Distance: ~8 km
Elevation gain ~150 mView mapDownload GPS track
Here is another unadvertised, relatively safe, snowshoe (or ski) trip in Kananaskis. It comes complete with two different trailheads so you can make it a loop if you want, as well as a few potential options for sidetrips. The trail starts either on the Spray Lakes road about 2 km south of the Mt. Engadine Lodge turnoff (there are usually cars parked along the guardrail here in the winter), or in a small parking lot on the left a few hundred meters up the Mt. Shark road from Mt. Engadine Lodge. The second option is longer and slightly flatter, and we chose it to simply be out in the snow longer.
Starting from the parking area off the Mt. Shark road, head south - directly into the sun this time of year - along the old logging road. After about 1.5 km an overgrown logging road heads west towards Tent Ridge and some serious avalanche slopes - ignore it, even if there are tracks heading that way. At 2 km - marked by red flagging on trees - there is a trail on the left (west) through forest heading steeply to Tryst Lake. This trail also passes by some obvious avalanche chutes, but it looked possible to skirt these to the south; we plan to try this later this winter. For those with avalanche training, however, this would make a nice side trip (3 km return), but don't pretend it must be safe just because there are tracks.
The route to Commonwealth creek continues safe from avalanches south along the logging road. Soon reach a fork. Left descends to the Spray Lakes road trailhead; right heads towards prominent Commonwealth Peak, the lake of the same name lies at its base. In a few minutes, reach another fork. Here, head left and begin turning towards the west. I have no idea where the right fork goes, but I suspect it ends in the cutblock. At this point you might be breaking trail as most people start from the Spray Lakes road trailhead. After a few hundred meters the old road will end, at which point you want to descend to Commonwealth creek on your left (south). Follow the creek west until you reach the waterfall (no more than 200 m) and then cross to the southern side wherever it is convenient, ascending the steep southern bank to intersect the trail made by those starting from the Spray Lakes road. From this point follow the trail west until you reach the outlet stream of Commonwealth Lake. Depending on snow cover, you may cross a small stream that appears to be the outlet stream before reaching the actual one. To avoid confusion, the true outlet stream is in a wide depression, narrowing to a gully as you ascend.
From here, follow the outlet stream gully to the lake. While the total ascent is only 120 m and the distance about 500 m, the gully becomes very steep about halfway there, so be prepared for a workout! A log bridging the gully that you must duck under marks the end of the ascent, with the lake lying less than a hundred meters beyond. A trail continues to the southern end of the lake and ascends below Commonwealth Peak, wrapping around the prominent mountain to the right. We didn't follow this, but many others on skis did; from our vantage point it appeared to be in an area of avalanche risk.