Overview and Trail Basics
A popular local hike, climbing spot, and tourist trail destination, the Grassi Lakes Trail leads to two small beautiful colored lakes with the plus of being a loop hike. Grassi Lakes and the trail were named for Lawrence Grassi, who pioneered many trails in the area and this was one of his favorites.
Total round trip: 2.4 miles (3.8 km)
Elevation gain: 820 ft. (250 m)
Average time: 1.5 to 2 hours incl. return
Location: just outside Canmore, Alberta
The trailhead is located 4.7 km south of Canmore on Highway 742 (aka Smith-Dorrien-Spray Lakes Road). Look for the Canmore Nordic Centre signs which are found on the edge of town and follow these to the south of town. When you pass the Nordic Center continue driving almost to the end of the gravel road and look for the Grassi Lakes Trail parking lot on the right. The Rundle Canal will be right across the road from the parking lot.
The parking lot has trail maps posted as well as restrooms, bear-proof trash containers, and picnic tables. Stop and read the very well-done large, map if you have not had a chance to do so before your hike.
About 100+ yards after starting your hike you will come to the slightly famous "More Difficult/Easy" trail sign. As the published trail guides and internet will suggest, take the "More Difficult" or the left-hand route for your trip up to Grassi Lakes and then if you need to save time or feel tired, take the "Easy" which is a fire road back down to the trail head.
The "More Difficult" route is slightly steep in places and can be very slippery in the rain or ice and would be difficult for anyone with a fear of heights or very small children. It starts out through the woods but quickly becomes rocky and full of tree roots.
Rough-hewn hand-made benches ready for a rest and view across the valley are found along the lower half of the "More Difficult" route along with some beautiful views of the waterfalls pouring down to the Rundle Canal. If the day is sunny you can see the town of Canmore as well as great views of Hai Ling Peak (aka Chinaman's Peak.) Rocky steps have been placed along part of the hardest section but they are not even surfaced nor always totally anchored.
After the final climb of the mountain, there is an interesting rocky section and bridge across the small fast-moving stream to the gorgeous multi-colored Grassi Lakes. There are more benches to relax and view the water before pausing and hiking back or hiking further through the trees, up a slope to see some pictographs on a boulder.
The "Easy" way is a fire road with only 1 small un-obstructed view of the same valley that the "More Difficult" route so beautifully offers.
There are no trail markers along either route but they are not necessary except in one section of the "More Difficult" trail reclamation where common sense quickly helps you regain your way. Or you can simply backtrack a few feet and look up to find the trail again!
Dayhike 10 Essentials or some version thereof!
---A couple bandaids
---Hiking poles are useful in wet weather
---Extra layer of clothing/rain gear
I found the cell phone reception was good from the trailhead but the restrooms were stinky (9/13/11). FWIW - I hiked up the "More Difficult" route without resting except to take a few pictures and it took me less than an hour.