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Kinglet Lake Hike- David Thompson Country

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Day hikers, backcountry campers, and fishermen will all find something to enjoy on the Kinglet Lake hike near Nordegg. 

The final destination is a peaceful lake where you can savour a picnic lunch, set up camp for the night, and even try your luck at catching some trout from the cool, clear water.

Kinglet Lake and Whirlpool Ridge, the final destination of the Kinglet Lake hike.

While Kinglet Lake and the rocky ridge that frame it are the highlight of this hike, the journey there is just as beautiful. Forests, valleys, peaks, ridges, and even hoodoos are there for your viewing pleasure during the steep hike to Kinglet Lake.

Trees reflecting in Kinglet Lake.

Kinglet Lake Hike

Distance: 10.5 km round trip

Difficulty: Hard

Elevation Gain: 756 m

Surface: Areas of packed dirt with exposed rock, areas of loose dirt and rock

Trail Type: Out and back

Time: 3.5- 4.5 hours (not including time at the lake)

Trailhead: At an unnamed creek about 3 km south of the Siffleur Falls staging area parking lot, on Highway 11.

Track log/map of Kinglet Lake Trail

The Kinglet Lake hike begins from an unnamed creek beside a small, dirt parking lot next to the David Thompson Highway.

Kinglet Lake staging area beside the David Thompson Highway.

After parking your vehicle, head to the trailhead on the right hand side of the creek. It’s marked with a small sign on the fencepost. This is also the same trailhead for the Tuff Puff hike, but that’s not mentioned on the sign.

Sign at the Kinglet Lake trailhead.

Kinglet Lake Trail starts as a wide track that gradually gains a bit of elevation as it follows beside the creek and into an open forest. A short while later the trail narrows and veers left to proceed across a grassy slope. The creek will still be on your left, but is further down the hill and mostly hidden by trees.

Kinglet Lake trailhead.
Kinglet Lake trail cutting across a slope.

Continue straight across the slope, ignoring any side trails that have been blocked off by logs. 

Next, the trail turns right at the base of a slope then makes its way through an area of trees. This is where Kinglet Lake Trail begins its steep, unrelenting ascent to a ridge. 

Steep section of Kinglet Lake Trail.
Ascending on the Kinglet Lake hike.

Beyond the first forested section at the start of the climb, there’s no tree cover to shield you from the hot sun. Since the slope is so open, on a clear day there are great views of the North Saskatchewan River and its surrounding mountains, as well as Whirlpool Ridge across the valley to the west.

Looking back at the North Saskatchewan River Valley from Kinglet Lake Trail.
Wildfire smoke conceals some of the view but you can still tell it’s beautiful
Mountain view from the trail.

Once you reach the top of the ridge, the trail levels out and crosses a dry, grassy area. To your left there’s a wide, unobstructed view of Whirlpool Ridge and the forested valley at its base. The beautiful scenery is energizing and provides the motivation needed to tackle the second pitch later in the hike.

Flat part of the Kinglet Lake Trail with views of mountains across the valley.
Would be stunning on a day without smoke in the air

Further along the ridge the trail passes by a rock outcrop covered in orange lichen. Soon after there’s a fork in the trail marked by a signpost indicating the directions to Kinglet Lake and Tuff Puff. Keep left to go to Kinglet Lake.

Signpost at the junction of Kinglet Lake Trail and Tuff Puff Trail.

At this point the trail begins a gentle descent through an open meadow. After the meadow the path passes through a small area of trees, then exits onto a terrace above the stream. 

Kinglet Lake Trail passing through a meadow with mountain views.
Narrow trail in forest.

The narrow trail proceeds on flat land across the slope, sandwiched between trees on one side and a steep hill on the other. Whirlpool Ridge can still be seen on the left. Every so often you’ll notice a tree with an arrow nailed to it marking the way to Kinglet Lake.

Trail above a steep hill.
Trail marker on a tree.

Eventually the trail enters into the forest again, then drops down to the creek where you will have to cross the water. There may be some logs forming a makeshift bridge to assist with the crossing, but if not the creek isn’t wide or deep so you can easily get across.

Logs forming a makeshift bridge across a stream.

After the creek there’s more uphill hiking through the trees until you reach a group of rugged hoodoos at the edge of the forest. This is a nice place to rest before embarking on the second big climb of the Kinglet Lake hike.

Hoodoos beside Kinglet Lake Trail.
Tall hoodoo on the slope of the valley.

The next segment of Kinglet Lake Trail is another lengthy steep section along the top of the valley. The trail doesn’t get too close to the rocky cliff edge, but some people who are afraid of heights may still feel a little uneasy. You’ll want to take your time coming down this section on the return hike because the loose dirt and rock can be slippery.

