22 BEAUTIFUL Kananaskis Hikes To Tackle (2024)

Our past summers have been filled with a plethora of spectacular Kananaskis hikes. Every day we can, we leave our home in Canmore and explore the fantastic provincial park in our backyard. Many beautiful memories have been made around Kananaskis Country.

I want to share our favorite Kananaskis hikes from our summers in the Canadian Rockies. We will continue to update this list yearly as we get out more. Here are the best hikes in Kananaskis, in no particular order. See the detailed post mentioned for more information on the hikes and trails.


A Pass is Needed to Hike in Kananaskis

Visitors are required to hold a Kananaskis Conservation Pass, which covers Kananaskis and the Bow Valley Corridor. This pass is separate from the National Parks Pass needed to visit Banff and the other national parks. Passes may be purchased online and are attached to a license plate number. Requirements are around vehicles and parking, not the individual. This includes parking at the Canmore Nordic Center or Grassi Lakes.

Pass Prices

  • Daily Pass: $15 (registers one vehicle)
  • Annual Pass: $90 (registers two cars)

A Guide to Understanding the Kananaskis Conservation Pass


When Is The Best Time To Hike In Kananaskis?

The best time to go hiking in Kananaskis is July and August. During these months, most of the snow on high-elevation hikes in the area has disappeared. Of course, every season is different. The snow disappears early in some years; in others, it holds until the last week of summer. However, the “Front Range” is the driest section of the Canadian Rockies.

Snow is only a factor on the most prominent mountain summits like Mount Sarrail or Mist Mountain. It’s best to aim for these mountains late in the summer. That said, the hiking season in Kananaskis *officially* starts in mid-May (for us, anyway), as this is when the ski season ends, and our brains immediately switch to hiking and biking.

In May, you’ll be able to get out on lower elevation Kananaskis hikes like the Prairie View Trail in Kananaskis without the risk of snow. As the summer progresses, your choice of hikes will expand, and you can work your way up to the higher elevation hikes. The Tent Ridge or Rimwall Summit hikes are a great option by early June.

Access is limited to a few hikes that are off the section of Highway 40, known as Highwood Pass. When the pass opens around mid-June, it supplies access to these trails and peaks, some of the most popular in Kananaskis, such as Mist Mountain, Arethusa Cirque, and Pocatera Ridge.

The hiking season typically lasts well into September (larch season!) and the first few weeks of October, depending on the year. This is not to say that you cannot hike in the winter because there are plenty of fun trails. You’ll just have to hike with winter conditions and temperatures in mind, and of course, micro spikes and hiking poles never hurt. See some of our favorite winter hiking trails in Kananaskis.


The Best Kananaskis Hikes (Our Favorite Trails!)


Smutwood Peak

The View From The Summit Of Smutwood Peak — Mount Birdwood and Two Blue Alpine Lakes
  • Length: 17.9km (11.1 miles)
  • Duration: 5 – 9 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 961m
  • Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult, mainly towards the summit.
  • Scrambling Involved: Mild scrambling at the very end towards the summit.
  • Best Time To Go: Late June – First Snowfall
  • Parking Just Past Mt Engadine Lodge along Mt. Shark Rd.

Smutwood Peak is one of our favorites and possibly one of the best hikes in the Province. The views from the summit of the unofficial peak are phenomenal. It’s not just the summit views; the hike offers plenty of nice views as it winds along a creekside meadow and climbs a pass. It’s best done in a group as it is a common grizzly habitat. We even had one split our group in half.

Kananaskis Hikes - Smutwood Peak Hike
Getting the lake views at the saddle

The first hour or so of this Kananaskis hike is straightforward, with no elevation gain. You’ll pass an incredible waterfall, and once you get into the alpine meadow, the views are amazing. Your first taste of steepness is going into Smuts Pass, where it’s relentless uphill for 2 km or so but then lightens up again as you first lay your eyes on Mount Birdwood.

Smutwood Peak in Kananaskis

It’s a popular trail, but most hikers top at the pass or saddle and enjoy the two small lakes. The route from the saddle of Mount Birdwood (the most notable peak in the photos) up to the top of Smutwood Peak looks daunting, but it’s easier and shorter than it seems.

The view from the false summit of Birdwood is great, but continue on to the true summit for 360 views. This is where the route gets a bit scrambly and slightly exposed. A fall here certainly wouldn’t be good, but it’s not certain death. Smutwood Peak took our group 6 hours with a 45-minute summit break. I would readily do it again!

How to: Hike Smutwood Peak in Kananaskis

Tent Ridge

Tent Ridge at Sunset in Kananaskis
Tent Ridge Before Sunset
  • Length: 10.6km (6.6 miles)
  • Duration: 3-6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 750m (2460ft)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: June – October
  • Scrambling Involved: Two short sections. Make the loop clockwise so you are scrambling up these sections instead of down.
  • Parking: There’s trail parking across the street from one of the trailheads. From the parking area, go LEFT to start this hike clockwise.

