Chester Lake is amazing and an easy hike takes you to this wonderful destination. Surrounded on three sides by mighty peaks the lake is small but gorgeous with crystal clear waters tinged a deep green. A must do destination in Kananaskis, you should make sure this trip is on your bucket list.
The trail is never hard and is well marked and initially it follows an old logging road up. After that section ends a well defined single track takes you the rest of the way. Most of the elevation is gained while on the road part. You can bike the trail if you wish to a point about half way to the lake. From there (at a bike rack) you have to continue on foot.
The trail starts at the Chester Lake day use area 45km south of Canmore along the dirty and dusty Smith-Dorrien / Spray Lakes road. Directly across from this parking spot is the Burstall Pass day use area and trail head. The route up to the namesake pass is another fine outing and a must do.
Head to the northeast corner of the lot and follow the wide and well drained former logging road as it snakes its way up the hill. It zigs and zags and there are lots of offshoot trails, however the way is always clear. Always in the trees as we get higher there are occasional glimpses of the mountains that surround us.
The logging road portion of this trail ends at a bike rack, and from here on it is a single track. An official trail it’s in great condition with little in the way of mud or other troubles. Not long after the trail flattens out for the most part, the majority of the elevation having been gained already. Winding through the trees, including many turning Larches, it’s a pleasant stroll.
Before long the trail breaks out of the trees and there are good views of the mountains that surround the lake; Mt Chester, Mt Galatea, Gusty Peak and The Fortress. All can be scrambled, the routes being described in the book (the bible) “Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies” by Alan Kane.
At the time of our visit not much could be seen of these mountains though. The clouds had the valley socked-in and visibility was severely limited. While rain has been our companion the whole trip near the lake it really started to pour.
Passing the young Chester Creek and some moose meadows on the right it’s not long before the trail is at the lake. Just before here is a side trail to Rummel Lake which I hear is a wonderful destination too. I did not see the junction but I may have been busy daydreaming.
Chester Lake is small and wonderful and a trail skirts around the back side of it. Finding refuge under a tree we hope to sit out the rain so we can continue further on. There are two trails which head east up side valleys that are worthy of exploring. Also up there is also something called Elephant Rocks, a pile of boulders in the shape of the animal.
In the end however, the pounding rain and fast dropping temperatures have us thinking it may not be a great idea to continue. Higher up it would likely be snowing soon and things could get slippery. Rather than continue we decide it’s better to enjoy the lake have lunch here.
It was a soggy trip back, not as much fun really.
The Chester Lake trailhead is also where the stunning Headwall Lakes trail begins. This route, also an old logging road (for a time anyway), can be found at the opposite end of the parking lot, the north end. This is also a must do – many routes in the area area are that good.
If you wish more information on this trail, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: September 2010
Location: Kananaskis AB, Smith-Dorrien area.
Distance: 11km return.
Height gain from start: 310m.
Height gain cumulative: 310m.
Technical bits: None.
Reference: Kananaskis Trail Guide by Gillean Daffern.