Headwall Lakes

Access: Hwy 742, (Spray Lakes Road)  |  Parking: South side of Chester parking lot
Bike ‘n Hike, 7.5 Kilometers, approx. 2 hours  |  Intermediate to Difficult, Full Day

See Map
Originally posted on  Powderface.ca (circa 2005)


You’ll usually see a lot of cars in the parking lot on weekends, but don’t panic. Those are all the people going up to Chester Lake, which has become very popular and one of the busiest next to Galatea and Ribbon Creek. It’s a nice Lake with pretty good fishing (once boasting the record catch for a Dolly Varden) but isn’t nearly as nice a destination as lesser known Headwall Lakes. Oddly enough, the Kananaskis Country Recreational Map I had didn’t even have a trail marked for Headwall, which might help explain why it doesn’t get as crowded as it’s neighbor. Headwall has small cutthroat for some moderate fishing, but it’s worth going just for the diverse terrain and stunning landscape. Most of the people you encounter are hiking, but if you take a bike you can save an hour or more each way on those long logging roads, and the adrenaline rush on the way down is a great way to end your trip.

The Trail starts at the south end of the parking lot where there’s a sign directing you through a network of logging roads which are cross country ski trails in the winter. These are part of what is known as the Smith-Dorrien Cross-Country and Mountain Biking Trail System, stretching between the Chester and Sawmill parking lots. After getting through the initial connecting roads you’ll climb a long steep hill up to a clear cut area where you can break for a beer and a couple smokes. From there make sure to stay on the yellow coded path which leads you across Headwall creek and up another steep hill where you make an important stop. The trail keeps going but here is where you hide the bike and take a hard left following a narrow trail up into the trees. When I first made the trip several years ago I overshot this spot because it’s an easy one to miss, however now you’re more likely to trip over a cairn or some other form of marker laid out by many a considerate hiker.

Navigating through a patchwork of trees you find yourself guided by the creek, looking ever upward at the splendor around you as you snake your way through the valley, traversing along the bottom of Talus slope and tripping from time to time while trying to take it all in. The headwall is a relatively short scramble making for a pleasant surprise upon encountering the first lake, expecting there might be more to climb. The karst pavement gives the terrain a unique texture and esthetic appeal, but it’s after grunting up the next hill beside the outlet waterfall of the second lake that you really feel you’ve arrived. For me the place is breathtaking and it entices you to wander around for hours, which is what everyone who visits here appears to do … it’s like no one wants to leave.

Kananaskis Lakes & Highwood regions
By | 2017-01-09T23:44:02+00:00 February 15th, 2016|Categories: Backcountry|Tags: , |Comments Off on Headwall Lakes