Where should you go with active kids who love to run and climb and jump? Horseshoe Lake. This is our 7-year-old’s absolute favourite spot in Jasper National Park. The lake and trail are close to the parking lot, and full of rocks and boulders, questionable bridges and stairs, a cave, cliffs, and lots of roots and fallen trees to climb over. As adults, it is a nice short walk and a fun challenge to climb and jump. Also, the lake is a beautiful shade of turquoise which, on a calm, bright day, reflects the surrounding cliffs and gives a clear view down into the rocky depths.
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This was our destination today. I wore the baby in the Ergo carrier on my back and my 7 year old wore our backpack with water, emergency kit, and bear spray.
Leaving the parking lot you quickly come to a sign reminding visitors that there are no lifeguards on duty, and that alcohol and bonfires are prohibited. Depending on when you might visit this lake, you may witness cliff jumping and swimming. The lake is cold, but surprisingly inviting on a hot day. If you do decide to swim please be cautious of hidden rocks under the surface. Also, jumping from high distances can cause serious injury. Every summer there are numerous people hurt while cliff jumping here.
Just a short distance into the trail, there is an option to go left or straight. Go straight as following the trail straight brings you around the edge of the water and to the beginning of the walking trail loop. Going either way at this point is fine. From here finding the trail can be difficult at times, but just keep mindful of where you are walking and be on the lookout for well worn tracks. When the trail is not crossing large pieces of rock, it is packed dirt and gravel.
When we visit Horseshoe lake, we let our kids take time exploring. Our children are now at an age where we trust them to stay in the safe areas and away from the high rock ledges. However, use your judgement with your own children. This is not a safe area for toddlers to run around. Not only are there many rocks to climb and fall from, the water is always close by.
Usually this little walk takes us about an hour. On a warm sunny day it would be a lovely spot for a picnic lunch. I have also seen people bring rafts to float around the lake on. Because the initial walk from the parking lot to the water is not far, getting a small boat into the lake would be relatively easy.
Horseshoe Lake, Jasper National Park, Canada
Distance: just over one kilometer to do the loop
Time with young children: About 60 – 90 minutes for the loop
Trailhead: The parking lot is on the west side of the Icefields Parkway, just north of Athabasca Falls. There are no highway signs identifying this spot. On hot days the parking lot can be full.
Description: Packed dirt and gravel. The path climbs over many rocks and fallen trees. It can be difficult to determine where the trail is at times.
This trail is not appropriate for any type of stroller. Young children should be trusted to stay within an adult’s reach.
Amenities: There is an outhouse at the parking lot but no picnic tables. There are many large flat rocks and fallen trees for picnicking along the loop. This is a popular swimming spot.
For more information, visit Jasper National Park website or the visitor center in town and keep safe on the trails.