Tent Horseshoe Ridge is a beautiful loop trail just an hour’s drive from Canmore. It’s possibly the most popular hike among locals because of its sweeping views over the Spray Valley. It also helps that it’s a reasonable loop trail that can be done in a half-day. It’s around 10km and takes the average hiker four to five hours to complete, with plenty of time for photo stops.

A few steep pitches will have you panting, but it’s rated as hard because of the scramble up (or down, depending on which way you go) from the ridge. We saw all ages and skill levels on the trail, and the scramble was slightly exposed in two sections but not too sketchy.

Natasha Ascending The Short Tent Ridge Scramble Section
The “Scramble” Along Tent Ride

This trail is best between June and October, though I’ve seen photos in the winter, and the images are gorgeous. If you do a shoulder-season hike, ensure you have gaiters, crampons, and poles. You should also have proper Avalanche training; deaths have occurred back here due to avalanche terrain. We hiked this trail on Canada Day weekend (July 1st). There were a few spots with slushy snow, but it was a dry trail for the most part.

How to Hike Tent Ridge Horseshoe in Kananaskis

East End of Rundle (EEOR)

Cameron Holds The Canada Flag On The Summit Of EORR
At the summit of EEOR
  • Length: 5.8km
  • Duration: 3-5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 870m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Scrambling Involved: Towards the top, you’ll be using your hands. Gloves will come in handy.
  • Best Time To Go: May – November
  • Where to Park for This Kananaskis Hike: Whiteman’s Pond Dam. You can’t miss the cars.

East End of Rundle is a classic summit near Canmore. It’s also one of the best effort vs. reward in all regions, with breathtaking views of Spray Valley, Canmore, and Ha Ling Peak in a brief time. Its proximity to downtown Canmore and relative ease means it’s a popular hike, especially on the weekends. Hikers get views down the Spray Valley to the East, Ha Ling Peak, and Mount Lawrence Grassi.

Natasha Looks Over Whiteman's Pond From East End Of Rundle
The viewpoint over Whiteman’s Pond

However, just because East End of Rundle (or EEOR, or “Eeyore” as locals call it) is close to town doesn’t mean it’s an easy climb up to the summit. The ascent makes several switchbacks, followed by a few rocky sections, followed by relentless scree, before several rocky sections that may require a handhold. It’s nothing complicated, and any hiker should handle the terrain, but it is steep all the way to the summit.

The Trail And Vista From The East End Of Rundle

The trail to the peak is relatively easy to follow, with small pieces of tape, painted rocks, and cairns. However, getting off trail is easy if you stop paying attention—especially on the way down. Goats love the area, and there are a ton of trails that lead off to the edge of cliffs.

The climb to the summit is considered a scramble as the last section of the trail requires ascending a small headwall. It involves using hands, and we recommend a helmet on busy summer days due to the risk of rockfall from parties above. After the scramble and you’ve reached the summit, enjoy the views of Canmore!

How to climb the East End of Rundle


Read’s Tower

Natasha Hiking up Read's Tower
  • Length: 6.8km
  • Duration: 3-5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 855m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Scrambling Involved: No
  • Best Time To Go: April – October
  • Parking: Across the street from the trailhead. Parking for Sparrowhawk.

Read’s Tower is perfect for those who want fantastic views over Spray Lakes but don’t want to put in a whole day’s effort to get up. This is less than a 4-hour round trip hike, but you can keep going past to scramble Mount Sparrowhawk for a full day. Granted, that’s a big mountain and a much larger endeavor.

Hiking Read's Tower

The first hour or so of Read’s Tower winds through the forest. Get used to going uphill, as it never lets up once you start. Fight the rock slide and slabs uphill until it opens up. You’ll get a great view of Mount Sparrowhawk and Reads Tower from there. The trail forks for the summit of Read’s Tower or Mount Sparrowhawk. The latter is a 3000-meter mountain with a much larger objective and involves more scrambling and a full day.

If you choose just Read’s Tower, it’s another 45-minute to an hour scree climb to the summit. Going up the treadmill of scree can be brutal, but the scree run down is fun and quick! Read’s Tower is a rewarding hike with low exposure and minimal scrambling effort. To make it a full day, consider scrambling up the much larger and more challenging Mount Sparrowhawk (1,342 m gain/ 9.2 km)


Windtower

Kananaskis Hikes - sunset on Wind Ridge
  • Length: 9.8 km
  • Duration: 4-6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 898m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Scrambling Involved: No
  • Best Time To Go: May – October
  • Parking: Look for West Wind Pass signs along the Smith Dorrien Highway

Windtower provides views over the Spray Lakes Reservoir, similar to Read’s Tower; with a bit more effort, it offers far better views. The start of the trail follows the same route as West Wind Pass, which is well-trodden and easy to follow. The hike to the pass is a good moderate hike that takes around an hour to reach uphill. It’s perfect for families or those looking for a smaller objective.

Kananaskis Hikes - Sunset on Wind Ridge

From the pass, the climb up to the summit of Windtower takes about another hour. It involves some light scrambling as you negotiate a few cliff bands, but it is very simple and involves a moderate incline to the summit. We recommend you possess good route-finding skills and GPX tracks to ensure you do not stray from the summit. On our hike, we watched two men stray far from the route and miss their summit attempt as they got lost.

