A Stunning Day over Barrier Lake



Elevation Gain

589 Meters

Avg. Pace

10:35 / km



Cellular Coverage: Full Coverage

Trail Type: Loop

Barrier Lake

The Barrier Lake Run Story

When my friend Janelle messaged and said she was in town for a girls’ weekend but was hoping to hit the trails before driving home Sunday evening, I set out to find a trip that was appropriate for the season and wouldn’t take all day to complete. Barrier Lake seemed like just the ticket. 

It would be on her way home, new to me, not a long affair and by all accounts, some great payoffs. As you can see, Barrier Lake did not disappoint.  Trail friends are the best. Always up for any adventure and always great company. We ended up missing a turn from my originally planned route and added a couple of extra KM’s which was actually quite welcome. 

Barrier Lake Fun Facts

Barrier Lake offers a wealth of interesting details. I always enjoy researching our run locations to provide a bit more context to the area. Here are some fun facts I found on Barrier Lake:

  1. Man-Made Origin: Unlike many natural lakes, Barrier Lake is actually a man-made reservoir, created primarily for hydroelectric power generation on the Kananaskis River. Its dam is situated at the lake’s northern end which is where we parked.

  2. Scenic Location: The lake is nestled within Bow Valley Provincial Park and is flanked by Highway 40 and Mount Baldy on its eastern shore, providing breathtaking views for trail runners.

  3. Recreational Haven: In addition to its hydroelectric role, Barrier Lake is a hub for recreational activities. Hiking paths circle the lake, offering runners diverse terrains and experiences. During winter, these trails become popular for cross-country skiing. For those seeking a longer stay, the Jewell Bay Backcountry Campground is located just 4 km from the dam.

  4. Film Fame: Adding a touch of Hollywood to its story, Barrier Lake was featured in the 2003 film “X2: X-Men United” as a stand-in for Alkali Lake, and in the CBC’s “Heartland” (2011) as Eagle Lake

Getting There

The trail head is the parking lot at Barrier Lake Dam. It was about 30 minutes from Canmore out highway 1 toward Calgary then South on Hwy 40 at the Kanaskis exit.  Google Maps Directions Here.


There were a lot of runnable sections to this one. It was pretty snowy and a little bit slick. After telling Janelle to make sure she brought her spikes, I left mine in the car. Every run has a lesson and it seems this one I need to learn often. If you have the tools for the job, use them. While the trail was manageable without my spikes it would have been more enjoyable with them. Especially the descent. 

We mostly hiked the climb up but much of the descent was very runnable. I am eager to go back and do this one in the summer time. It was not a long day, nor a huge adventure but perfect to fill a small gap when you want to get an adventure in with limited time. 

As always, ensure you check the weather forcast and dress appropriately. Check out MEC’s guide for layering for the conditions.  Michelle and I do our best to ask “What are the hazards today?” at the beginning of each adventure. This way we make sure we don’t miss anything. I asked Janelle this question before we started and we reviewed today’s hazards.
  • Wildlife (Bears)
  • Weather
  • Rockfall (while we wouldn’t really have any overhead hazards it is good to keep in mind)
  • Terrain (Be cautious to not walk off a cliff )
  • Getting Lost (We weren’t too remote so not really a concern today)
  • Injury
  • Let me know what we missed in the comments

As I mentioned, shoulder season is always a good time to bring your spikes. Even when trails look bare and dry at the trailhead you never know what you might find at elevation. 

Bear Spray is always requisite gear regardless of the season. 

I usually bring an emergency bivvy just in case and of course make sure to have enough food and water. Even though this one is not super remote you never know how long you might end up stuck on the trail. 

I also am getting much better at loading up my planned route onto my GaiGPS on my phone as well as having the route on my watch. I am currently running with the Fenix 5x. That said we still missed a turn on this adventure but having Gaia on my phone allowed us to see where the trails could lead back to the car. In the end we added a very pleasant couple of kilometers so no complaints here. 


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