Elk Lakes Park

Backpack or day hike in a British Columbia Rockies diverse, scenic, and rugged mountain park studded with the pristine Elk Lakes, several other lakes and tarns, glacier views, dramatic alpine limestone terrain of Upper Petain Basin, cascading Petain Waterfall, and coral fossils in the Coral Pass area. Wildlife viewing opportunities include moose, elk, bear and more. There are options for backcountry camping and Alpine Club of Canada hut stays.

Getting There

recommended approach

Alberta's Peter Lougheed Park's Elk Pass parking lot. Most of the road access is paved. A Kananaskis daily or yearly conservation parking pass for each vehicle is required.

Alternate approach

An alternate approach via BC's Elk Valley Road is not recommended because it is a long, extremely rough, high clearance vehicle approach. Drive north on Highway 3, at Sparwood turn onto Highway 43, and drive to Elkford. Continue on the main road past Elkford, driving north for ~43 miles on a fair to poor to extremely rough gravel road requiring high clearance vehicle with risk of significant mechanical and tire damage. No parking permit required. 

Front country accommodations recommended prior to or following Elk Lakes Park visit

Alberta:  Peter Lougheed Park or nearby provincial parks between Canmore and Elk Pass parking area (near Upper Kananaskis Lake), HI Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel near Kananaskis Village, ACC (Alpine Club of Canada) Clubhouse hostel/room (Canmore), and Canmore motels. 

Southeast BC:  Forest service recreation site campgrounds near the trailhead and along Elk Valley Road (route 46), and motels in the Elkford/Sparwood area.

On the Trail

From the  Elk Pass parking area (Peter Lougheed Park, Alberta) it's 12.6 miles round trip with 750 feet of elevation gain.

From the Elk Lakes parking area (BC) it's 9.4 miles round trip with 230 feet of elevation gain to Petain Falls viewpoint and Petain Creek campground, via Upper and Lower Elk Lakes.

Add 5+ miles round trip with 1,300 feet of elevation gain from the falls to the basin rim, and 3,000 feet of elevation gain from the falls to the upper sections of Petain Basin.

From the Petain Creek backcountry camp site (or bivy camping nearby), hike and/or scramble approx 7 miles round trip from Petain Creek to the "heavenly area" of Coral Pass area located between Petain Creek and Cadorna Creek on Great Divide. See extensive fossils of spectacular horn coral scattered over several square kilometers, wild uplands,larches, towering peaks and more in Coral Pass area. Do this hike when weather is good, and avoid adverse weather conditions.

Backcountry accommodations that are not reservable  and have a nominal nightly fee include camps at Lower Elk Lake and Petain Creek. The ACC Elk Lakes Cabin may be reserved on the Alpine Club of Canada website.


  • Guidebook: Kananaskis Country Trail Guide: Volume 1, 4th ed. by Gillean Daffern (Rocky Mountain Books 2010).
  • Guidebook:  Canadian Rockies Trail Guide, 10th ed. by Brian Patton & Bart Robinson (Summerthought Publishing 2022).
  • Guidebook: Mountain Footsteps: Hikes in the East Kootenay of Southeastern British Columbia, 4th ed. by Janice Strong (Rocky Mountain Books 2018).
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous
  • Length: 20.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 4,300 ft
  • 9,200 ft
  • Land Manager: Elk Lakes Park
  • Parking Permit Required: see Land Manager
  • Recommended Party Size: 6
  • Maximum Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Route/Place Capacity: 12
  • CNTS Kananaskis Lakes 82J/11
  • CNTS Mount Abruzzi 82J/6
  • CNTS Mount Head 82J/7
  • GemTrek Maps - Kananaskis Lakes

Upcoming Activities

There are no activities scheduled at this location.

Trip Reports

There are no resources for this route/place. Log in and send us updates, images, or resources.