Natasha Sits On The Summit Of Windtower

The summit offers wonderful views over Spray Lake, the Bow Valley, and Mount Lougheed. If you fear heights, be mindful of the edge, as it is a sheer cliff on the Bow Valley side. We made it a sunset hike and had an incredible evening on the summit as we descended into the Spray Valley. The descent follows the same route up. The hike took us four hours to complete.

How to Hike Windtower in Kananaskis

Mist Mountain Summit & Hot Spring

Kananaskis Hikes - Mist Mountain Hot Springs
  • Length: 9.8km
  • Duration: 4 – 7 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1,265 meters
  • Scrambling Involved? Yes
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking: Mist Mountain Trailhead

Mist Mountain is one of the tallest mountains in the Kananaskis region and offers a significant objective without any technical mountain climbing. Most people head to Mist Mountain only for the hot springs, a short hike through a valley. However, the summit offers some rewarding views and breaks away from the crowds that only visit the hot springs.

Mist Mountain Scramble
Looking up at Mist Mountain

The hot springs, with their lovely natural setting, are the attraction that draws most hikers. The hike up to the saddle and surrounding meadows is great and worth completing, even if you’re not after the summit. However, the hot springs are a bit of a letdown outside their photogenic location. There’s only enough space for 4-5 people in the hot springs at once, and they are more like lukewarm springs, which are not exactly ideal in the Canadian Rockies.

Kananaskis Hikes - Mist Mountain Scramble

However, for a tough day and a sense of accomplishment, set your goals on summiting Mist Mountain. There are several routes up to the peak of Mist Mountain, with many varying degrees of difficulty. The most straightforward and enjoyable ascent is via the south face and east ridge.

This was our choice, as we decided to skip over the Lipsett Col, which has high exposure levels on loose rock. The views from 3,140 meters are pretty great, too! The technical aspects and short approach make the mountain accessible to many able-bodied hikers, so it’s easy to understand its popularity.

How to Scramble Mist Mountain and Soak in the Hot Springs After


Grizzly Peak

Natasha On The Summit Ridge Of Grizzly Peak
  • Length: 6.8 km
  • Duration: 3-5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 875m
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Hard because of steepness.
  • Scrambling Involved: Scrambling route optional
  • Best Time To Go: May – October
  • Parking: There is no designated parking area for this. Instead, park on the side of the road near Ripple Rock Creek.

Grizzly Peak is an uphill grind all the way up and is not our favorite of these hiking trails. It’s not just a moderate uphill grind, but a steep and loose uphill battle. You are gaining 875 meters in 3.2 km, after all. If it weren’t for the epic views at the summit, I wouldn’t recommend this one as the trail is in very poor condition.

Cameron Walks Along Summit Of Grizzly Peak in Kananaskis

However, once at the peak of Grizzly, you can see endlessly over Kananaskis Valley and even Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes. This hike took us four hours round trip and was perfect for a half-day, regardless of the leg burn. Poles are ideal for the steep downhill climb on loose rock atop packed dirt trails. It would be very easy to slip and slide down the trail.


Opal Ridge

Natasha On The Summit Of Opal Ridge In A Flannel
  • Length: 6.4km
  • Duration: 4-6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1,026 m
  • Difficulty: Hard if you choose mainly scramble route
  • Scrambling Involved: Scrambling route optional
  • Best Time To Go: May- October
  • Parking: Park at the Fortress petrol station.

Opal Ridge South Summit is an enjoyable half-day hike that provides a hiking and an optional scramble section should you want to challenge yourself. There’s nothing death-defying about the scrambling, and it is great for beginners. Similar to many trails the trails spends half of the ascent in the treeeline before pushing through for magnificent views of the valley. It’s a straightforward trail, but it’s easy to get off it and have a “choose your own adventure” day.

Opal Ridge in Kananaskis

Like Grizzly, it’s a steep climb, but the views from the summit are superb. This hike took us four hours round trip, but you can take on all of Opal Ridge for a more challenging day. There’s plenty of opportunity for an extended summit. Once you reach the south summit, you can traverse back to where you reached the ridge and go left to check out the North view just a couple hundred meters up (scrambling involved).

Opal Ridge in Kananaskis

Mount Allan

Natasha Walks Along the Ridge Trail To Summit Of Mount Allan
  • Length: 15.8km
  • Duration: 6-9 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1,485 m
  • Difficulty: Easy, but long
  • Scrambling Involved: No
  • Best Time To Go: June – October
  • Parking: Centennial Ridge trailhead near Nakiska.

With a distance of 15.8 km and an elevation gain of 1,485 meters, Mount Allan is no short hike. It is a great day out with a beautiful summit and no technical scrambling. It’s a steady incline for most of the well-worn and marked path, making it an excellent hike. Mount Allan via Centennial Ridge links Ribbon Creek and Dead Man’s Flats. You can do the entire traverse for a super long day, but it does require two vehicles.

