Home Destinations Widow Maker Trail, Kananaskis

Widow Maker Trail, Kananaskis

by Karen Ung

Widow Maker Trail is a short and scenic trail along the Kananaskis River.

Widow Maker Trail, Kananaskis

If you’re looking for a short and easy trail with shade and shelter from the wind, Widow Maker is a good choice. This rolling, forested trail follows a scenic section of the Kananaskis River known for rapids and whirlpools. In summer, you can watch whitewater rafters, kayakers, and river surfers go over the rapids (some hardy souls play in the rapids at Canoe Meadows in the colder months too).

The trailhead is located just past the gate. Take your first right and continue north to the Kananaskis Visitor Information Centre (1.2 km) or Canoe Meadows (2 km). If you’d like to go down to the river’s edge, there are a few access points with stairs. Stay near the stairs as the water level can rise rapidly (up to 1 metre!) due to the dam upstream!

Widow Maker Trail is named for a rapid that was deadly in the logging days, before the dam was built. Where logs got stuck, at a gap in the rock shelf, many men who tried to clear the logs were swept away in the current. To learn more about logging history in this area, hike the nearby Barrier Lake Forestry Trails and visit the Colonel’s Cabin (access is 2 kilometres down Hwy 40).

We enjoyed this pretty little trail on New Year’s Day. While many hikes in the area were hit with gale-force winds, we enjoyed a peaceful stroll in the woods!

Widow Maker Trail at a Glance

  • Distance (one way): 1.2 km to Kananaskis Visitor Information Centre, 2 km to Canoe Meadows, 2.5 km to end of Canoe Meadows Group Camp.
  • Elevation Gain: 120 metres
  • Nearest washrooms: Pit toilets at Widowmaker Day Use & Canoe Meadows Day Use, flush toilets at Kananaskis Visitor Information Centre
  • Stroller friendly? No, due to stairs.
  • When to go: Year round. Microspikes are recommended when there has been melting and freezing, and snowshoes are recommended after a big dump of snow.

Know Before You Go

DAM UPSTREAM – BEWARE OF RISING WATER LEVELS: While there are a few river access points, don’t plan on having a beach day here. The water level can rapidly rise up to a metre when the dam upstream lets water out. Be aware of rising water levels and be prepared to move to higher ground. Stay near the stairs if you explore the water’s edge. You can also check the dam schedule at the Kananaskis Visitor Information Centre.

Planning a picnic? There are picnic tables at Widow Maker Day Use and a picnic shelter at Canoe Meadows. Since the day use areas get quite busy during paddling season, I recommend doing this trail in shoulder season, or early in the day (before the dam opens and whitewater rafting companies/kayakers arrive). If you’d like to have a fire, go south on Highway 40 to Mount Lorette Ponds Day Use Area.

Widow Maker Trail pinterest pin

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