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Elbow Lake and Rae Glacier Hike

Elbow Lake and Rae Glacier Hike


Mt Rae and Rae Glacier Hike|Elbow Lake Kananaskis Trail

Rae Glacier

Mount Rae and Rae Glacier were named after Dr. John Rae (1813 – 1893)  a doctor for the Hudson Bay Company. He was thought to be the first european settler to survive an Arctic winter in Canada by living off the land.  During the course of his four Arctic expeditions, Rae traveled thousands of miles and charted over 1800 miles of Arctic coastline. Here is a very interesting Youtube video narrated by Les Stroud. (Only one minute long.)

Elbow Lake

Mount Rae Glacier is the last most eastern glacier left in K-Country.  The trail starts at the Elbow Lake parking lot area (50.6352099,-115.0239193).  We started off by climbing a steep old road that eventually takes you up to Elbow Lake.

Hikers walking up to Elbow Lake Campground

The hike to the lake is 1.5 kilometers in length and has an elevation gain of about 150 meters (approximately 500 feet). Yup, we were feeling the burn! At this point we were wishing we had brought along a set of hiking poles.  For those of you interested in an overnight adventure there is a campsite located on Elbow Lake. (tent camping only)

Elbow Lake after you walk through Elbow Lake Campground

Hiker and her dog at Rae Glacier

We rested at the lake to catch our breath and contemplated whether the next portion of the hike was going to be as grueling as the hike up to the lake had felt.   Thankfully that was NOT the case!  We took the path to the right, which went through the Elbow lake campsite. We followed the path around the lake until we hit a little stream entering into Elbow Lake. Then we proceeded to follow the creek up ’til we seen a small set of waterfalls coming from the canyon.

Small waterfalls coming from Rae Glacier

From there we continued to climb up the ridge.  We were able to get some amazing shots of the surrounding mountains from this location.   We then descended back down to the creek and had to scramble back up to see Rae Glacier.

Surrounding Mountains around Rae Glacier

Top of the Ridge -Rae Glacier

From Elbow Lake it is approximately 2.5 kilometres up to the glacier. The elevation gain from the lake to Rae Glacier is 400 meters. (approximately 1300 feet) I know that sounds awful, however it really wasn’t that bad.  The terrain is steep, but laced with plateaus and the fact that you can see your destination helps. After a picnic lunch my daughter and her dog proceeded to slid down the glacier….. Oh to be young again!

Sliding Down Rae Glacier

Sliding Down Rae Glacier

There is many photographic opportunities throughout this hike, from the grand landscapes to the beautiful alpine flowers. There are many amazing things to see.


Surrounding mountain at Rae Glacier

Wildflower at Rae Glacier

Wildflower Rae Glacier and Elbow Lake

We stayed enjoying the scenery for as long as we could, until the wind finally chased us down the mountain.

Rae Glacier

From here we proceeded to explore the little island on Elbow Lake and later meandered down to our car.  As we got closer, we noticed a bunch of people had gathered looking at goats on the nearby mountain range.  To be honest we never seen any, but they definitely could have been there!  This area has so many great views and spectacular mountain vistas, It is definitely worth the walk!

Looking for bighorn sheep on mountains beside Elbow Lake and Rae Glacier

We were quite pleased with the hike and to celebrate we took a quick stop in the Kananaski village for a well deserved ice cream, then finally headed back home to plan our next hiking adventure.

To see a map for the Rae Glacier Trail.


  1. What time of year did you go? I am hoping to go Friday–2 days away, but am worried there might be too much snow?

    • I believe we went at the end of July. Ya Ha Tinda doesn’t usually get that much snow. But we drove out a few times at the beginning of March and were surprised by how much snow was there this year.

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View of Moraine lakes deep blue colour from the rock pile

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