14 Day Hikes with Jaw-Dropping Views in Canmore and Kananaskis Country

Kananaskis Country is an amalgamation of 10 provincial parks that are home to some of the best hiking trails in the Rockies. 

It’s often overlooked by international tourists and I’m caught in two minds about this. On the one hand, most of the trails in K-country are less crowded and more pristine than most hiking paths in Banff National Park.

On the other hand, it’s so beautiful that I think everyone should get the chance to appreciate it. My only hope is that people who venture out on these trails understand the fragility of the area and treat it with respect. 

With several peaks over 10,000ft it’s hard to imagine that Kananaskis Country is only considered as foothills to the much larger main ranges of the Canadian Rockies. 

Both Canmore and Kananaskis Country feature on my road trip itineraries for western Canada. If you’re coming to this neck of the woods, you shouldn’t overlook either of these places. 

Where to hike in Canmore and Kananaskis Country?

1. Read’s Tower

Above Spray lakes Reservoir en route to Read's Tower. Top Hikes Near Canmore and Kananaskis
Above Spray lakes Reservoir en route to Read's Tower.
Above Spray lakes Reservoir en route to Read's Tower.

The trail to Read’s Tower will transport you high above the Spray Lakes Reservoir where snow will be found near the summit well into July (gaiters are recommended). Especially if you continue further to the summit of Sparrowhawk Mountain (extra 2-3 hours).

After the first hour within the tree line, the route becomes very exposed and not that obvious but as long as you keep heading up you’ll eventually get to where you want to be. Not for the inexperienced this hike will test you physically but reward you with some of the best views of the Spray Lakes Reservoir. 

Length: 6km (3.7 miles)

Estimated Duration: 4 hours

Elevation Gain: 646m (2119ft) 

Difficulty: Moderate

2. Rawson Lake and Sarrail Ridge

View of the Upper Kananaskis lake from the Sarrail Ridge
Meadows filled with flowers on the Sarrail Ridge hike
The ridge line
Rawson lake in the early morning light. Best day hikes in Canmore and Kananaskis

From the day use area at the Upper Kananaskis Lake take the well worn path, clockwise around the lake. After crossing the bridge at Sarrail falls take the Rawson Lake path to the left. It’s well signposted. After a gradual incline for an hour or so, you’ll arrive at the tip of the lake, where you can swim (if you’re brave), fish and picnic.

At the other end of the lake many grizzly bears have been spotted, it’s also the way to Sarrail Ridge, so be careful. As you leave the lakeshore the trail up to the ridge is short but pretty steep. After exiting the tree line head right for the most unobstructed views of the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes. 

Length: 6km (3.7 miles) to Rawson Lake, 10km (6.2 miles) to Sarrail Ridge

Estimated Duration: 2 – 3.5 hours return to Rawson Lake, 4 – 5 hours return to Sarrail Ridge 

Elevation Gain: 305m (1000ft) to Rawson Lake, 700m (2300ft) to Sarrail Ridge

Difficulty: Easy to lake, difficult to the ridge

3. Tent Ridge

Light ray hitting the mountains. Sunset viewed from Tent Ridge in Kananaskis Country
The peaks visible from the ridgeline
Sunrise from Tent Ridge
Spray Lakes Reservoir at dusk viewed from the summit of Tent Ridge

In the heart of Kananaskis Country, Tent Ridge is the first and only hike on this list which is a loop, not a one way same return or a relocation. The loop undulates along the ridge climaxing at several viewpoints after the first section through dense forest.

Once you’ve emerged you remain on the ridge for the entirety of the hike which, on a sunny day, can be difficult so make sure you’re dressed appropriately. It might be difficult to watch your footing on the short sections of scree because all you’ll want to be doing is staring at the amphitheatre of peaks that make this hike one of the best in the area.

