Hiking: Watridge Lake and Karst Spring

My foot still isn’t feeling 100% better but my soul needed some outside time this weekend so we headed to the mountains with our friends, their kiddos and all of our dogs for some leisurely hiking. I’d done some research on kid friendly hikes and come across Karst Springs which seemed do-able with a four year old, a new baby and three senior dogs.

The drive to the trail, located on the Smith-Dorrien/Spray Lakes trail at the Mnt. Shark trailhead, takes about 1.5 hours from Calgary. We always forget the the road is in terrible shape and chose to drive south from Canmore along it instead of taking the longer, but smoother route in from Hwy 40. Once at the Mnt Shark parking lot the trail is easy enough to find – just head behind the information signs along the Watridge Lake Trail and follow the wide, gravel path. The trail into the lake is nearly flat and is in the trees so this isn’t a scenic approach but rather an excellent opportunity to look for interesting rocks and walk side by side with a friend you haven’t got to visit with in a while.

Hiking along the Watridge Lake Trail
Hiking along the Watridge Lake Trail
Just one of many dog water options along the trail
Just one of many dog water options along the trail

There are plenty of signs along the trail to let you know that you are headed in the right direction, but never any distances so it might be hard (especially with a 4 year old) to figure out how far you’ve gone. We actually ended up hiking past our destination – the map at the fork in the road at 3. 7 km isn’t clear about which direction to head to Watridge Lake (you should turn left here, on the Karst Trail) so we continued on for an extra 2 km to a beautiful river where we ate lunch before turning back.

Our lunch spot
Our lunch spot
Some large rocks were dropped off the bridge
Some large rocks were dropped off the bridge into this river after we’d eaten

On the return journey we took the turn for the Karst Trail and finally ended up on the shores of Watridge Lake.

Watridge Lake
Watridge Lake

From there it is about 500 m along a wooden boardwalk and then a rooted trail to Karst Springs. The approach to the spring’s source is beautiful – green mossy rocks, rushing water and tall trees. Definitely worth the walk in (and still hikable by all of our party).

Hiking up to Karst Springs
Hiking up to Karst Springs

watridge lake 8

The trail takes you to the top of the waterfalls where the spring just comes out of the rock wall (yay for geology!). There is a viewing platform and an interpretive sign. The dog was willing to hike this far but wouldn’t go out on the platform.

The source
The source
The view from the top of Karst Springs
The view from the top of Karst Springs

The return journey took longer than the approach – I think everyone was getting tired – but we managed to spend a full day (about 5.5 hours) in the mountains so I was happy. The weather was cool (10 C) and cloudy but it didn’t really detract from the hike at all. Definitely a dog friendly hike – lots of water along the trail, no tricky technical sections or really rock bits – and kid friendly with some carrying. I’m going to keep this one on my list for a return visit when we need another easy day of mountain time.

Fresh snow on the mountains on our way out
Fresh snow on the mountains on our way out

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