Cameron Looks Out To Canmore From Mount Allan in Kananaskis

The hike from the car park is a steady but easy incline up from the valley and would return the same way. The views start here and never end. Most people stop when they reach the ridge, but it’s worth it to keep pushing and go for the summit of Mount Allan. It’s easy until the final push and well worth the views across Kananaskis and Canmore.

Past the ridge, it’s another 1.5 hours to the true summit. Along the way, you’ll see huge pinnacles that look unworldly. These features make this hike one for the books alone. From here, you can keep going on to Dead Man’s Flats or turn around for an easy and enjoyable hike down. The summit of Mount Allan sits at 2819 meters, making it the highest maintained trail in the Rockies, and it is very well maintained!

How to Hike Mount Allan Near Nakiska

Arethusa Cirque

Natasha hiking Arethusa Cirque in the larch season
  • Length: 5 km
  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 350 m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Scrambling Involved: No
  • Best Time To Go: Larch Season
  • Parking: Arethusa Cirque Trailhead off HWY 40

Arethusa Cirque is a well-known family-friendly hike in Kananaskis, and honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from this one. Boy, was I wrong about my perceptions of this beautiful hike. The hike starts at Highwood Pass and climbs up to the cirque before circumnavigating below the cliff walls. It moves just above the treeline and offers outstanding views along most of the trail.

It’s exceptional in late September when the larches turn golden. I would suggest taking this loop trail clockwise. One very steep and loose section is better to ascend than descend – especially with children or older hikers.

How to Hike Arethusa Cirque

Wasootch Ridge

Natasha hiking on Wasootch Ridge with Teressa Nguyen
  • Length: 15.4km
  • Duration: 5-10 hours. Depends on where you want to stop.
  • Elevation Gain: 1,451m
  • Difficulty: Moderate. Hard if you choose the scramble.
  • Scrambling Involved: Scramble optional
  • Best Time To Go: May – October
  • Parking: Parking area for Wasootch Creek Trail and Porcupine Trail.

Wasootch Ridge is a popular hike due to it’s exceptional views. The hike is straightforward to follow and gains quick elevation, then travels along a ridge that delivers spectacular views for hours. The roadway slowly evaporates from view on the ridge before a challenging scramble to the true peak. The scramble can be avoided, and the trail is wide enough for the first 5km with no exposure. The result is an easy dog/kid-friendly hike that doesn’t need to be completed to enjoy, as the views are great early on the trail.

Wasootch Ridge starts hard at the beginning with a leg-burning climb right out of the parking lot. The trail through the woods is not technical, with plenty of traction on dirt. Once you come out of the forest, which takes twenty to thirty minutes, you’ll be treated to some fantastic views of Barrier Lake to the North and Nakiska to the South.

Natasha Sits On A Peak Along Wasootch Ridge

The hike continues along the ridge for several kilometers, where you’ll climb up and down a series of five peaks. Towards the final and tallest peak, the ridge turns into a scramble. The scramble is complex, with several moves that are high exposure. Most hikers either turn around before this point or at the beginning of the scramble.

How to Hike Wasootch Ridge

Porcupine Ridge

Hiker Along The Summit Of Porcupine Ridge
  • Length: 9 km
  • Duration: 2-4 hours. Depends on where you want to stop.
  • Elevation Gain: 764m
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Scrambling Involved: Scramble optional
  • Best Time To Go: May – October
  • Parking: There’s a parking area near the road at Porcupine Creek

Literally right across the valley from Wasootch Ridge is Porcupine Ridge and it’s a very similar hike. It starts off steep initially, and as you get on the ridge, you walk the ridge most of the way until the summit, with stunning views the entire time. The main difference here is the beginning. Instead of starting straight off like Wasootch, you must navigate your way along Porcupine Creek, crossing a few times before you begin to ascend towards the ridge.

Hiker And Small Dog Walk Along Porcupine Ridge

The ascent is pretty easy to the ridge. Once to the ridge, you can stop and enjoy the views. We saw many parties doing this. However, I highly recommend continuing to the true summit (we didn’t see many others doing this). The views get better and better, and the crowds clear out. If you choose to push on, there is a short, easy scramble section to navigate before getting to the end, marked by a cairn.


Carnarvon Lake

Cameron And Natasha Stand Over Carnarvon Lake
  • Length: 20.4km
  • Duration: 4 – 9 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 857 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate because of length and creek crossing and chain section.
  • Scrambling Involved? Easy scrambling with chain assistance.
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking: Cat Creek Day Use Parking

Carnarvon Lake has been making the rounds on social media due the location of the lake nestled between two mountains. The lake is outside of Kananaskis and on crown land in the foothills, meaning you can wild camp here if you want. It’s a particularly popular spot on the weekends and can attract a crowd.

From the start of the trailhead it’s 10km to the lake with 850 meters of elevation gain. There are few views, but it’s exceptionally dull until about the 8 km section. The good news is you can bike the first section of the hike. Bring a bike chain if that’s your plan and attach to a tree. It makes for a quick day and a much more thrilling time back to the trailhead.

From the 8 km mark the hiking opens up to beautiful views and is a pretty steady climb on a scree trail. The final section to the lake requires ascending a rockwall that has several waterfalls. It’s mild scrambling and the steepest section has chain to assist with the ascent. It is something to think about if you plan to camp with a heavy hiking backpack and gear.

