Carnarvon Lake

- 12 Kilometers
- Intermediate to Difficult
- Full Day

Hiking, Biking and Camping permitted


Carnarvon Lake

Access: Hwy 40, Cat Creek (closed between Kananaskis Lakes Trail turn-off and Highwood Junction from December 1 to June 15).
Parking: Cat Creek Day Use

Nearby Camping: Cataract Creek

- Bike 'n Hike, approx. 3 hrs; You definitely want your Bike for this.

This isn't much of a hike unless you're into logging roads, but the ride down is a screamin' good time (albeit not too technical) so of course this is a win-win for Mtn Bikers who like to soar downhill at blinding speed without having to worry about hikers on the trail. On the other hand, if you're worried about bears you might want to put a few bells on. This is also one of those mountain lakes with a reputation for pretty good cutthroat fishing, so you can usually expect to see lots of fishermen disguised as Mountain Bikers, charging up with rods and tackle in tow.

The trail starts at Cat Creek day use area and it's about 2 km's before you have to cross the Highwood river, which is pretty easy to Ford unless you're going early in the season when it can get waist high. Once you're across watch for the junction after 400m because this is the left turn to go to Carnarvon, otherwise you're headed to Lake of the Horns ... which is fine too ... but it's a different lake. If you find you've been riding uphill for a while after fording the Highwood then you know you missed it.

Follow the logging road, ignoring several sidetrails branching off here and there, and at approximately the 5.5 km mark keep right at the junction with Strawberry Hills Trail. On my last visit there were rocks laid out on the ground forming an arrow, pointing us in the right direction. As you approach the headwall, look for a cairn guiding you to the proper lake trail, one that provides better access than following the road down to the valley floor. Be prepared to ditch the bike and pick up a footpath that traverses fans of scree to the headwall where you can start your climb.

While most Headwalls are impressive to look at they can also be a monumental pain in the butt, but with some such as Carnarvon it's actually half the fun of making the trip. I don't know when the chain was fixed into the rock, or what prompted it to be installed, but without it this would be a precarious scramble. Initially I avoided the chain to see if I could find a route up on my own, but after a few attempts decided it was a colossal waste of time and of course an unnecessary risk. One bad slip could very well be your last. Standing atop the headwall is an exhilarating moment, and the spectacular far reaching view is all the more impressive when you realize how far you've come to make it here.
And of course, it's only an hour to get back down ....

NOTE: Make sure to visit Cat Creek falls (Interpretive trail) . It begins from the Cat Creek parking lot and crosses Hwy 40, climbing up to a ridge and through the forest (at one point crossing a clearing that used to be the Kananaskis Trail) taking about 30 minutes to arrive at the lowest waterfall. Climbing to a vantage point farther up the gorge will get you a view of much larger falls.