NTS Map: 082J14 Elevation Gain: 310 m (1,017 ft). Distance 10.2 km Return
This is one of the most scenic trails I've ever been on, and I've been on quite a few. Chester Lake is nestled among towering peaks on the uncrowded side of Kananaskis - the Smith-Dorrien/Spray Lakes Road. The snowshoe trail is a separate trail from the large network of cross-country ski trails (which double as mtn bike trails in summer). It is steeper, narrower and much more twisted.
The first third of the trail is the steepest, with nice views back through Burstall Pass . Soon, however, the trail opens into a small clearing, and the rest is easy going. A short distance further you will enter a large meadow, with Chester Lake at the far end, through the trees.
Note - time and distance are return-trip.
Don't have snowshoes? Go there after a long weekend and you can hike up to the lake. The trail will be packed hard enough.
From the lake, options include Upper Chester Creek, Three Lakes Valley and Rummel Lake. Scramblers can try their hand at Mt. Chester, Gusty Peak and The Fortress.
This is also an excellent summer hiking trail, but try for a weekday.
The trailhead is well marked, on the Smith-Dorrien/Spray Lakes Road, about 20km north of the junction of the Kananaskis Lakes Road in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.
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Posted By: Tootsie
- Mon Jul 25 19:41:40 UTC 2016
UpsideA beautiful and easy hike with rewarding views of the meadow and Mount Chester leading up to the Lake. Because it was very busy, we did not have to worry about a bear encounter but were prepared with bear spray. DownsideArrived at 10:30 am on Sunday morning; the parking lot was nearly full and the trails and the lake were very busy. CommentAgain, a nice & easy hike with rewarding views. I take lots of photographs which I enjoy reviewing during the cold days of winter. On this day, I saw lots of wildflowers along the way leading up to the meadow such as arnicas, bunchberries, fleabanes, hawkweed, alpine forget-me-not, heal-all, paintbrush, and fireweed.
Posted By: sperley
- Sun Jul 03 20:27:13 UTC 2016
UpsideBeautiful views close to the mountains. Take the short side-trip to Elephant Rocks, very fun to scramble on the rocks. DownsideGet there early because the packing lot can get pretty full and there will be lots of people up there. CommentWe arrived about 9am to an empty parking lot and saw no one the entire hike up to the lake until we met a family having lunch at the beautiful Chester Lake. As they left, we began our lunch when they came back to say there were a couple bears along the path leaving the lake. We decided to head up to Elephant Rocks and had a great couple hours scrambling all over the rocks and enjoyed the sun. We headed back to the lake and walked the long way around the lake, enjoyed more beautiful views, chatted with some people fishing in and around the lake. By the time we got to the bridge at the end of the lake there were many people taking pictures of the grizzly who was doing some "bear-roto-tilling" and seemed oblivious to all the paparazzi. We adjusted our trek back as to give him/her a wide berth and made our way back to the parking lot. All the giving everyone a heads up about the bear. When we got back, the parking lot was full! Beautiful day and happy we went early.
Posted By: DamnCanadians
- Sun Nov 22 00:55:32 UTC 2015
UpsideGorgeous! Loved the views! Downside2/3 is steep Very busy CommentWe went snow shoeing and it was gorgeous views! I do not recommend beginners at all. Not even close to 1/3 being the steepest. I would say 2/3. Regardless, it was my first time snow shoeing and I loved it! 4.5 hrs and the sign says 7.8km up. So 15.6am return
Posted By: sangagnon
- Sat Oct 04 00:29:14 UTC 2014
CommentGreat hike for all ages. Beautiful meadows on the way to Chester Lake. Be sure to continue along the lake and follow the path to the left to Elephant Rocks, only an extra 10 or 15 minutes walk and the kids will love it.
Posted By: ChrisMarry
- Mon Sep 30 03:10:52 UTC 2013
UpsideShort and sweet, views are stunning under snow! DownsideNo technical-physical challenge even in winter, unless you try a summit around the lake! Lots of people. CommentI did that trail on a snowy day and it was very beautiful. I wanted to try a peak after that and I did, but couldn't complete my scramble as I was in a blizzard on the ridge of The Fortress, starting to get cold and I couldn't even see the peak 400 m from where I stopped. It's crazy how weather can be different in the mountains. The blizzard was strong right beside Mount Chester all the way up and down to my summit attempt. When I came back to Chester Lake, it was so much warmer, no wind, a bit of sun... crazy! 2km further and there is a snowstorm! If you go there at summer time, have a look to all those summits you can scramble before you go, I will definitely visit most of those next year!
Posted By: kmarp
- Mon Jan 21 15:08:26 UTC 2013
Upsidespectacular views, very accessible, very good sun exposure (even in winter), well travelled trail, separate trails for skiers and snowshoers. Downsidecan be very busy CommentJanuary 20th:Trail was well packed, no new snow and a substantial (4' plus) base. Skied in with a friend (no kids) on wax-type cross country skis without metal edges: Not recommended! Almost every skier on the trail had alpine-touring gear and were skiing out (down) with skins on. My companion had metal edge waxless skis with x-country back-country boots and bindings: he fared much better than I. Large basket poles are necessary.<BR>With the equipment I had, it was challenging in both directions. IMO alpine-touring gear is not necessary (unless you're going further than the lake or Elephant Rocks, but I wouldn't do it again without metal edges or waxless skis.
ps, Offleash dog owners were being issued tickets, not warnings, by Conservation Officers on the trail. Apparently over $100. Always Obey Rules in the back country!!!
