Monday, 23 September 2013

Hiking with Kids in Kananaskis: Chester Lake, the Elephant Rocks & Almost Golden Larches

Last weekend I scrambled Snow Peak, and on the approach up Burstall Pass I noticed that the larches were starting to turn gold. So I figured this weekend the larches should be well on their way to turning the slopes gold directly across Highway 742 at Chester Lake. I also thought the boys would have fun climbing on the aptly name Elephant Rocks a short hike above the lake.

Click here for more kids hikes in Banff, Kananaskis, Kootenay and other areas of the Canadian Rockies. 

The start of the trail
As it turned out, we were a week or so early for the larches. A few were starting to turn gold, but then again too few to mention (apologies to the Chairman of the Board). As a group of three dads and six boys, we weren't too disappointed, though. The Elephant Rocks were definitely the main attraction and they didn't disappoint.

The trail to Chester Lake is straightforward, even with the first couple hundred meters having been washed out by the June 2013 flood. What was previously a nice old road is now a tangle of fallen
You're getting close when you reach the meadows
trees and boulders, although a path through has been cleared and marked with surveying tape. Once past that, you rejoin the old road and follow its gentle incline for a few kilometers until it narrows to a path. From that point, a half hour or so of walking takes you through a few meadows and to the lake. Although there's a well marked trail from the lake's north shore to the Elephant Rocks, we tried a different path and ended up doing a bit of fun bushwhacking.

At the Elephant Rocks, drop your packs and climb! There's something about scrambling up
Warm enough for shorts, but cold enough for a toque...teens...
big grey rocks that brings out the kid in everyone. I couldn't squeeze into some of the caves that are formed under the rocks, but the boys found passages over, around, under and through. We spent an hour there and could have spent more. All three dads agreed a hike up to the rocks on a sunny summer day was in order, bypassing the lake entirely to give all of us kids as much climbing time as possible.

Distance: 10 km return
Time on the trail: 4-6 hours
Elevation gain: About 300 m to the lake, a bit more to the Elephant Rocks
Chester Lake with Mount Chester behind

Driving Directions: Trans-Canada west to Highway 40. Follow the 40 south to Kananaskis Lakes Trail and turn right. In a couple of kilometers, turn right again on the Smith-Dorrien/Spray Trail. In 22 kilometers turn right into the Chester Lake parking area.
Click here to see a map.

A little bushwhacking

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