Trailhead/Parking: Look for the Elbow Pass turnoff on Highway 40. Note that the highway is closed from Dec 1-June 14 each year.
Distance: 1.3 km
Elevation gain: 150 m
Chariot friendly? Yes, but it is VERY steep, so I wouldn’t recommend it.
Washrooms? At the trailhead and Elbow Lake (outhouses)
|Elbow Lake Trailhead|
|Trail to Elbow Lake|
|Approaching the lake|
Once you reach the lake, Elbow Lake Backcountry Campground is to your right. Sites 12 & 13 are closest to the water, but all the campsites were really nice with level tent pads. Tent pad dimensions are approximately 2.7 x 2.7 metres.
|Elbow Lake Backcountry Campground Map|
Campground amenities include: bearproof food lockers, outhouses, communal cooking areas with fire pits and picnic tables, and outhouses.
Store food and attractants (this includes toothpaste, lip gloss and insect repellent) in the bear locker when you sleep or are not using them. Coolers should not be brought in as they are too big to fit in the bear locker and are not bearproof.
|Bearproof Food Lockers at Elbow Lake|
- Not sure how to make water safe for drinking? You could boil your water, but would need to pack in a LOT of fuel. Check out my comparison of water purifier vs. filter vs. Steripen (UV light) here: Potable Aqua PURE Electrolytic Water Purifier Review. Chlorine tablets or drops are inexpensive and effective options.
Firewood is free with your backcountry permit and an axe is available near the woodpile for your convenience.
- Please keep fires to a moderate size and put them out properly before you leave the area or go to sleep. Soak it, stir it, and soak it again!
- Do not collect forest deadfall – not only is it illegal, this fragile mountain environment needs any natural compost it can get. We were quite dismayed to see families sending their kids to collect sticks to burn.
|Firewood bin at Elbow Lake|
|New and clean outhouses at Elbow Lake|
Activities in the Area
The best family-friendly hikes from Elbow Lake are Elbow Lake lakeshore (less than 2 km round trip, flat) and the picturesque Edworthy Falls (6.4 km return, 50 m elevation gain). I used to hike to Rae Glacier (5 km return, 500 m elevation gain) and slide in the snow, but the glacier has retreated so far up the mountain, there isn’t really much to see/do there now.
There are several longer hikes in the area too. I recommend picking up a Gemtrek map and Gillean Daffern’s Kananaskis Trail Guide for more information.
|Elbow Lake’s crystal clear waters|
Fishing folk will enjoy sight fishing for little brook trout at Elbow Lake. The fish are plentiful, but stunted due to the harsh environment. Most of the fish we caught were 6-8″ (with a couple 10″).
- Conservation Officers come by frequently, so be sure to have your Driver’s License, WIN Card and fishing license on you. Children under 16 fish for free!
|Big POG and her Brook Trout|
For information on getting started with backpacking, see my 8 Tips for Fun Family Backpacking. Did you know that children shouldn’t carry more than 10-15% of their body weight?
Backpacking to The Point, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park – only a 3.4 km hike!
Not sure if you’re ready for backpacking? Start with walk-in camping! Beyond Car Camping With Kids has a fun Camping Readiness Test, tips, and list of walk-in campgrounds near Calgary.