Length: 10.6km (6.6 miles)

Estimated Duration: 4 – 6 hours

Elevation Gain: 750m (2460ft)

Difficulty: Moderate

4. East End of Rundle (EEOR)

Lone hiker on the ridgeline along the East End of Mount Rundle
Ha Ling Peak at sunrise viewed from the East End of Mount Rundle
Sunrise from the East End of Rundle
Sunrise over Canmore viewed from the top of East End of Mount Rundle

For the start of this trail you can either park at the Goat Creek Car Park (same car park for Ha Ling Peak) or directly at the electricity pylon next to White Man’s Pond which marks the start of this hike. The trail begins in the forest for the first 30 minutes then continues along an exposed ridge all the way to the summit.

On a hot sunny day make sure you take plenty of water. The view over the Spray Lakes Canal and over the pass to Ha Ling Peak get ever better until you reach a rocky outcrop just below the summit, from here you have two options. Tackling the eastern face is harder, but not impossible, scree covered ledges will make quick work for the summit.  

The other more gradual route is further left where a series of scree covered switchbacks will get you to the top. Personally the eastern face terrified me and I would never do that route on the way down, just seems like a bit of an unnecessary risk to save yourself 5 minutes time. Keep an eye out for marmots, bighorn sheep and mountain goats that frequent the area. 

Length: 6km (3.7 miles)

Estimated Duration: 4 – 6 hours

Elevation Gain: 907m (2975ft)

Difficulty: Moderately challenging 

5. Mount Lady Macdonald

Sunrise on Mount Lady Macdonald. Best Hikes Near Canmore and Kananaskis
Mount Assiniboine visible from the Summit of Mount Lady Macdonald
Mount Lougheed at sunrise views from Mount Lady Macdonald
The Ridgeline on Mount Lady Macdonald. Best day hikes in Canmore and Kananaskis

From what appears to be tantalizingly close to town of Canmore, Mount Lady MacDonald is much more of a challenge than either Ha Ling Peak or the East End of Rundle are. The easiest part of this hike is to the helipad which lies on the shoulder just below the summit.

A well trodden path through a thick forest where bighorn sheep and marmots can be seen grazing in the adjacent meadows. The helipad is where a lot of hikers turn around, happy with what they’ve achieved.

To the true summit however continue up, either making your own way, going two steps forward, one step back on heavy scree, or follow the dusty path from previous adventurers. This part of the hike will test you physically and mentally. I ended up losing my nerve and screaming at the rocks that were impeding my ascent, the rest of the party thought I was crazy.

The views from the summit are much more spectacular than the helipad. On a clear day you can even see the iconic Mount Assiniboine 40 km to the south!

Length: 7.6km

Estimated Duration: 6 – 8 hours

Elevation Gain: 1117m 

Difficulty: Challenging

6. Ha Ling Peak

Ha Ling Peak viewed from the adjacent Miner's Peak
Sunrise on the top of Ha Ling Peak

The steep but short trail plods up several switchbacks lying mainly within the tree line until you emerge a hundred metres below the col that connects Ha Ling Peak with Miners Peak.

The trail has undergone massive renovations and has been reopened in the 2019 season attracting even more visitors! I personally have done this trail 4 times!

Due to its close proximity to Canmore and Calgary – the closest biggest city, this is one of the most popular hikes in the Bow Valley and it gets busy on the weekends.

My best advice is to start as early as possible or even try to do it through the night and have a summit for sunrise adventure like I did. I ended up taking some of the best shots of my life from the peak.

Length: 7km (4.3 miles)

Estimated Duration: 3.5 – 5 hours

Elevation Gain: 737m (2417ft)

Difficulty: Moderate

7. Mount Yamnuska

Mt Yamnuska. Best Day Hikes near Canmore and Kananaskis
Chains on Mt Yamnuska. Best Day Hikes near Canmore and Kananaskis
Mt Yamnuska
Looking towards Calgary from the top of Mt Yamnuska

Often referred to by the locals as the gateway to the Rockies, Mount Yamnuska is one of my favourite hikes. It’s encompasses the use of chains to navigate narrow ledges and although that sounds quite daunting is way less extreme than it sounds but I wouldn’t recommend it for small children either.