Trail going uphill beside the valley's edge.
Looking down into the valley.

Nearing the top of the hill, the trail moves away from the valley’s edge and pops back into the forest. You’ll later come to an unmarked intersection. If you go left there’s a viewpoint and random campsite a few metres away. Going right will take you to Kinglet Lake.

Narrow trail in the forest.
Go right into the forest to get to the lake

After you turn right at the intersection, the trail goes through an area of trees, then a small open patch before working its way through a dense forest on the final approach to Kinglet Lake.

Trail heading towards the forest.

You’ll know you’re almost at the lake when you see a sign for the backcountry toilet. After that you’ll soon arrive at the misspelled signpost for Kinglet Lake. 

Signpost at Kinglet Lake.

At the post you’ll see two trails. Both lead to the lake but going left will take you to more campsites. If you go right there’s a lovely spot to sit and have lunch on the lakeshore.

Log benches and a stone campfire ring beside Kinglet Lake.

From the shoreline you get a fantastic view of Whirlpool Ridge, which frames much of the lake. Kinglet Lake is so clear that you may even see some fish swimming and jumping in the water. 

Kinglet Lake and Whirlpool Ridge.

Kinglet Lake is home to cutthroat trout, a type of fish that is stocked in high elevation lakes because they need cold, clean water to thrive. Since Kinglet Lake sits at an elevation of about 2120 m and has very clear water, it’s the perfect habitat for cutthroat trout. According to the David Thompson Highway Hiking Guide, golden trout were also introduced to Kinglet Lake.

Kinglet Lake with a forest and a mountain in the background.

Once you’re done enjoying the scenery at Kinglet Lake, head back to the trailhead on the same path you came in on. The return hike is much faster because it’s mostly downhill (in some cases it may take half the time). You just need to be careful of the loose dirt and rock because it’s a slipping hazard.

Steep trail going uphill in an open forest.

Review of the Kinglet Lake Hike

Like a lot of the hikes near Nordegg, Kinglet Lake trail has some challenges due to its elevation, but those difficulties are rewarded with beautiful views. 

Hoodoo in the valley with a mountain in the background.

While the scenic variety is good motivation to keep going, it’s also nice to know that when you need a break, there’s plenty of pretty landscapes to enjoy while you catch your breath and rest your legs.

Flat part of Kinglet Lake Trail.

Another great thing about the Kinglet Lake hike is that the trail is not as popular as others in the area. If you hike it on a weekday, there’s a good chance you’ll have the lake all to yourself.

Mountain overlooking Kinglet Lake.

One downside of this hike is that the steep and steady inclines slow your pace and test your endurance. The loose dirt can be problematic too. If you’re not paying attention during the descent, you might end up slipping and skidding down the trail. 

Trail weaving up into an open forest.

Tips for Hiking Kinglet Lake Trail

Location: Kinglet Lake is located in Clearwater County in west central Alberta. The trailhead is at a small parking lot beside the David Thompson Highway (Hwy 11) about 66 km southwest of Nordegg and 18 km east of Banff National Park, near the south end of Abraham Lake.

Getting to Kinglet Lake Trailhead:  If coming from Edmonton or Red Deer, you will pass through Rocky Mountain House and take Highway 11 (the David Thompson Highway) directly to the trailhead.

  • If coming from Calgary, take Highway 1 through Banff, continue past Lake Louise on the Icefields Parkway, then turn onto Highway 11 at Saskatchewan River Crossing. Follow this to the trailhead.
  • Put “Kinglet Lake Trailhead” into Google Maps for precise directions. There is no sign on the road marking the Kinglet Lake staging area, only a small sign posted on a fence at the trailhead. 

Best Time to Hike Kinglet Lake Trail: The Kinglet Lake hike is best done in the summer and early fall (July through September). It’s more comfortable to hike on an overcast day because there’s large sections of the hike without shade.

Facilities: None at the staging area, but there is a backcountry toilet near the Kinglet Lake campground.

Visitor Guidelines and Safety: This hike is in bear country so bring bear spray and know how to use it.

  • There is no cell service on the trail so 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 are essential for the descent because they take strain off your knees and can help prevent slipping on the loose dirt and rock. Sturdy hiking shoes with good grips or hiking boots with ankle support are recommended.

Fishing at Kinglet Lake: Kinglet Lake is catch and release only (trout limit is 0). The use of bait is not allowed. Consult the Alberta sportfishing regulations for more details

Log benches and fire pit at a Kinglet Lake campsite.
A campsite at Kinglet Lake

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