Allison Creek Falls is a fun hike on a hot day with lake and waterfall views, and a few (shallow) creek crossings. Located near Coleman, Alberta.
Allison Creek Falls is a beautiful, cascading waterfall only 1.3 kilometres from Chinook Lake. As we walk around the east side of the lake, a man teaches his son to fish, and paddlers launch kayaks in the calm water. A hillside viewpoint offers a picture-perfect view of the lake, and going further, a rope swing promises fun on a hot day.
It’s still cool out, so we continue across the dam and take an immediate right on the wide, old road. The turnoff after the ridge comes up quickly, taking us into the forest at left. After 200 metres, we go left at the bridge then take the little path to the right of the stairs.
From here, the trail goes along the left side of Allison Creek. Squirrels chitter at us from the trees and bees buzz in the abundant wildflowers. The vegetation is lush, and there aren’t many hikers first thing in the morning, so we sing and holler “Yo Bear!” often.
When the trail gets uncomfortably narrow due to erosion, we drop down to the creek and walk in the water for a few metres (it’s much safer to stay low!). After a couple shallow creek crossings, we arrive at Allison Creek Falls. Here, the creek tumbles down rock ledges through a narrow canyon, and the top of Crowsnest Mountain peeks through the trees. The water is crystal clear – and cold! – so if you have a filter, you may want to refill your water bottle here. It’s beautiful, but there isn’t much space to sit by the falls, so go early to have the place to yourself, and plan to picnic back at the lake.
You can easily do this hike on your way to/from BC, but we recommend camping at Chinook Lake so you can enjoy all the area has to offer; more on that below!
Disclosure: As an Alberta Parks Ambassador, I received free camping in the park for review purposes, but all words and opinions are my own.
Like the creek, lake (Chinook Lake is also known as Allison Lake), nearby peak, and road, Allison Creek Falls are named for Douglas Allison, an early settler in Crowsnest Pass. Allison served as a Mountie for three years and owned “a fine ranch… with 700 or 800 horses, and an equal number of cattle,” before moving to Coleman in 1891. (“Came to Alberta In The Very Early Days”, Lethbridge Daily Herald, August 6, 1912, p. 1) After serving in the Boer War and receiving a South African War Medal, he returned to ranching and also apprenticed as a printer. (“Allison Peak”, Peaks & Streams, August 26, 2017)
Allison Creek Falls Trail at a Glance
- Distance: 2.6 km round trip
- Elevation Gain: 50 m
- Difficulty: Easy, but creek crossings are required so wear proper footwear so you don’t slip!
- Parking: Chinook Lake Day Use Area
- Trailhead: East side of the lake
Hike around the right (east) side of Chinook Lake and cross the dam. This 300-metre section is quick, easy, and scenic offering views of the lake and peaks beyond. Take your first right after the dam, on an old road. In winter, this trail is marked with a “Rainbow Run” cross country ski trail, but in summer there is no signage. In about 200 metres, you’ll see a small trail going into the trees at left. If there’s a snowshoe sign, you’re in the right place. After another 200 metres, you’ll come to a bridge. Don’t cross!! Turn left, and follow the path along the creek (the path is to the right of the stairs).
Continue upstream for 600 metres, to the falls. Where the trail is washed out, walk in the creek a bit until the trail resumes. Later, you’ll have to cross a couple times, but if you cross in the right spots, the water isn’t too deep (was barely above the ankles where we crossed but can be knee-deep in other places) and is so refreshing on a warm day!
Allison Falls cascades from a wooden dam with Crowsnest Mountain in the background. While it’s tempting to climb the rock ledges, we don’t recommend it as they’re very slippery! Return the way you came, then play or picnic at the lake.
Know Before You Go
Chinook Lake Provincial Recreation Area is one of the most popular parks in the Crowsnest Pass area, so arrive early to get parking at the day use area or plan to camp at Chinook Lake for easy access to the lake and trails.
This trail is recommended for summer and fall. Wear water shoes in summer or waterproof hiking boots in fall. Avoid spring run-off when water levels are high. It’s possible to access this trail via Rainbow Run Cross Country Ski Trail in the winter, but note that dogs aren’t permitted on the ski trails.
Dogs must be kept on leashes in provincial parks and recreation areas.
Allison Creek Falls are located near Chinook Lake, 15 minutes northwest of the town of Coleman, Alberta.
Directions from Coleman: Head west on Highway 3, turn right on Allison Creek Road. Follow the signs to Chinook Lake Provincial Recreation Area, going left at the fork (at the cattle guard), and going left at the fish hatchery.
Note: Allison Creek is a gravel road. Go slowly on the hill down to the lake.
Where to Stay
Chinook Lake Provincial Recreation Area Campground has 92 unserviced, reservable sites including a few coveted lakeside sites in Loop C. If you’d like to avoid generator noise, Sites A80-A99 are for tents only.
Campground amenities include pit toilets, a water pump (water NOT tested so bring your own drinking water), and picnic shelter. Bring your own drinking water and firewood.
Things to do: Cool off in the clean, clear water of Chinook Lake while enjoying the view of Crowsnest Mountain; go for a paddle; or lounge on a floatie. There’s a small gravel beach and shaded spots around the lake where you can put some camp chairs. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout, so there’s great trout fishing here! There’s also a pretty lakeside trail and network of trails on the southwest side of the lake.
What to Bring
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You should also carry The Ten Essentials including: water, extra food, extra clothes, a headlamp, a 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.
In winter conditions, traction devices such as Kahtoola Microspikes (Available from Amazon, MEC, and Breathe Outdoors), or Hillsound Trail Crampons (Available at Amazon, Hillsound, and Sport Chek) are recommended.