Fossil Falls is a great but rather long dayhike of about 15-16km return. More experienced backpackers who are comfortable with scrambling will continue on to Aster Lake which according to Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Country Trail Guide is a difficult and rather exciting scramble along some steep scree slopes which end in cliffs. A day hiker could do the whole trip in a day, but be prepared for about a 12 hour + Day.
At the most southern trailhead at the Upper Kananaskis lake, follow the signed trail along the South shores of the lake heading west. The trail is wide, and the walking is easy. At the trailhead, there are signs indicating the main trails in the area. Head west enjoying the views of the upper lake. In the early morning when we were hiking, it was like glass and very beautiful. After 1.2km you will find a signed junction in the trail. An option is to head South to Rawson Lake. Continue West however for another 4.5km. You will pass several small creeks and two significant waterfalls which are always fun to see.
The trail will move away from the shoreline and into the woods, and you'll reach a lowpoint in the trail where there is a signpost indicating the main trail for those coming from the the other side of the lake heading east. Someone has scratched on the sign an arrow to the South for Hidden lake.
From this point forward, some route finding is needed, and the trail becomes much more difficult.
Another 0.5km will take you to hidden lake as you do a little bushwhacking through a lot of deadfall along the dry creek bed. You'll enter into a meadow containing Hidden Lake which as of August 11th was full to the brim. Evidently the lake recedes to muddy flats in the fall, and has a swirling whirlpool somewhere in the middle of the lakebed where fossil creek goes underground until it reaches an underwater spring in the Upper Kananaskis lake.
In the meantime, a large band of driftwood will require some sure footing and good balance to get across to the shoreline. The ground was very muddy and slippery as you try to either bushwhack through the trees, or walk along the steep sides of the lake hoping you don't slide into the water. When the water level is lower, it would be much easier to hike the next 1km or so along the shoreline.
Fossil creek thunders into the lake from a narrow canyon offering a taste of what's to come.
At the South end of the lake, a rather small trail heads straight up the mountainside. Some switchbacks, but for the most part it is very steep (and when we went slippery) and lots of deadfall obstacles to go over or under. After a very strenuous effort up, you'll come to a ridge and will then be out into an exposed rock fall area. The trail continues to climb up over several small ridges and offers a view of the amazing fossil falls. This would be about 1.5km from Hidden Lake, but a significant elevation gain to give you an excellent overview of where you just came. The view back of Hidden Lake, and the Upper Lake behind is very pretty. Looking to the South offers the Fossil falls and more scree slopes and peaks as you continue.
We wanted to push further, just to see what was around the next corner, but a squall hit hard and fast, with the horizontal sleet stinging a little more than what we liked. We would definately do this again, but would go all the way to Aster Lake on an overnight trip if we did go. We would have loved to explore further and get closer to the falls, but the weather didn't cooperate.
As an alternate, you could canoe the upper lake if you have a map and can find where the trail junction is on the edge of the lake. Or on the way back you could do a complete circuit of the Upper Lake, but be prepare for another roughly 10km added to your day.
Bears frequent these areas, and we saw a sub-adult grizzly the day before 100ft. from our campsite in Elkwood. So take your bear spray, travel with a few friends, and hope you have a friend that talks loud and frequent!
From Calgary take the Trans-Canada West towards Banff.
Head South on Highway 40 into Kananaskis Lakes.
Turn Right into Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.
Follow the road to the Upper Kananaskis Lakes Day Use Area.
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Posted By: longleggedhiker
- Fri May 14 03:46:34 UTC 2010
UpsideThe entire hike is spectacular! DownsideBushwacking is involved when water levels are high in Hidden Lake; trail near the falls is boarderline scrambling CommentThis is beautiful country an this hike takes you right into it! Fossil Falls are spectacular. Wait until July as if you go any earlier, you will be faced with some serious bushwacking.