After gaining the rockwall hikers arrive to the lake and can find a small section on the opposite side with small trees that offer a nice refuge for campers. The cirque up above the lake offers phenomenal views and does add more elevation gain to the hike. Prepare for a big day of hiking if visiting as a day hike, and a water crossing near the start of the hike.

How to Hike to Carnarvon Lake

Piper Pass

Natasha Hiking Through Piper Pass
  • Length: 20.4km
  • Duration: 4 – 7 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 994 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate because of the length
  • Scrambling Involved? No
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking: Elbow Lake Trailhead

Piper Pass was once a relatively unhead of pass and cirque that branched out from the popular Elbow Lake Trail. The cirque and meadows that lead up the pass are exceptionally beautiful with plenty of wildflowers and prime habitat for wildlife. You should definitely be bear aware on the trail in particular near the streams and thick woods below the meadow.

A Herd Of Bighorn Sheep In Piper Pass

We did not see any bears, but did see a large herd of bighorn sheep. Due to the passes relative obscurity we also were able to enjoy the trail to ourselves as the sole visitors the day of our hike in July. The trail braids off from Elbow Lakes and does require some route finding across a number of creeks and through overgrown trails. The route was marked with small orange flags through the woods on our hike.

The trail eventually reaches a wonderful valley below Mount Elpoca, Tombstone Mountain and Mount Schlee. The trail goes along for a while through wildflower filled meadows before reaching the pass. Which is a steep 300 meter tall scree slope that is a grind, but can be done fairly quick. It’s well worth the ascent as the views from the top are spectacular.


Pocaterra Ridge

Natasha Sits On Cliff Edge Of Pocaterra Ridge in larch season
  • Distance: 11.4km
  • Duration: 4 to 7 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 764 meters if doing point-to-point
  • Difficulty: Moderate.
  • Scrambling Involved: Scramble optional
  • Best Time To Go: Larch Season
  • Trailhead: Near the Highwood Meadows Trail

Pocaterra Ridge is one of the most popular Kananaskis hikes on this list. Mainly because it’s one of the best larch hikes in all of the Canadian Rockies. This area has so many larch trees it’s hard to believe. When the needles start to turn yellow, this is one of the first places you should head. Although if you can try and avoid weekends – it’s a busy one. It’s also a gorgeous hike no matter the season!

Natasha Walks Through Larch Trees Below Pocaterra Ridge

Pocaterra Ridge is best done as a point-to-point hike, so I would definitely try to do it this way if you have two cars. If you only have one car, you can still do it as an out and back hike called South Pocaterra Ridge and get amazing views. The turnaround for it would be at the summit of Pocaterra Ridge. The out and back would put your day at 9.3 km and 745 meters of gain.

You follow the trail network until you reach the open valley to do this. Make sure to stay on the trail though. Scores of people going off-trail have caused this trail to become extremely braided and confusing to navigate. Once it opens up, you can continue along Pocaterra Cirque, which only takes you 430 m up and is easier than trying to summit the ridgeline. Once you reach the ridge’s summit, which is about 600 meters up, you can either keep walking the ridge with some easy scrambling or head back down!

How to Hike Pocaterra Ridge

Rimwall Summit

Natasha Stands On Rimwall Summit Looking Out To Spray Lake
  • Distance: 6.3 km
  • Duration: 3 to 6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 891
  • Difficulty: Hard. Very Steep
  • Scrambling Involved: Easy Scrambling
  • Best Time To Go: June – October
  • Trailhead: Trailhead for West Wind Pass

Rimwall Summit is similar to Windtower, and Reads Tower mentioned higher on this list. You get similar views over the Spray Lakes. We did not enjoy Rimwall as much as Windtower, mainly because it felt like more of a grind up neverending scree. Nevertheless, it’s a great hike that provides breathtaking views. Some easy scrambling is involved, and it definitely requires some navigation skills around West Wind Pass.

It can be easy to get turned around when heading up Rimwall. It’s best to download a map to your GPS and study reviews, but take a left well before West Wind Pass. If you get cliffed out, you’ve made a mistake. You will know you are on the right trail when there is a huge scree slope in front of you that feels neverending. It’s steep and unforgiving. I would bring a helmet and gloves, especially on the weekend – this one can get busy.

Natasha Ascends The Large Scree Slope To Summit Of Rimwall

Once you climb up most of the scree, you’ll think you have made it to the top, but you haven’t. You need to continue along the ridge and hike to your left to the top of Rimwall. Don’t get too close to the edge – it’s a straight cliff. As you near the summit, around 2.8 km, some light scrambling will be involved over cliffs. Don’t try and work your way around it; just take it slow and ask for help from a partner if you need some foot placements. Once you reach the summit, you’ll have stellar views over the Spray Lakes and the back of the Three Sisters.