Once at any of the major summits along the ridge line you can gaze west to the towering peaks in the Canadian Rockies or our east to the flatlands. Mount Yamnuska marks the official eastern border of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. 

Length: 11km

Estimated Duration: 4 – 6  hours

Elevation Gain: 900m 

Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging

8. Grassi Lakes

Grassi lakes near Canmore
Grassi Lakes near Canmore

The different vibrant colours of the Grassi Lakes are due to the different depths that each one has. They sparkle in the sun and look like portals into other dimensions. At the beginning of the trail the route splits into two. The signs point to either an easier (right) or more difficult (left) route to the lakes.

Go counterclockwise by taking the easier one up and coming back down the harder/steeper way. When coming down make sure to stop and take in the views of the waterfall with Ha Ling peak standing proudly in the background (Photo above). No hiking experience or equipment is necessary to do this hike therefore it is quite busy. To avoid the crowds go early in the morning. 

Hint: If you’re feeling lazy, like I do sometimes, you can park at White Man’s Pond and walk down the Grassi Lakes instead of parking at the official trailhead and walking up. 

Length: 4km (2.5 miles)

Estimated Duration: 1.5 hours

Elevation Gain: 232m (761ft)

Difficulty: Easy

9. Pocaterra Ridge

Pocaterra Ridge. Best Hikes Near Canmore and Kananaskis
Pocaterra Ridge. Best Hikes Near Canmore and Kananaskis
Pocaterra Ridge. Best Hikes Near Canmore and Kananaskis
Pocaterra Ridge. Best Hikes Near Canmore and Kananaskis

One of my personal favourite day hikes in the Canadian Rockies! First of all, the Pocaterra Ridge hike requires relocation, meaning the start and end point are not the same.

The two trailheads lie 9.3km apart on Hwy 40 so key swapping on the trail or hitchhiking may be required to get you back to your vehicle. The route, if you decide to do it from south to north (Highwood Pass to Little Highwood Pass) like most people do, is a shallow incline to begin with, followed by a gradual descent.  

The ridge line is very exposed to the elements and the valley is known for being particularly windy. Try and set off as early as possible to make the most out of the light conditions. 

The snow tends to linger on this trail until late July. I have hiked it myself in June, when a lot of the trail was covered in thigh deep snow and found it quiet challenging. The hike is particularly good in mid-late September when the larch trees that fill the valleys below turn bright yellow. 

Length: 9.3km (5.8 miles)

Estimated Duration: 5 – 7 hours

Elevation Gain: 550m (1804ft) Elevation Loss: 875m (2870ft)

Difficulty: Moderate

10. Burstall Pass

Burstall pass.  Peter Lougheed Provincial park.  Hikes in Kananaskis
Burstall pass.  Peter Lougheed Provincial park.  Hikes in Kananaskis
Burstall pass.  Peter Lougheed Provincial park.  Hikes in Kananaskis
Burstall pass.  Peter Lougheed Provincial park.  Hikes in Kananaskis

The trailhead, which is just over the road from the Chester Lake Trailhead, lies almost 50 km (75 minutes) south of Canmore on Highway 742. The easy-to-follow trail begins off quite flat, eventually becomes steeper, then plateaus again before a final steep section.

I would think twice about attempting this hike before mid July as the snow melt creates a few fast moving creek crossings. Mount Commonwealth looks fantastic on this trail (see bottom left and top right photos). Bear activity is high in this area so make sure you’re properly prepared.

I had to turn around once when hiking on this trail because others stumbled upon a grizzly bear and warned us about it. During my second attempt the area was clear and I hiked in a larger group. 

Length: 15km (9.3 miles)

Estimated Duration: 4 – 6 hours

Elevation Gain: 550m (1804ft)

Difficulty: Moderate

11. Mount Indefatigable

The viewpoint enroute to the summit of Mount Indefatigable

UPDATE: I have included this trail in my post knowing that it has been decommissioned, but have since learnt what it really means and why people shouldn’t hike it. Instead of removing it from the list I have decided to use my website to educate people why it’s important not to go there. If I knew then what I know now I wouldn’t have done it, but I hope others can learn from my mistake. 

