If you have visited the town of Canmore, or nearby Banff you have likely seen, or at least heard about the Three Sisters in Canmore. They are easily the town’s most recognizable peaks and some of the most unique in all of the Canadian Rockies. The Three Sisters are my three favorite ladies in Alberta, and even though I see them every single day they never get old.
However, when we first moved to Canmore I had never even heard of them and knew nothing about them. Even after a few months of living literally directly under the Little Sister, I knew there was much to discover about them. Here’s all you need to know about the Three Sisters!
An Intro to the Three Sisters Canmore
In 1883, when Canmore was known as a mining town, Albert Rogers named these three peaks the “Three Nuns” following a winter storm that left the peaks snow-capped and resembled nuns in white veils
In 1886, they were renamed by George Dawson, a Canadian geologist and surveyor, to the Three Sisters. The names of the Three Sisters are individually known as Big Sister, Little Sister, and Middle Sister – or Faith, Hope, and Charity respectively.
Îyârhe Nakoda, the traiditonal language of the First Nations Stoney Nakoda also refers to the peaks as the Three Sisters. Although the name refers to Ĩ-ktomnĩ, the old man who would promises ‘three sisters’ in marriage whenever he was in trouble.
The Big Sister is well, the biggest at 2,936 meters, while the Middle Sister is 2,769 meters, and the Little Sister is 2,694 meters.
Can You Climb the Three Sisters?
The Big Sister and the Middle Sister can both be summited in a day. The Big Sister is a moderate out and back scramble. The scramble should be saved for experienced scramblers only as there are a few tricky steps that might make your butt clench if not prepared.
It’s also very easy to get turned around and find yourself off route on this scramble. To summit the Big Sister will require scramblers to climb 1,244 m in 2.6 km, or in other words, it’s incredibly steep up loose scree.
The Middle Sister is an easy scramble, but a much longer day that will require following a laborious creek bed for almost 7 km of the trail, followed by the climb to the summit. Only to turn around and take the same boring creekbed trail out. The Middle Sister Trail will have hikers gaining 1,521 m in 17km.
The Little Sister requires technical climbing skills and is likely only summited a few times a season.
You cannot hike all the Three Sisters in one day. The Three Sisters Traverse is a dangerous climbing route that is rarely attempted even by the most experienced.
Where is the Best Spot to Photograph the Three Sisters in Canmore?
You can see the Three Sisters from almost anywhere in Canmore. However there are a few locations that are real standouts.
The first and easiest place to see them is right from the Canmore bridge over the Bow River, right near the public boat launch. If you are lucky there might be some elk crossing the river as you photograph them. You can see this photo from above. Yes, I know, I’m a poor substitute for some awesome Canadian elk.
Another great spot to see them is along a bike path connecting downtown Canmore to the Three Sisters Mountain Village (residential area). If you walk or bike away from town past the West Canmore Park you’ll eventually hit a wide open field with the Bow River on your left, housing on your right, and the beautiful Three Sisters straight ahead.
The next best spot to see them and a photographer’s favorite is from Policemen’s Creek. See the photo above. This spot can be found across the street from the town’s off-leash dog park. Cross the Bow Valley Trail road and go under the train tracks and you’ll find a faint path leading you to the photo point in about five minutes. Get there early morning or in the evening for awesome creek reflections.
While the Three Sisters are amazing at any time of day, the light shines best on them in the morning. Get up early to catch sunrise there! In the summer you can catch the first light hitting the Little Sister around 6am (depending on the time of year).
Winter in Canmore however, is slightly harder to get a picture perfect sunrise photo as the sun doesn’t rise in just the right spot to hit the sisters.
Other Ways to See the Three Sisters
One of the best things to do in Canmore, however most expensive ways to see the Three Sisters to enjoy a helicopter ride. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will give you a unique view of the sisters. If you go in the summer you may even see a few scramblers on to of Big Sister.
There’s an awesome hike in Canmore called Grassi Knob. It’s a quick one (for Canadian Rockies standards), however it’s quite steep. At the “summit” of the knob you’ll get in your face views of the sisters.
Other Favorite Photos We Took of the Sisters
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