Yates Mountain (Prairie View Trail and Jewell Pass)

Cameron Stands On Barrier Lake Viewpoint
  • Length: 13.8 km for Full Loop, Can be shortened
  • Duration: 2-4 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 756 m (+130 more to summit Yates Mountain)
  • Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: Good Year Round. Best from late April-late October
  • Parking: Barrier Lake
  • Crowds: The ease of this hike, and that it’s a great earlier seasoner keeps it pretty busy

Barrier Lake is one of the most popular spots to head in the provincial park as it’s a lovely lake in Alberta and one of the best hikes near Calgary. Besides being beautiful and one of the most accessible Kananaskis trails on this list, you can reach it in less than an hour from Calgary, as it’s located right after the entrance to Kananaskis.

Barrier Lake With Mount Baldy Behind

Visitors can choose to either enjoy the lakeshore, or go for a moderate hike to the Prairie View lookout point, head up Jewell Pass via the Prairie View trail, or continue up to Yates Mountain and check out the Barrier Lake Fire Lookout. There are a lot of options here!

Yates Mountain
Yates Mountain

Hiking up Prairie View Trail is one of the most visually rewarding Kananaskis hikes relative to effort. It’s a smooth well-maintained trail the entire way, with stunning views over Barrier Lake. At just under an hour up, it can quickly be done at sunrise or sunset. It’s also good to go all year round – even in the winter.

How to Hike to Barrier Lake (+ Yates Mountain)

Sarrail Ridge via Rawson Lake

Natasha Stands On Sarrail Ridge Enjoying The View Of Kananaskis Lakes
  • Length: 11.3km
  • Duration: 3.5-6 hours to Sarrail Ridge and 2 hours to Rawson Lake
  • Elevation Gain: 1,066m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Scrambling Involved: No
  • Best Time To Go: Mid-June – October
  • Parking: Upper Kananaskis Day Use Parking lot
  • Note: This trail is frequently closed due to bear activity. Make sure to check with Alberta Parks before driving out here.

Rawson Lake is a beautiful Alberta lake suitable for a wide range of abilities, and when combined with Sarrail Ridge, it makes for a quick, classic hike in the Canadian Rockies. The views, in particular from Sarrail Ridge, are stunning, but you’ll have to put in plenty of work. For the milder adventure, the hike up to Rawson Lake is a great beginner’s hike. It’s about a 300-meter elevation gain and can be done early or late season. It skirts around Lower Kananaskis Lake and crosses a waterfall before ascending 300m to the enchanting Rawson Lake.

Natasha Descends Down To Rawson Lake From Sarrail Ridge
Rawson Lake

If the bugs aren’t bad, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy lunch before heading back down. To get the views in the photos above Kananaskis Lakes, you will have to continue on and work for them. If you’re continuing up to Sarrail Ridge, the trail winds around Rawson Lake to the southeast before climbing the ridge to the Northeast. The ridge climb is a bit of a slog and goes straight up avalanche chute and prime grizzly bear habitat.

At the top of the path, you reach the ridge, which provides unreal views. Once you reach the top of the pass, you can look out over Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes and Mount Indefatigable. We spent over an hour on the ridge exploring, taking photos, and enjoying the view. Rawson Lake took us just under 45 minutes from the car park, and continuing to Sarrail Ridge took another hour. That was at a pretty good pace with some miles under our legs. This hike can be done in 4-5 hours round trip.

How to Hike to Rawson Lake and Sarrail Ridge

Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes

Lower Galatea Lakes On A Sunny Day
  • Length: 12 km to Lillian and 16 km to Galatea
  • Duration: 4-7 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 500m to Lillian and 870m to Galatea
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Scrambling Involved: No
  • Best Time To Go: May – October
  • Parking: Galatea Day Use

If you’re a fan of hiking to serene alpine lakes, look no further! The Lillian and Galatea Lakes hike via Galatea Creek is an absolute gem in Kananaskis Country, boasting three enchanting lakes nestled beneath rugged peaks if you choose to hike all the way to Galatea Creek. This out-and-back trail offers a delightful combination of gushing streams, a well-marked path, and breathtaking vistas.

It caters to hikers with varying levels of intensity preferences, making it an ideal choice for all. The best part is you can hike to just Lillian Lake, or continue to Galatea Lakes if you want an epic day out. For those seeking an extended multi day adventure, consider reserving a campsite at Lillian Lake for an easy backpacking excursion, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in this area. As the Lillian Lake backcountry campground is 6km from the trailhead, and can be reached in a bit over an hour, it’s a great place to camp if you are a newbie camper.

How to Hike to Lillian Lake & Galatea Lakes

Burstall Pass

Cameron Stands On A Log By Mud Lake On The Way To Bustall Pass
  • Length: 16.4km
  • Duration: 4-6 hours.
  • Elevation Gain: 667m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Scrambling Involved: No
  • Best Time To Go: May – October
  • Parking: Parking along the Smith Dorrien near Mud Luke.

Burstall Pass is a classic hike in Kananaskis Country and off Smith Dorrien Trail. The hike moves past several marshy lakes and streams before a steep ascent up to an alpine meadow and then finishes on a high mountain pass with grand glaciated mountain views. We loved our time in Burstall Pass and spent most of our time alone in the woods. It’s a long one at 16km and a little redundant since it’s an out and back trail, but it has everything you could want out of a hike.