The trail starts at the dam between the Upper and the Lower Kananaskis lakes, a one hour drive south of Canmore either on Highway 742 or Highway 40.

It’s an unofficial trail that’s not recommended by Alberta Parks due to high grizzly sow activity. A lot of people ignore the warning and as a result the path is well trodden.

From the summit of mount Fatty (as the locals call it) the views are expansive and really rewarding but the final scree ascent will make you work for them.

If you are feeling lazy you can just hike to the viewpoint (pictured above) about a third of the way up. In this case round trip should take you less than 2 hours.  

Length: 10km (6.2 miles)

Estimated Duration: 4 – 6 hours

Elevation Gain: 920m (3018ft)

Difficulty: Hard

12. Tombstone Lakes via Elbow Sheep Valley

Hiking along the old fire road in the Elbow Sheep Wildland Provincial Park
One of the Tombstone Lakes in  Elbow Sheep Wildland Provincial Park
 Elbow Sheep Wildland Provincial Park
 Elbow Sheep Wildland Provincial Park. Best hikes near Canmore and Kananaskis

The trail starts with a short uphill burst from the Elbow Lake Trailhead. After 30 minutes you’ll be at Elbow Lake, which is incredible in its own right and home to a very picturesque shoreline campsite. Continuing left around the lake will take you further into the Elbow-Sheep Valley.

From here the trail is a flat 8 km along the Tombstone Creek to the Tombstone Campground. From the campground the two Tombstone Lakes are roughly 45 minutes uphill and are an incredible spectacle. They lie so close to Tombstone Mountain that you’ll need a neck adjustment after gawking at the peaks for too long. 

Length: 22km return (13.7 miles)

Estimated Duration: 5 – 7 hours

Elevation Gain: 300m (984ft)

Difficulty: Moderate because of length. If you stay a night at the Tombstone Campground then I would consider it to be easy.  

13. Piper Pass

Descending towards Piper Pass from the adjacent summit
Alpine Meadows enroute to Piper Pass. best hikes in Canmore and Kananaskis
Mountains and meadows enroute to Piper pass around half way through the hike.

From the Elbow Lake car park the trail initially goes past Elbow Lake, around the lake to the left, toward the Tombstone Lakes before veering off to the left. There are two routes to get to Piper Pass, the shorter route is harder to follow but quicker and the longer route is easy to follow but adds an extra couple of kilometres.

Both routes eventually meet the Piper Creek which you’ll follow north west until reaching the Piper Pass at 2580m (8462ft). The views from the pass are beautiful with mordor looking peaks of the Tombstone Mountains all around you. Because of its remoteness and very limited human traffic Piper Pass is one of my personal favorite day hikes in the Canadian Rockies. 

Length: 19.2km (11.9 miles)

Estimated Duration: 7 – 8 hours

Elevation Gain: 617m (2024ft)

Difficulty: Moderate only because of length. 

14. Smutwood Peak

Mount Birdwood viewed from Smutwood Peak
Above Birdwood lakes
Crossing the Birdwood Pass
view of Mount Birdwood during the descent from Smutwood Peak

Only for experienced hikers this scramble isn’t for the faint of heart. Although it’s not too crazily steep, due to it’s length, it is certainly a leg tester. The trail follows Commonwealth Creek before heading over the Birdwood Pass. It then circles Birdwood lakes before following the ridgeline to the summit.

The summit views are incredible in every direction but the view south east toward Mount Birdwood are unlike anything I’ve seen before. You can view my write up and more photos from the hike here

Length: 19km (11.8 miles)

Estimated Duration: 6 – 8 hours

Elevation Gain: 845m (2772ft)

Difficulty: Difficult

Where To Stay In Canmore

I called Canmore home for most of the time when living in Canada and doing research for my Canadian Rockies Guide. If there is one place in the World I could call home would be Canmore!

Consider booking at least a couple of nights in one of these top rated hotels and lodges. You will love this place! I would really appreciate your support by using the affiliate links below (even if you book a different hotel to the one I recommend).

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