Distance: 16 km
Elevation gain: 700 m
The end of this hike is one of the prettiest areas I've seen in Kananaskis, but the trail to get there is deceptively difficult for the stats (16 km, 700 m). With infrequent breaks it took us over 8 hours to complete the hike. Do not think the last kilometer of hiking will take any less than an hour!
The trail starts on the road/trail up Ribbon Creek so you'll get a good dose of stollers and flip flops for about 45 minutes. While I didn't see any today, watch for the girls in high heels carrying purses who thought "hiking" sounded like a nice first date. Thankfully very few hikers notice the trail to Memorial Lakes, which is marked only by a small cairn on the right 3.5 - 4 km in; you'll know you've gone too far if you hit the bike racks. This trail is nice and mostly shaded, but is rooty and very narrow at inconvenient times a short distance in. One eroded section of trail about 10 minutes from the turn off is particularly mentally daunting; if you find this very difficult you won't be able to do the scramble to the 3rd lake, or maybe even the slog up to the 2nd.
After hiking for almost 2 hours you'll reach a series of waterfalls just before a very steep section of trail. It's a great spot for a break as there is a cool wind coming down the gorge. After ascending the steep section, the trail follows the top of the gorge before leveling off in the approach to the first lake. Beyond here the going becomes increasingly difficult.
The route to the 2nd lake ascends a shifting boulder, dust, and scree field, but the views get better and better and there is nothing technical about it. The 2nd lake is more beautiful than the 1st, but it is the 3rd you want to aim for if you're able.
I am not a scrambler nor climber, but am a very competent hiker, and the route to the 3rd lake was difficult for me. While there is quite a bit of choice on how to ascend the headwall and it involves nothing more than finding sure footing and occasional hand use for stability, the ground is loose and a fall would probably result in broken bones....or at least that's what it seemed like to me. On a difficult scale of hiking its probably a 9/10, but from what I know of scrambling it's probably only a 2/10. Also remember that coming down is much harder than going up! As a final note, surmounting this headwall does not afford you a view of the 3rd lake, but rather a view of the next uphill section, although it is much easier than the one you just completed. Knowing this will save you a pika-scattering groan upon reaching what you thought was the top.
The third lake is worth it though and is probably the prettiest lake I've seen in Kananaskis. We stayed here for almost an hour as the temperature was just right and the views were amazing. For the adventurous, it is possible to head down the scree slope to the 1st lake, although we didn't do this and have only heard of others doing it. It didn't look much worse than the way we came up, however.
Category:Lifestyle and Recreation
Keywords:Kananaskis, Memorial Lakes