Natasha On A Splitboard In Burstall Pass in Winter
Burstall Pass in Winter

The trail spends several kilometers in the forest before you reach the alluvial fan of the Robertson Glacier. Come prepared for some smart route-finding and waterproof shoes, or perhaps some hiking sandals. The fan spreads across the trail with multiple streams and flooded sections. It wasn’t difficult, but it does take some time to make it across the streams about 500m in length. Some helpful signs mark the trail for hikers to follow across the plain.

Burstall Pass Lanscape

After you make your way across the flooded sections of trails, you reach more forest. This is where the trail begins to ascend to an alpine meadow. It’s a steep climb but easy enough for most people to handle without too much of a struggle. It takes around a half-hour to reach a sub-alpine meadow filled with wildflowers.

How to Hike Burstall Pass in Kananaskis Country

Grassi Lakes

  • Length: 4km
  • Duration: 1-3 hours.
  • Elevation Gain: 233m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Scrambling Involved: No
  • Best Time To Go: Year-Round
  • Parking: At the Grassi Lakes Trailhead. Past the Nordic Center off of Ken Ritchie Way.

Grassi Lakes are perfect the perfect hike for friends and families. It’s an easy trail with a wide path that leads through the forest up to two sparkling turquoise lakes. If you’re looking for a hike in the Canmore/Banff area that is child-friendly, this is a great choice. Grassi Lakes are two sparkling teal alpine lakes with two of the most famous peaks towering above. On the way up to the two shallow lakes, a few viewpoints offer wonderful panoramic views of the town of Canmore down below.

Grassi Lakes With Mount Rundle In Background

This is where we take any visitor who wants a short and straightforward hike to beautiful lakes. There are two options to see Grassi Lakes – a challenging hike and a more leisurely hike. Take the hard one; it’s not bad. Compared to any other hike on this list, Grassi Lakes (hard or easy) is a walk in the park.

For rock climbers, there are several rock faces famous for rock climbing. Routes are pretty easy to find, with many bolts in place. The trailhead begins on Spray Lakes Road, around 2kms past the Canmore Nordic Center. You’ll see a small sign that says “No Exit” on the left and a gravel parking lot on the right. Drive down the hill to the parking area and sign for the Grassi Lakes Trail.

How to Hike to Grassi Lakes Near Canmore

Ha Ling Peak

Natasha Stands On Ha Ling Peak Summit In April
  • Length: 7.9 km
  • Duration: 2 – 5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 804 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Scrambling Involved: Not really
  • Best Time To Hike: Possible year-round, but attention must be paid to avalanche cycles in winter/spring.
  • Where to Park for This Kananaskis Hike: Goat Creek Day Area

Our final hike on this list needs no introduction. Ha Ling Peak is the most popular mountain summit in the Canadian Rockies. Climbing the mountain is a right of passage in the Rockies, and visitors come from all over Alberta every weekend to conquer Ha Ling Peak. Its popularity does not mean it is easy or shouldn’t be taken seriously. It’s still a peak in the Rockies, meaning there will be some effort to get to the summit.

Cameron Looks Out To Mount Rundle From Ha Ling Peak Trail in April

Alberta Parks has invested a lot of money into the trail and infrastructure around the mountain. It includes a large paved paring lot with information and long drop toilets at the top of Goat Valley. Along the with parking the trail to the summit is machine built with grading, switchbacks, steps, and handrails in certain locations.

The improvement has increased the safety of the trail, but make no mistake, it’s still a tough physical challenge for many. Once you enter the trailhead and go through the forest, it’s a constant uphill climb to the summit. Prepare for a full day and a physical challenge if it’s your first summit in the mountains.

How to Hike Ha Ling Peak

What is a Scramble?

Mount Jimmy Simpson Scramble
Scrambling in the Rockies

You’ll see some scrambles listed in this hikes guide. While most of the hike is often a steep walk, there may be sections where scrambling is involved. This will be noted in the text.

What is a scramble? Scrambling is a walk up steep terrain involving one’s hands. Three contact points with your body are typically needed to classify a hike as a scramble. I love scrambling as it’s more challenging than hiking, and it’s typically required to summit most of the peaks in the Rockies.

It’s a prevalent sport in the Rockies but should not be confused with hiking. Some scrambles are very dangerous with significant exposure and route finding skills required. They should be approached with respect and require proper safety equipment such as as GPS, poles, and helmet.

Some scrambles are not straightforward and do not have a defined trail, meaning route finding and a sense of adventure are needed. August is the best time to scramble as most snow has melted off the mountain peaks. Everything we’ve listed in this post we would qualify as a beginner scramble.


Gear We Recommend for These Kananaskis Hikes

Salomon Speedcross 5

Salomon Speedcross 5

The vast majority of hikes and easy scrambles in the Rockies, you’ll find us in our trusty Salomon Speedcross.

Arc'teryx Cerium Hoody

Arc’teryx Cerium

Arc’teryx Cerium is our pick for the best down jacket. It’s incredibly light, and we bring it on almost every hike in the Rockies.

