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Sarrail Ridge (via Rawson Lake)

Updated: Jul 25


* Day hike (half-day for Rawson Lake). Out-and-back. Well-signed trail.

* Distance: Roughly 4 kms one-way to Rawson Lake (roughly 2 hrs one-way), an extra 5 kms one-way (2 extra hrs) to Sarrail Ridge

* Elevation gain: 300m to lake, a very steep 355m extra to ridge

* Trailhead: Upper Lake Day Use Area, use southernmost of 3 parking lots


Sarrail Ridge via Rawson Lake - 10 Adventures

Sarrail Ridge via Rawson Lake - AllTrails

View of Upper Kananaskis Lake from Sarrail Ridge and Rawson Lake

This is one of my favourite summer hikes, as well as a great option for snowshoeing in winter. You can do it with kids if they’re used to hiking and with leashed dogs, but expect the trail to be very busy on summer weekends. Rawson Lake is less accessible during shoulder seasons, where slushy conditions and melting snow make it an awkward choice. I would completely avoid Sarrail Ridge in the winter.

Make sure you purchase a Kananaskis Conservation Pass before coming out, and check the Kananaskis Country Trail Report beforehand (this trail does close often due to grizzly activity). Hike in a group and bring your bear spray.

Make sure you’ve packed properly and don’t rely on cell service in this area of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. OK, now let’s get going!


The trail to Rawson Lake starts off as part of the Upper Kananaskis Lake circuit, a chilled-out walk through forests of fir and spruce. About 1 km in, you’ll cross Sarrail Creek bridge over (you’ve guessed it)... Sarrail Creek Falls. You’ll fork left toward Rawson Lake soon after.

After the fork, stride onwards for about 1.5 kms on wide switchbacks. You’ll gain an impressive amount of elevation here, but you’ll know you’re getting close to the lake once the terrain levels out and the climbing becomes less laborious.

A fisherman fishing at Rawson Lake, Kananaskis Country.
For all your fisherman out there, you can catch-and-release for cutthroat fish in this lake from July 16th to October 31st.

Roughly 1.5 hours after leaving your car, you should happily break through to beautiful Rawson Lake. The majestic headwall of Mount Sarrail rises an impressive 1200m above the lake.

Beautiful Rawson Lake in the fall light, Mount Sarrail in background

This magnificently calm body of water lies in a spectacular glacier-carved cirque. But DON’T make the mistake of stopping here. Go left and follow the trail around the southeastern shore for beautiful views of small meadows lying below the impressive 1200-meter headwall.

Panorama of Rawson Lake, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canadian Rockies

Stay away from the boggy shore, especially in winter, and watch out for avalanches. Even on busy summer days, there are tons of spots for everyone to sit and admire the views without feeling crowded.

Hiker resting at Rawson Lake and Sarrail Ridge, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canadian Rockies
Photo taken by Catherine Gagnon

After the meadows, around 4 kms in, you’ll see a trail scramble upslope towards a saddle. If the walk to and around Rawson Lake failed to satisfy your lust for hearty hiking, the steep climb to this saddle outta do it.


Now, be warned. The trail leading to Sarrail Ridge is the most precipitous bit of dirt that I’ve ever hiked. It’s sandy and slippery and I wouldn't recommend it in the rain. If you’re willing to endure the cardiovascular slog, I heartily encourage you to push upwards, as the reward far outweighs the effort.

It’s a steep, 350m climb to the saddle, with no switchbacks to dumb down the grade; allow yourself a good hour to get up there. Hiking poles would be an asset here. I’m fairly certain I panted like a bear in heat the whole way up.

View of Rawson Lake from Sarrail Ridge, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canadian Rockies

You might have to use your hands on the path (Yes! Let’s get our hands dirty!) and the scramble down will seem even steeper; most people did it on their bums or backwards while holding on to the stunted trees. There is a rope in one section to assist people going down (don’t let your ego interfere here; take the damn rope). Don’t let any of these details deter you - I assure you it’s 100% worth it. Keep at it, my friend!

Coyote hunting a squirrel, Sarrail Ridge, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canadian Rockies

Once you euphorically reach the col, I strongly recommend that you keep heading upwards and to the right for stunning views of Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes waaaay below and Mount Indefatiguable straight ahead.

View of Upper Kananaskis Lake, Mount Indefatiguable, from Sarrail Ridge, Canadian Rockies
Kick back and enjoy your well-earned snack in one of the most stupendous sitting areas of the Canadian Rockies.

See you on the trails !

Other articles you might enjoy :

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Four Dangerous (Or Foolish) Hiking Blunders

Hiking Norway's Fjords

First Aid Kits for Hikers

Leave Your Fears At Home - And Get Hiking!

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