Monday, July 30, 2018

First Summits - The South End of Mount Lawson, Kananaskis

This summit has been on my list for a couple of years now so I'm thrilled that we finally completed the hike - and discovered how beautiful it is! It's a new favourite hike in Kananaskis, and one of the easier summits we've reached as a family.

South End of Mount Lawson Summit, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Why you Need to Add South Lawson to your Family Summit List 

  1. Nobody knows about this trail! How many people did you pass on the trail the last time you hiked up Ha Ling Peak? How about Yamnuska, the East End of Rundle, Lady Macdonald? - Well, we met ONE other group the entire day on the South Lawson Trail. And it was a weekend!!

  2. The scenery is gorgeous!! You'll be looking down on the Lower Kananaskis Lake as soon as you reach the ridge - and we found the views to be way better than those from the popular peaks in Canmore.

  3. The ridge is super fun with light scrambling and a few airy moments. We love ridge walking so this was a highlight for us!

  4. This hike is EASY. It's actually much easier than Ha Ling Peak. No loose rock, no scree, and no exposed cliffs at the summit - You just have to be a bit careful walking along the ridge in spots.

  5. This hike is short. We completed it in 4.5 hours round trip (at a moderate pace with plenty of breaks.)
Fun hiking along the ridge of South Lawson 

Stats for the Hike 

Distance: 3.5 km one way

Height gain: 762 metres

Time it took our group: 4.5 hours round trip (with kids ages 7 and 9)

Rating: Easy 

Best Guide Book: Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, Volume 1, by Gillean Daffern - Amazon affiliate link 

Views from the lower ridge on South Lawson 

Trailhead Information and Finding the Trail for South Lawson 

This is probably the crux of the entire trip. The trail is not marked and there is no signed parking lot. Once you do the trip your first time though, you'll see how easy it is to find the trail. 

I was a bit worried about route finding for this, never having done it before, but it was actually super easy and always quite obvious.

Parking: Drive down Highway 40 through Kananaskis, past the turnoff for Kananaskis Village, or down the Smith-Dorrien/Spray Trail from Canmore. You are heading for Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and the Lower Kananaskis Lake.

About 200 metres north of the Peninsula Day Use Area you'll see a gated TransAlta Road with a parking lot in front of it. This is also the end of the High Rockies Trail from Blackshale down to Peninsula. See the parking lot on the Trail Forks Map - park at the red square. 

The gated TransAlta Road that you will park beside (and hike up) 

Trailhead: Hike or bike (though it would be a very short bike ride) up the TransAlta Road for 0.7 km until you reach a giant flume (photo below.) - it looks like a water slide (though I can't recommend you use it for that.) The flume is used for diverting water from Kent Creek to the Lower Lake. 

Hiking up the TransAlta Road (South Lawson shown ahead of my son in this photo)
The flume that you'll see at the end of the road
Once you reach the flume, cross rocks in the dry creek bed to the far bank and head straight up the hillside here on a steep but easily followed trail. You can see my husband starting out on the trail below.

Cross the dry creek at the flume and start hiking up through the forest

Gaining the Lower Ridge on the South End of Mount Lawson 

This is probably the worst part of the hike because there's nothing exciting, no views, and you just have to climb your way up the trail through the trees until you finally reach the open lower ridge. Fortunately, it's only steep at the very beginning and then it turns into a pleasant trail that is relatively easy.

We just played a lot of trail games here to pass the time. 

Hiking up the South Lawson Trail to reach the lower ridge

Hiking along the ridge to the Summit 

This part of the story could be broken down into separate sections, but honestly, the trail is so easy to follow, there's no point describing each separate mini-section.

Below are highlights of this part of the trail, where the views cause you to stop every couple of minutes for more photos. 

Finally Reaching the Lower Ridge!! - and it's gorgeous! 

Reaching the lower ridge on the trail up South Lawson 

There are a few steep sections but the views help you forget about your climbing. The trail is always easy to follow. 

Climbing up South Lawson in Kananaskis

On the Ridge!! Wahoo!

There was one section where we had to go down, and then back up to get around a gully, but other than that, we were always hiking up and along a gorgeous ridge. 

We finally reached the ridge and could just follow it up to the summit 
Final steep climb to reach the upper ridge and the summit
Airy scrambling on the ridge below the summit 

Reaching the Summit 

It took us 2.5 hours to reach the summit, where we stopped for a nice break. 

Summit Cairn on South Lawson 

You can see from the photos that the summit was not overly narrow, no overhanging cliffs, and that it was a great spot for a lunch break. 

The boys had to add a rock to the cairn

Also notice how many people we had to share the summit with outside our group members - NONE! 

Glorious, quiet summit! 
 And you could spend hours taking photos along the ridge here.

Summit ridge of South Lawson 

Hiking Back down the Ridge 

It's always nice hiking back down, and because this hike is never overly steep, the knees don't take too much of a beating.

Hiking back down the ridge 

We also appreciated the lack of scree and loose rock.

Hiking along the summit ridge of South Lawson 

The ridge was playful and airy in spots but we just kept a close eye/hand on the kids.

Gentle hiking down the ridge with no loose rock 

Fun End to the Hike 

You'll be hiking along Kent Creek as you walk down the TransAlta Road at the end. The boys had a blast dropping sticks into it and watching them float down the creek (seeing whose stick would make it the furthest before getting trapped next to the bank.)

Next time we'd bring rubber ducks or some other fun object to float down the creek (bringing them home with us of course) and we'd label them (or have different colors/objects) to enable the kids to have a fun little competition/race.

We also joked about sending the kids down the creek in a youth sit on top kayak (but nobody really wanted to haul one up the road.)

The creek would also be fun to play in if you had water sandals with you (which we did not.) - Next time! 

The creek you can play in on your way out 

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