Penstock Loop is a short and easy snowshoe trail in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Highlights of this mostly forested trail include Lower Kananaskis Lake views and the Kent Creek Flume.
Penstock Loop Route Description
Snowshoeing in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park is magical. It’s snowier here, the scenery is phenomenal, and you’re almost guaranteed to see wildlife. Even the drive is beautiful! Under blue skies brushed with wispy clouds, we wind our way through snowcapped mountains. Bighorn sheep welcome us at the turnoff to Kananaskis Lakes Drive, and a coyote darts across the road near Pocaterra. We pass packed parking lots and wonder if we should’ve left the house earlier. Canyon Creek Day Use, however, is almost empty when we arrive; a pleasant surprise on a Saturday afternoon!
Since it is an official snowshoe trail, the way to Penstock Loop is well marked. My kids find the first snowshoe marker at the north end of the parking lot (near the outhouse), and follow Canyon Trail 100 metres to the dam. At the junction, we turn left for Penstock Loop and start walking across the dam. Although we’re only minutes from the car, we pause to savor the scenery. Mount Indefatigable and Mount Invincible tower over Lower Kananaskis Lake on one side; Mount Wintour dominates the view at right. Out on the ice, a couple looks for a good place to fish (by the time we return, they’ve set up an ice fishing hut).
Partway across the dam, at the next trail maker, we turn right. The girls run down the embankment laughing and yelling at me to hurry up. Somehow they make it down the hill without falling on their faces. We continue straight at the junction, then follow the trail to the left. In the snowy meadow, we gaze up at Mount Wintour, named for Captain Charles John Wintour of the Royal Navy who died during the Battle of Jutland in World War 1.
At the halfway point, the trail crosses Spray Lakes Road. The sunny ridge on the other side of the street looks like the perfect place for a snack break (perfect if you have something to sit on like the Thermarest Z Sol foam backpacking mattress), so we enjoy cocoa and cookies there – and the view!
After 250 metres, and a short stop to watch deer nibbling lichens, we arrive at the trailhead to South Lawson Peak. I jokingly ask the kids if they wanna do that hike again and get a resounding “NO!” so we stay on the snowshoe trail which wraps around to the left. We cross the little creek and pop up beside the flume which was built in 1956 to divert Kent Creek into Lower Kananaskis Lake.
From here, it is an easy walk (turn left) – with Spillway Lake on the left and the flume on the right – to Spray Lakes Road. Cross the road, then cross the dam to return to the parking lot.
We really enjoyed this little snowshoe trail and loved how peaceful it was. I’m still amazed we only saw four people all afternoon!
Penstock Loop at a Glance
- Distance: 5 km loop
- Elevation gain: minimal
- Parking: Canyon Day Use
- Trailhead: northeast side of Canyon Day Use parking lot
- Washrooms: Pit toilets at parking lot
Canyon Creek Day Use is the starting point for two more snowshoe trails: Lower Lake and Canyon. You can snowshoe or hike Lower Lake Trail (3.9 km one way) to Marsh Loop (1.3 km loop), or take Canyon Trail (1.7 km one way) to Peter Lougheed Visitor Centre.
Know Before You Go
The trail crosses Spray Lakes Road twice. Use caution crossing the road and keep kids close.
A Kananaskis Conservation Pass is required to park in Kananaskis. Purchase your pass online at https://www.alberta.ca/kananaskis-conservation-pass.aspx.There is no cell phone service in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.
What to Bring
Our Snowshoeing Gear List has everything you need for a fun snowshoe trip including hot drinks and a repair kit.
You should also pack The Ten Essentials and leave a trip plan with someone before you head out (a simple text: “going to Penstock Loop in Peter Lougheed Prov Park today. Planning on being back by 5 pm.” will suffice provided you’ve talked about what to do when you don’t check in.).