The Allstones Lake hike is a challenging trail in David Thompson Country, but the effort required to tackle its steady incline is rewarded with exquisite mountain scenery and panoramic views.
Allstones Lake Trail showcases some of the best features of the Bighorn Backcountry, from forests to Rocky Mountain peaks, before arriving at a small campground on the shore of a picturesque alpine lake.
Whether you’re looking for a gratifying day hike or short overnight trip to a backcountry campground, Allstones Lake Trail is a fantastic option.
Allstones Lake Trail
Distance: 8.1 km
Difficulty: Hard (with some moderate sections)
Elevation Gain: 605 m
Surface: Dirt and rock
Trail Type: Out and Back
Time: 4- 5 hours (at a moderate pace with breaks, plan roughly 2.5 hrs to hike up to the lake and 1.5 hours to return)
Trailhead: Beside Highway 11 (David Thompson Highway) about 33 km southwest of Nordegg. The Allstones Lake Staging Area/parking lot is on the east side of the highway just before the Abraham Cove campsite and the trailhead is directly across on the other side of the highway.
There’s no warming up to this hike as from step one you’ll begin a heart-pumping 3 km climb through a forest and on to a scenic slope-side trail.
The hike to Allstones Lake starts on an obvious path leading up from the highway to a sign marking the official trailhead. At this point you’ll enter into a forest, traversing a dirt path with plenty of protruding roots that serve as natural steps in places.
Quiet and shady under towering trees, there’s not much to look at but plants until you get about 2 km into the hike.
The first notable landmark on the trail is a small wooden bridge crossing over a stream, a little over 1 km into the hike. It’s a nice place to rest before continuing the ascent to more impressive scenery.
The constant climb can be monotonous and tiresome, but that first glimpse of the mountains through the trees is a great motivator and sign of what’s to come.
Around the 2 km mark the path rises out of the forest and arrives at a pair of red chairs perfect for enjoying the view of Abraham Lake and the surrounding mountains. The chairs also mark the halfway point and start of the most beautiful section of Allstones Lake Trail.
From this point on, the trail is mostly open so you can enjoy stunning views of several Rocky Mountain peaks. Even when the trail re-enters the forest briefly in a few places, you can still see the mountains through breaks in the trees.
After the red chairs the hike continues to climb, the trail surface becomes more rocky and loose in places, and the views keep getting better and better. This part of the journey is just as good as the destination and there are several wonderful photographic opportunities.
Eventually the trail narrows and follows along the side of a slope, bringing you right into the heart of some gorgeous alpine scenery.
As the hike continues across more level ground, it’s a relief to no longer have to work so hard for the views. The panorama of rocky peaks and evergreen forest makes it easy to forget the arduous journey to get to this point.
Soon after the trail enters back into the forest, you’ll come to a junction where it’s not necessarily obvious which way you should go.
To get to the south end of Allstones Lake, you’ll need to go left. At the time of this writing there was an arrow made out of rocks on the trail and a small bit of pink flagging tape on a tree branch indicating the route. If you go straight on the less travelled trail you will reach the north end of Allstones Lake and going right will take you up to Allstones Ridge.
Going left, you’ll be hiking downhill on a treed path and it won’t be long until you reach the backcountry campground and Allstones Lake at 1,899 m.
This small alpine lake is a wonderful place to kick back and relax with a picnic, especially if there’s no one else around.
Sitting on the lakeshore, the only sounds you can hear are the breeze blowing across the mountain faces and water gently lapping on the shoreline.
With such a calming and serene atmosphere there’s no rush to hike back to the trailhead.
Instead, you could take some time to explore along the lake by walking the narrow trail that follows part of the shoreline. This will give you some different vantage points for admiring Allstones Lake and the mountains that overlook it.
Before leaving the lake, if you need to use the “facilities” there is an outdoor toilet a short distance away from the camping area. There’s not much privacy though!
The return hike is on the same trail you came in on but since it’ll be almost all downhill, it should take you significantly less time than on the way up. Unless of course you stop often for pictures- the scenery is just as mesmerizing on the way out as the way in!
Review of the Allstones Lake Hike
The Allstones hike is an excellent choice if you’re looking to get a good workout while hiking among some pristine alpine scenery.
The main challenge is the steady incline, but some people may find the first half of the hike a bit boring since it’s all in the trees. However, it’s worth the grind because once you reach higher elevations and the views open up, it’s beauty all around. The only thing this hike lacks is unobstructed, sweeping views of Abraham Lake (you can get that on the nearby, but more difficult, Vision Quest Hike).
Even though there are no directional signs along the route, the trail to Allstones Lake is easy to follow. The trail is moderately trafficked, busier on summer weekends, but still not as busy as the easier hikes near Nordegg. You’ll likely see some other hikers, but still get to enjoy a decent amount of alone time on the trail.
If you appreciate the forest, love being surrounded by mountains, and long for some quiet time at a lake, then the Allstones Lake hike is highly recommended.
Pictures of the Allstones Lake Hike
Here are a few more pictures of the hike to Allstones Lake.
Tips for Hiking Allstones Lake Trail
Location: Allstones Lake is located in Clearwater County in west central Alberta. The Allstones Lake staging area is about 33 km southwest of Nordegg beside Abraham Lake.
Getting to the Allstones Lake Trailhead: If coming from Edmonton, Calgary, or Red Deer, you will pass through Rocky Mountain House and take Highway 11 (the David Thompson Highway) directly to the Allstones Lake Staging Area. The parking lot is on the east side of the highway beside Abraham Lake and across from the Abraham Cove Campsite. The trailhead is on the other side of the highway.
- To make sure you don’t miss it, put “Allstones Lake Staging Area” into Google Maps for directions.
- If the parking lot is full, you’ll see cars parked on the grass at the entrance, in ditches, and along the side of the highway.
Best Time to Hike Allstones Lake Trail: The Allstones Lake hike is best done between May and October.
- The trail can get busy on sunny summer weekends, so for the best experience hike it on a weekday.
Facilities: At the staging area there is an outhouse (downhill from the parking lot, not visible from the road) and an information board where you can pick up a simple map of Allstones Lake Trail. At Allstones Lake there is a primitive outdoor toilet, lacking privacy, near the camping area.
Visitor Guidelines and Safety: This trail is in bear country so bring bear spray, make noise while hiking, and educate yourself on what to do if you encounter one.
- There are areas of cell service on the first part of the trail, but it’s best to download an offline map from a hiking app ahead of time.
- Leave no trace by packing out all your garbage
What to Bring: Hiking poles and sturdy, supportive hiking shoes are recommended because of the trail’s steepness and uneven terrain.
- Bring a water filter so you can fill up your bottle at the lake.
- Bring a lunch to enjoy on the lakeshore.
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