settings. I occasionally do harder trails.
The Grassi Lake Trail in Canmore, Alberta
The Grassi Lake Trail (51.081852, -115.394071) is one that I have some familiarity with. I've hiked it multiple times and it used to be my "Go-To Trail" when I felt like I needed a trail that was easy to get to in Canmore that offered some decent elevation.
But when I lived in Canmore, it seems like it was a different time. This is now a trail that has been subject to some political reforms in the last year. The Government of Alberta requires a parks pass to use this trail in the form of a parking-lot user fee of $15.
Furthermore, this is a trail with a viewpoint in the Canadian Rockies. That might not sound so bad but if you are visiting this trail at any time in the summer, then you might lose your view of the area to wildfire smoke.
The lakes themselves remain nice to visit and you could plan a trip up the trail with these lakes in mind. You will find the trailhead for Grassi Lakes underneath Ha Ling’s Peak. If you are in Canmore and looking south, then you might spot a water facility near the base of the peak. This area has a couple of lakes, which might better be called ponds, at the trail’s end. If you look at the photo I included above, one of the small lakes is in the background. You simply don't come across that shade of greenish-blue too often.
The Trailhead Map at Grassi Lake
Specifications for the Grassi Lake Trail
This is a trail that, step for step, I would classify as moderate to difficult. For a second opinion, AllTrails.com classifies it as moderate. That source describes the trail as "a 4.3 kilometer heavily trafficked out and back trail" with an elevation gain of 203 meters.
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This trail goes upward at a low incline for the duration of the trip—and that’s if you take the easy route. If you take the hard route then you are dealing with much more questionable footing, including in-trail streams, and really loose rocks.
One time I did this trail with a friend who was 26 years old. She wasn’t an avid hiker by any stretch and her fitness level was pretty basic. She was able to complete the trail, returning in less than two hours. During the way up, she often remarked that it was hard for her but I think she really enjoyed the scenery once we got to the Grassi Lakes (ie. ponds).
It’s this scenery at the end of the trail that is the goal. En route, it’s not that great of a trail at all, especially on the easy route. The trail is wide, forested on two sides, and you don’t really feel like you are anywhere special as you climb.
If you take the hard route, then you might feel a little different because there are some decent viewpoints en route. Perhaps the nearby water facility does something to take away the beauty of the area. When a trail goes near some kind of plant, warehouse, granary, or something of that nature, I definitely take some points off for it.
Grassi Lake Trail Not Recommended as a Paid Trail
All that considered, I do not recommend this trail. The lakes, which are more like ponds, that you get to are picturesque. If you post photos of yourself there, then your followers are definitely going to want to know where you went.
But the trail is a short trail and not really worth buying a park pass for unless you are planning to do multiple things with it. You have to ask yourself "How much hiking do I want to do today?" In my opinion, an annual Parks Canada pass is better value and the trails in Banff are now a better option for hikers. They are in the same beautiful mountains and an annual pass that is valid in parks across Canada is much better than a day pass that's only valid in one park in Alberta.
The End of the Grassi Lake Trail
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.