Tryst Lake, nestled between The Fist and Tent Ridge, is a popular fall hike in Spray Valley Provincial Park. Go in late September when the larches’ needles turn golden. While Tryst may not have the most larches, its lower elevation means you might not need microspikes or ice cleats when Pocaterra Ridge, Chester Lake, and Rummel Lake trails are snow covered.
The unmarked trail to Tryst Lake begins at the end of an unmarked parking lot (get directions below). We head south on the wide, flat trail (an old logging road) – occasionally glimpsing Commonwealth Peak in the distance. 1.6 kilometres from the trailhead, we spot a cairn and blue flagging indicating the turnoff. Here, we turn right and head into the trees.
Over the next 1.4 kilometres, we will gain 350 metres in elevation. The rocky, rooty trail goes along a creek that drains Tryst Lake. As we spot the first larches, we look up the avalanche slopes at Tent Ridge on the right and pick out a possible summer ascent route! With our late start however, the ridge will have to wait ’til next time.
When the trail finally levels off, we find ourselves in a glowing grove of larches. Before I can get my camera out, the kids shout, “We’re here!” from around the corner. The lake is small and shallow by September, but is ringed with larches and picturesquely situated at the foot of The Fist (a difficult scramble I did years ago – rock helmet required!). We skip stones, have a snack, walk around the lake, and return the way we came.
The best parts of this hike were seeing larches; having the lake to ourselves for an hour; meeting fellow Alberta Parks Ambassador, Tyler Dixon and family; listening to woodpeckers; and seeing spruce grouse. Check out Tyler’s Tryst Lake writeup at Get Me Outdoors.
Tryst Lake At a Glance
Safety Notice: There is avalanche danger on this trail during the snowy season.
- Distance: 3 km one way (+ 400 metres to far side of the lake)
- Elevation Gain: 350 metres
- When to go: late September for the larches
- Stroller Friendly? No
- Nearest Washrooms: outhouses at Mount Shark Helipad parking lot
Directions from Calgary: Head west on Highway 1 / TransCanada Highway. Take Exit 118 to Kananaskis Country. Turn left to go south on Highway 40 / Kananaskis Trail. In 50 kilometres, turn right onto Kananaskis Lakes Trail / AB-742. After 2.2 km, turn right onto Smith-Dorrien Trail. After 26.2 km, turn left onto Mount Shark Road (blue signs for Mount Shark and Mount Engadine Lodge). After 900 metres (pass Mount Engadine Lodge and cross the bridge), turn left into an unmarked parking lot.
Trailhead: The trailhead is at the south end of the parking lot. Hike along the old logging road (NOT the narrow trail in the SW corner of the parking lot).
Know Before You Go
A Kananaskis Conservation Pass is required to park in Kananaskis. Purchase your pass online at https://www.alberta.ca/kananaskis-conservation-pass.aspx.
Tryst Lake is an unofficial trail so the parking lot and trailhead are NOT marked. Follow directions carefully and carry a good topographic map. We like Gemtrek maps as they are waterproof and easy to read. Gillean Daffern’s Kananaskis Trail Guide Vol. 1 is another great resource.
What to Bring
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You should also carry The Ten Essentials including: water, extra food, extra clothes, a headlamp, GPS/compass and map of the area, bug spray (this one contains 20% icaridin and will repel ticks), sunscreen (this one is safe for babies), and bear spray. Carry bear spray in a Frontiersman Bear Spray Holster (attaches to your backpack or belt), or Scat Belt.