This is how it starts, in a winter wonderland.
Last Saturday, we were experiencing warm weather after being in a cold snap for quite some time. My friend, let’s call her “H”, and I were originally going to skate on Windermere Lake, but the weather was not on our side and we discovered that the lake was reverting back to its liquid state. I for one, love snow. I love the orangey glow the sky gets on nights when its about to snow, you know…the sheen that covers the night sky and the comfort of being in a warm home. I love snow like Lorelai from Gilmore Girls loves snow, “Everything’s magical when it snows, everything looks pretty. The clothes are great. Coats, Scarves, Gloves, Hats.” I mean come on, who doesn’t love all that?
I’d been having quite a rough week and really needed time to clear my head and get out of the city (and by city, I mean bed… I’d been binge watching The Office on Netflix for a few days and desperately need fresh air). We left Calgary a bit later then anticipated (due to some shoe issues, but we’ve learned that super glue can fix essentially anything). With a breakfast burrito in H’s hand, we were on the road.
We were originally going to take highway 40, but read a sign stating that part of the road was closed, which deterred us from continuing. Driving back, we realized the road was closed right AFTER the turn we needed to take. Anyways, after a bit of debate and a mediocre u-turn (luckily there was no traffic on either side), we headed back on highway 1 towards Canmore. We exited off highway 93 and continued on the 742. Following the signs to the Nordic centre and then passing Grassi Lakes and Ha Ling Peak. The road became curvy and unpaved. From here, you drive and enter Spray Valley Provincial park, passing a huge lake (where we saw many ice fishers) and the Mount Engadine Lodge. Eventually a blue sign appeared indicating Chester Lake on the left hand side. The drive lasted just over 2 hours with the unexpected detour and the cautious driving past Grassi Lakes, definitely worth it for this trail.
H and I left the comforts of our warm car and got prepared in the busy parking lot. There were quite a few other groups already on the trail, reassuring us of choosing this hike. As rookies, we geared up before going to the bathroom, but eventually just held it (you would think the cold would freeze the smell of an outhouse, but apparently not). The first third of the trail is uphill, with a few steep sections. After that, the ground evens out and it’s smooth sailing. I’m not in the best shape, so this trail was definitely nice to get back in the game.
The trail itself is covered with snow, there were many snowshoers before us, which created a path for us to follow. There were also orange snowshoe signs scattered across the length of the trail. The snow drizzled throughout the day, covering the mountains and playing a constant game of hide and seek. Once we arrived at the snow covered lake, the mountains jutted out in clear view. Many cross country skiers take a separate path, but the trails end up converging here. We saw footprints of a brave soul that scaled up half the mountain and skied down, leaving a mesmerizing path on the otherwise untouched mountain. H and I could not believe how silent Chester Lake was. I could only hear the snowflakes hitting my jacket as time seemed to stand still, it was absolute peace. After taking time to admire the silence and gushing over the thought of hot chocolate and Baileys, we headed back. With being so still and having wet feet, I was quite chilly. It took a while of walking and the cover of the forest before I finally started to warm up.
I now understand why people spend money on gaiters. Every time I lifted my feet, I would kick up snow that ended up on the back of my calves.No biggie, until the snow starts to melt on your cotton leggings and it begins to drip down to your socks and into your shoe. Again, no biggie, until you realize 4 hours in, you’re stepping in a huge puddle inside your hiking boots, that swishes and swashes with every movement you make. Not the best feeling in the world, but what’s a girl to do? I’ll look into investing in gaiters next time.
The hike back was fast, the sky was darkening and the snowfall became heavy. I’m glad I had winter tires as heading back the roads were covered in snow. Once on Highway 40 it smooth sailing back to Calgary. The snow seemed to dissipate the closer we got into town. I haven’t done too many hikes in Alberta, but this one definitely tops the list! We were both exhausted after and I was able to justify watching more Netflix when I got home.
1/52: Chester Lake Snowshoeing
- Level: Easy-Moderate
- Distance: 10.2 km return
- Elevation: 310 m
- Time: 4 hours (relaxed, with breaks)
- Absolutely stunning in the winter
- Not to difficult, great for all ages
- Ability to hike, snowshoe or cross country ski
- Gravel roads
- Can be busy
- Overall: Definitely recommended! The gravel roads aren’t too bad and totally worth it for the serenity this trail offers. Close to Calgary (about a 2 hour drive) and offers the flexibility to engage in the activity you enjoy most. Add Chester Lake to your list!
Directions: From Calgary, Take highway 1. Exit on highway 40 and continue until you reach the 742. Follow the 742 until you reach the sign for Chester Lake.