Chester Sawmill Snowshoe Trails

The Smith-Dorrien area with its ample snowpack has some of the best snowshoe trails in Kananaskis Country with something for everyone. See the Easy and Classic snowshoe trail lists on Trailfinder. Here I am featuring the Chester Sawmill Snowshoe Trails, suggesting four loops varying from the popular 5.1 km Sawmill Loop to a 13.3 km Grand Tour.

Sawmill Snowshoe Loops 5.1 km, 155 m elevation gain
Immediately north of Sawmill parking are parallel trails allowing for three loops of of varying distances. The 5.1 km outer loop is a pleasant snowshoe best done clockwise. The western leg winds up along the open, badly flood-damaged James Walker Creek, scenic in spring when the creek starts to melt out.The return leg, once you have crossed the creek, is in trees all the way back.

Alongside the badly damaged James Walker Creek.

Mount Murray Viewpoint 7.1 km, 260 m elevation gain
Best done clockwise on a sunny day where you can take advantage of the somewhat limited view across the Smith-Dorrien Valley toward Mount Murray. There is talk of opening up an old logging road shown as a dashed line in Trailfinder.

Graupel Loop 7.7 km, 212 m elevation gain
The construction of the High Rockies Trail has created an easy loop from Sawmill trailhead that we have named Graupel Loop. It can be hiked in summer and snowshoed or skied in winter.

Sawmill Grand Tour 13.3 km, 345 m  elevation gain
Starting from Sawmill parking this 13.3 km outer loop (shown as a dashed line on our map) gives you a “grand tour” of the Chester–Sawmill area. It can also be skied on touring skis by those willing to ski on snowshoe tracks and to to break trail if necessary. The trails in this area are not groomed. It can be extended by going all the way to Chester Lake parking, an extra 2.8 km — but why would you want to!

One way Chester to Sawmill
With multiple vehicles you can, of course, snowshoe or ski from Chester to Sawmill (Sawmill is about 75 m lower than Chester parking). The upper, most scenic trail, is Snowdrift at 9.1 km. The lower one Graupel–High Rockies is 7.1 km.

Click on map for larger version.

1 comment… add one
  • Alf Skrastins Dec 28, 2016, 9:00 pm

    With the low snow depths at Peter Lougheed Park, Ribbon Creek, CNC, West Bragg Creek and Sandy McNabb this November and December, and decent snow cover at the Chester-Sawmill trails, it was yet another reminder that some of those trails should be groomed for XC skiing. A grooming pattern such as is being used at Telephone Loop, Mountain Road or Goat Creek, the grooming would have served XC skiers, snowshoers, fat-bikers and winter hikers.

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