Peak Design Capture Clip

PD Capture Clip

This nifty clip from Peak Design secures a camera to my backpack strap for easy reach. No more digging in the backpack!

Hiking Poles

Hiking Poles

A pair of durable and lightweight hiking poles are a great asset on the hiking trail.

Gregory Nano Backpack

Gregory Nano 20L

20L feels like the ideal size for quick hikes and scrambles. We love the Nano from Gregory with a hydration reservoir.

Garmin Inreach Mini

Garmin Inreach Mini

There is not much cell service in the Canadian Rockies. In case of emergencies, we carry an emergency beacon with GPS.


Advice on Hikes

Natasha Stands On Prairie View Lookout
  • If this is your first time hiking in the Rockies, take a conservative approach – read our post for beginner hikers too. Pick an adequate hike for your fitness, plan for plenty of time, pack water and food, and don’t be afraid to turn around. If you want to learn more about what to wear hiking in the Rockies we have a great post.
  • For long Kananaskis hikes, set a turnaround time at the departure. Any time we set out for an objective, I determine a time we need to turn around to arrive at the parking lot or campsite by dark. I recommend not hiking in the dark as it’s easy to get lost, and it’s not fun in bear country.
  • Always carry bear spray if you plan to hike in the park. We carry ours even in our neighborhood, and bears have been known to stroll through town and busy parking lots. When on a trail, always practice wildlife awareness, and please give animals space.
  • Dogs are allowed on these Kananaskis hikes but must be kept on a leash for the entire duration of the hike.
  • Regarding times, keep in mind your mountain fitness — it’s much different from gym fitness. The low end of the times in this post is a constant fast pace uphill with little to no breaks and a brisk pace downhill. Most hikers should plan for a middle-of-the-road time with the estimated duration.
  • It’s also important to know that there are limitations and to come prepared. These are very serious mountains, and it is easy to get in well over your head with life-threatening consequences. That being said, all of these hikes should pose no risk if you stick to the trail.
  • Have a form of navigation and study the route before departure. We highly recommend you study the route through trip reports. We have some great ones along with a lot of other avid hikers and mountaineers around the Rockies. Plus have some form of navigation, the easiest option for beginners is Alltrails which provides reliable enough navigation for popular trails.
12 Bear Safety Tips • How To Hike In Bear Country

Searching for Easier Hikes?

Chester Lake With Clouds Above In Early Fall
Chester Lake is a great easy hike in Kananaskis

For those after a more leisurely time outdoors, make sure to read on to find some easy hikes in Kananaskis.


The Best Places to Stay in Kananaskis

Mount Engagdine On A Cloudy Fall Day

One of the best places to stay in all of Kananaskis Mountain Lodge, which also operates the amazing Kananaskis Nordic Spa. If you’re looking to stay in Kananaskis specifically, we highly recommend Mount Engadine Lodge. It’s near to the trailheads of Tent Ridge and Smutwood Peak!


Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies

  • Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service connecting you from the Calgary International Airport (YYC) to Banff or Canmore.
  • Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Rentalcars.com. Or embark on an epic campervan trip, we like to compare camper prices on Outdoorsy.
  • Cheaper Airfare: We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals and like to use travel credit cards to hack our way into free flights and hotels! Our favorite cards are the Capital One Venture X and Chase Sapphire, which both work well in Canada and have no foreign transaction fees.
  • Hop On, Hop Off: This tour is taking Banff by storm. It’s exactly what it sounds like, hop on and off a bus bound for all the best attractions at your own pace!

↓ Join the community ↓

The Banff Blog Facebook Group is your headquarters for Canadian Rockies travel advice and information, including hike and off-season travel information. You can also meet new adventure buddies.

the banff blog facebook group

About Cameron

Cameron is a resident of Canmore, Alberta. After traveling the world for six years, he settled down in the beautiful Bow Valley with Natasha. He has been featured as a travel expert with numerous publications worldwide and has spoken on several occasions about the power of travel. He has a passion for all things in the Canadian Rockies and loves to spend his time snowboarding, scrambling, camping, biking, and trail running. Conservation is a deep fundamental in his life, and he aims to inspire others to care about our natural world. You can learn more on the about us page.

If you have found the content on this site helpful to your trip planning please consider supporting The Banff Blog. You can say thanks directly by buying us a coffee. All support is much appreciated!

5 thoughts on “22 BEAUTIFUL Kananaskis Hikes To Tackle (2024)”

  1. Amazing read all the way. Very informative and the photos are stunning. Thank you for sharing your adventures. I will add them to our list definitely. Happy trails..

    Reply
    • Thanks so much! Hope that you found a few more hikes to tackle this summer. Kananaskis can be such a gem and there is so much to explore, it may take a lifetime.

      Reply
  2. Hi,
    This is very helpful and informative! I am travelling solo to Banff in late august and planning to hike Mt Smutwood and Tent Ridge. I am not familiar hiking in Rockies, therefore as for my own safety, it would be wiser to hike with other people. Do you know where I could meet up/contact other hikers or join a group?
    cheers
    Nas

    Reply

Leave a Comment