Posted By: Tlcampb3ll@gmail.com
- Mon Aug 27 00:43:13 UTC 2012
QuestionHello we hiked the Cheater Lake trail today absolutely loved it does anyone have any similar hikes that they would recommend?
ANSWERS are in this forum: Recomendation
Posted By: Inquirer
- Tue Aug 02 13:42:18 UTC 2011
UpsideWell marked, comfortable trail. Beautiful views. The boulders five minutes past the lake were our favorite part. For our first hike since moving to Canada two weeks ago, this was a perfect choice. DownsideLots of people in the afternoon. Apparently many of the hikers don't believe the "keep your dogs on a leash" rule applies to them. CommentWhen we got to the parking lot at 9:45 am there were 8 cars in the lot and we saw two groups on the way up the trail (both passed us). We loved the hike and enjoyed our lunch on the shores of the lake. A rowdy family showed up soon after to fish and I am pretty sure they believed the lake belonged to them. On the way down we must have passed 50 groups. My advice: go early to enjoy this location.
Posted By: longleggedhiker
- Thu May 13 00:32:43 UTC 2010
UpsideThis is a relativley easy hike that is very scenic and very enjoyable overall Downsidethe trail can get crowded during July and August, especially on weekends CommentA wonderful summer/fall hike that takes you to a very nice alpine lake without too much effort. The uphill climb is steep, but is nowhere near as steep as some other hikes.
Posted By: slickster
- Sun Apr 04 02:18:35 UTC 2010
Upsidegreat views. It was not strenuous. CommentI went early april, still lots of snow. It was very quiet and several people took their dogs along too. The snowshoe trail was packed enough that i didn't need snowshoes. Unfortunately for me, it was cloudy and it snowed a bit, which limited visibility.
Posted By: Steven Noel
- Tue Feb 03 21:54:13 UTC 2009
QuestionI too have hiked into Chester Lake. I later noted that my map shows a smaller lake to the North-East, up against the Fortress. Perhaps the outflow of this lake is what makes the small waterfall at the North-East corner of Chester Lake. If anyone has any information let me know please.ANSWERS are in this forum: Mystery Lake
Posted By: Trevbo
- Mon Sep 15 18:06:55 UTC 2008
CommentIt's approximately 10 kms return. At 4hrs return-trip, this is not a long day trip even in winter. The one way note was a misnomer.
Posted By: leannemvogel
- Wed Sep 10 17:06:02 UTC 2008
QuestionIn the post it states that it is 10.2 return but then says *Note: all distance and time is one way*
How long is the ENTIRE hike?ANSWERS are in this forum: How long is it?
Posted By: dycheung
- Tue Aug 05 02:14:05 UTC 2008
UpsideIn the summer, start early, Chester Lake is a great place to stop before heading to Three Lakes Valley. DownsideFamilies like to come up here for a picnic, so it does get crowded. CommentThree Lakes Valley will give you an amazing view and it's a lot quieter than Chester Lake. Although it is quite a bit more steep and can be slippery when wet.
Posted By: jpl
- Mon Mar 24 18:52:22 UTC 2008
UpsideOnce you reach the top the views are fantastic, the snowy peaks against the blue sky are phenomenal. There was 4 ft. deep snow, so very fun to play in. If you have some slippery waterproof pants on, opt to bum slide down the steep parts of the trail on your return. There are many straight sections but also parts were you have to weave. It's very fun and can give your knees a break! But keep your speed under control as you don't want to hit a person on there way up :) DownsideVery steep going up! But thats a good thing too right? CommentOn the actual trail, you don't need snowshoes. It gets so compacted you can just walk on it with regular boots (I did this), mind you we did this trail in mid-march and there were no recent heavy snow falls. However, if you go off trail, like so many people do theres lots of fresh powder which I guess is perfect for snowshoes.
Posted By: daps
- Wed Feb 14 18:46:17 UTC 2007
UpsideBeautiful weather and scenery Commentquite hard going uphill, never snowshoed before (first visit to Canada in winter) but well worth the effort
Posted By: MELdad
- Tue Jan 03 04:03:16 UTC 2006
Commentjust a quick update as we have returned from chester on the jan 1/06 holiday weekendm - where other places in alberta are snowless - this area continues to have great snowshoeing and skiing on groomed XC ( classic and skate) happy new year
Posted By: MELdad
- Wed Nov 16 20:15:28 UTC 2005
Upsidelots of good info> Downsidethe delta is about a 50 minute drice from the trailhead whereas Mount Engadine Lodge is 5 minutes away www.mountengadine.com Commentchester trails are open now for good skiing and showshoeing with early winter dumps