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 hikes in the Canadian Rockies. The area is often overlooked by international tourists and I’m caught in two minds about this.

On the one hand, most of the trails in Kananaskis Country are less crowded and more pristine than 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. 

Where to hike in Canmore and Kananaskis Country?

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. 

1. Read’s Tower

  • Length: 6km (3.7 miles)
  • Estimated Duration: 4 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 646m (2119ft) 
  • Difficulty: Moderate

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. 

2. Rawson Lake and Sarrail Ridge

  • Length: 6km (3.7 miles) to Rawson Lake or 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 the lake, difficult to the ridge

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. 

3. Tent Ridge

  • Length: 10.6km (6.6 miles)
  • Estimated Duration: 4 – 6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 750m (2460ft)
  • Difficulty: Moderate

In the heart of Kananaskis Country, Tent Ridge is the first and only hike on this list that 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’ve 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.

4. East End of Rundle (EEOR)

  • Length: 6km (3.7 miles)
  • Estimated Duration: 4 – 6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 907m (2975ft)
  • Difficulty: Moderately challenging 

For the start of this trail, you can either park at the Goat Creek Car Park (the 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 and 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 gets 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 of time. Keep an eye out for marmots, bighorn sheep and mountain goats that frequent the area. 

5. Mount Lady Macdonald

  • Length: 7.6km
  • Estimated Duration: 6 – 8 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1117m 
  • Difficulty: Challenging

From what appears to be tantalizingly close to the town of Canmore, Mount Lady MacDonald is much more of a challenge than either Ha Ling Peak or the East End of Rundle. 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 following 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 from the helipad. On a clear day, you can even see the iconic Mount Assiniboine 40 km to the south!

6. Ha Ling Peak

  • Length: 7km (4.3 miles)
  • Estimated Duration: 3.5 – 5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 737m (2417ft)
  • Difficulty: Moderate

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 trial 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 a sunrise adventure as I did. I ended up taking some of the best shots of my life from the peak.

7. Mount Yamnuska

  • Length: 11km
  • Estimated Duration: 4 – 6  hours
  • Elevation Gain: 900m 
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging

Often referred to by the locals as the gateway to the Rockies, Mount Yamnuska is one of my favourite hikes. It 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 ridgeline, you can gaze west to the towering peaks in the Canadian Rockies or east to the flatlands. Mount Yamnuska marks the official eastern border of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. 

8. Grassi Lakes

  • Length: 4km (2.5 miles)
  • Estimated Duration: 1.5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 232m (761ft)
  • Difficulty: Easy

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. 

9. Pocaterra Ridge

  • Length: 9.3km (5.8 miles)
  • Estimated Duration: 5 – 7 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 550m (1804ft) Elevation Loss: 875m (2870ft)
  • Difficulty: Moderate

One of my personal favourite day hikes in the Canadian Rockies! First of all, the Pocaterra Ridge hike requires relocation, meaning the start and endpoints 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) as most people do, is a shallow incline, to begin with, followed by a gradual descent.  

The ridgeline 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 hiked it myself in June when a lot of the trail was covered in thigh-deep snow and found it quite challenging. The hike is particularly good in mid-late September when the larch trees that fill the valleys below turn bright yellow. 

10. Burstall Pass

  • Length: 15km (9.3 miles)
  • Estimated Duration: 4 – 6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 550m (1804ft)
  • Difficulty: Moderate

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, and then plateaus again before a final steep section.

I would think twice about attempting this hike before mid-July as the snowmelt 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. 

11. Mount Indefatigable

  • Length: 10km (6.2 miles)
  • Estimated Duration: 4 – 6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 920m (3018ft)
  • Difficulty: Hard

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 on 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, 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, a round trip should take you less than 2 hours.  

12. Tombstone Lakes via Elbow Sheep Valley

  • 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.  

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. 

13. Piper Pass

  • Length: 19.2km (11.9 miles)
  • Estimated Duration: 7 – 8 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 617m (2024ft)
  • Difficulty: Moderate only because of length. 

From the Elbow Lake car park, the trail initially goes past Elbow Lake, around the lake to the left, and 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 northwest 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 favourite day hikes in the Canadian Rockies. 

14. Smutwood Peak

  • Length: 19km (11.8 miles)
  • Estimated Duration: 6 – 8 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 845m (2772ft)
  • Difficulty: Difficult

Only for experienced hikers, this scramble isn’t for the faint of heart. Although it’s not too crazily steep, due to its 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 southeast toward Mount Birdwood is unlike anything I’ve seen before. You can view my write-up and more photos from the hike here

Where To Stay In Canmore

I called Canmore home 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 than the one I recommend).

How to incorporate the hikes around Canmore and Kananaskis into your visit to the Canadian Rockies?

If you love to hike you will be pleased to know that I have designed a few road trip plans that include Canmore and Kananaskis, as well as other famous areas in the Rockies.


Hi! I am the photographer and creator of www.inafarawayland.com. I come from Poland, but I've been living, travelling and working around the globe since I turned 18. A few years ago, during one of my trips to Scotland, I bought my first DSLR and my adventure with photography began. When I am not stuck to my computer editing photos, you can find me hiking somewhere in the mountains.


  1. Hi! Thanks for such great information regarding this area. If you only had time to do ONE of these hikes (and you were of moderate skill/experience), which would you recommend?

    • Thanks Betsy. It would be either Pocaterra Ridge, then Piper Pass then Tent Ridge, although Tent ridge is the toughest of the 3. I hope that helps!

  2. Hello Marta,
    We would like to ask you if it’s possible to do the Pocaterra Ridge hike without going to the end, because we need to return to our car and we can’t do the loop. Do you still think it is worth doing the hike without doing the loop, but instead return back to the parking lot and only seeing half of the hike or something like that? What would you advise? Thank you so much in advance and thank you also for so much information we can find on your website. It’s amazing. Best regards, Ana

    • Hi Ana. Thanks for your great feedback. It absolutely is possible what you are asking. You can choose yourself how far along the ridgeline you want to walk. For example give yourself 3 hours to walk in and the walk back will take approximately the same.

  3. It all looks so incredible!! I was wondering if you have some more recommendations for shorter/easier hikes in this area? Thank you!!

    • Hi Floor. Thanks for stopping by. Yes, Rawson Lake, Chester Lake, Elbow Lake or Grassi lakes (the latter is very close to Canmore) are all pretty easy with not much elevation gain nor distance. Elbow lake is en route to Piper Pass. You can hike pass Elbow lake across the valley for another hour or two, it’s very gentle undulating hike with beautiful views. Rawson Lake is en route to Sarrail ridge. I hope that helps!

  4. This post inspired me to spend an entire month in Canmore hiking and taking it all in. I will carry these memories for the rest of my life, so thank you

    • Hi Kendra! Thanks so much for your feedback. I am so happy to hear it. Thanks for taking the time to comment here. I also recommend checking out Jasper area for hiking. It’s fantastic!

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