Top 10 Kananaskis Country Bucket List Hikes in 2021

Top 10 Bucket List Hikes

Unforgettable Hiking Trails to Kickstart Your Hiking

Our favourite back-country paradise is beginning to shed its winter white and welcome you back for a new season of hiking. Spring in Kananaskis Country offers the beauty of snow-capped mountains but dry(ing) paths. There is no better way to get back into your hiking groove than to check off hikes from the top of your bucket list. We promise the views are worth any mud on your shoes!

Mist Mountain

Aerial Hot Spring Views

Distance
9.8km

Trail type
Out & back

Elevation
1,253m

Level
Moderate-Hard

Time
2-3 Hours

 

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What better way to start crossing off your bucket list than with a hike that includes Southern Alberta’s only undeveloped natural hot spring? Overlooking a picturesque landscape, two pools are tucked away into the side of Mist Mountain. Relax in the hot springs while you gaze across expansive mountain peaks carpeted in forests. Mist Mountain’s trailhead can be found heading into Kananaskis along Highway 40. From the trailhead, a straightforward trek takes you through a valley between Mist Mountain and Eagle Ridge. In spring, mountains are coated with lush green grass blooming with Fringed Grass-of-Parnassus. To reach the hot springs, hike around the mountain in a horseshoe-like direction. The two hot springs can fit 2-4 people. Mix adventure, views and relaxation on your Mist Mountain hike. 

Mount Burke

Sky-High Cameron Lookout Trail

Distance
10.3km

Trail type
Out & back

Elevation
896m

Level
Hard

Time
5-6 Hours

 

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Bucket list hikes are often the hidden gems unrivalled for their views and lower foot traffic. Mount Burke is known as the underrated, bigger version of Prairie Mountain. The old Cameron Lookout perched on top of Mount Burke used to be the highest fire lookout in Canada. The trail is easy to find with access from the Cataract Creek campground parking lot. Hike up the side of Salter Creek through quiet meadows and serene forests. From the ridge of the lookout, on bright days, you can see the tops of clouds casting their shadows to the verdant meadows below. Of course, the view will be even greater than can be put into words! Microspikes are recommended when climbing towards the lookout.

Heart Creek Bunker

Historic Family Adventure

Distance
4.0km

Trail type
Out & back

Elevation
212m

Level
Easy

Time
1-3 Hours

 

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Combine history with adventure and nature by hiking with your family to Heart Creek Bunker. These historical wonders host deep mountain caverns in Mount McGillivray as an unfinished Cold War-era bunker. In the Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, the “Vault” was constructed to provide formidable protection for classified government documents during an emergency. Kids will love crossing through the wooden bridges of Heart Creek, seeing a testament to the preparations of the Cold War era while falling in love with the outdoors. Leave the parking lot near Lac des Arcs overpass to begin your trek from a path along the Trans Canada Highway. Aspens will block out the highway as you take in the view of the surrounding mountains. Continue travelling to East Creek Canyon, where another moment of history overlaps as signs remind of the 2013 flood. When you reach the bunker, the tunnel stretches into the depths of the mountain to make a picture-worthy moment. Ensure you have a flashlight and helmet! 

West Wind Pass

Heroic Mountain Backdrops

Distance
4.7km

Trail type
Out & back

Elevation
356m

Level
Moderate

Time
3 Hours

 

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If you’re looking for a bucket list-worthy mountain backdrop without huge elevation gain, West Wind Pass deserves a spot on your list! Traverse the pass as you view the mighty rock formations known as Rimwall and Windtower. Best hiked from the Driftwood Dayuse Area when West Wind Pass is clear of snow, trek over a ravine to sparkling views of the Spray Lakes Reservoir. Pass blooming Prairie Crocus to climb the summit offering a sweeping portfolio of jagged mountains disappearing into curving turquoise waters. West Wind Pass lives up to its name! Be prepared for heavy winds in exposed sections and carry a hiking pole to traverse the ridge. 

Rae Glacier

Nature’s Simply Stunning Landscape

Distance
8.0km

Trail type
Out & back

Elevation
425m

Level
Easy

Time
3-5 Hours

 

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If you’ve seen lakes, why not include a hike with glacier views? Rae Glacier hike is a family-friendly journey for a memorable outdoor adventure perfect for taking a break from strenuous trails. Elbow Lake provides an exploratory trail teeming with vivid details nestled within the alpine paths. Streams wind around algae-covered rocks as you trek through panoramic mountain clearings. Begin at the trailhead located from the Elbow Pass Parking Lot. During warmer months, Rae Glacier provides the perfect backdrop for bird watching. As you climb towards views of the weathered glacier, Tombstone and Elpoca Mountains provide epic sights for the family. Further into the trail, take a scenic break at a meltwater pond for a lovely cool-down period!

Picklejar Lakes

Sprawling Mountain Lake Terrain

Distance
10.5km

Trail type
Out & back

Elevation
500m

Level
Moderate-Hard

Time
3-5 Hours

 

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Although Picklejar Lakes is worthy of the bucket list solely for its name, this hike is the heartthrob of mountain lake lovers. Trek through forest and alpine landscapes throughout the numerous unique Picklejar Lakes. The third lake is a hikers favourite, reflecting the sky on clear days to rival the aqua blue of oceans. Accessible from the Lantern Creek parking lot, this trek is a perfect combination of intermediate terrain, dazzling views, towering mountains and rich forests. Climb through fields home to alpine flowers and the adored pika. Strong navigation skills are recommended. This hike is best explored in the spring and summer when the sun’s rays peek through the large swaths of exposed sections. Shrouded by forests encamped by mountains, Picklejar Lakes is an oasis of water where catch and release fishing is permitted. 

Mount Smutwood

Jaw-dropping Magnificent Peaks

Distance
20.0km

Trail type
Out & back

Elevation
961m

Level
Hard

Time
5-8 Hours

 

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The views from the ridgeline of Mount Smutwood are that of royalty. Mount Smutwood is not for the faint of heart and worth it in the “I just hiked 20km!” bragging rights sense. Deserving of a spot on any seasoned hiker’s bucket list, it is best hiked from June to October. To begin, look for Smutts Pass from Commonwealth Creek. Follow Commonwealth Creek through an open meadow and past a roaring waterfall. Begin your ascent to the ridgeline, where the glassy Birdwood Lakes remain tucked in the crevices of the teeming mountainside. The outlines of Mount Assiniboine can be glanced from the highest point of the ridge, with Mount Birdwood standing proud against a canvas of grey and blue. The views from Mount Smutwood are almost too breathtaking to be real. 

Tryst Lake

Classic Alpine Lake Views

Distance
7.2km

Trail type
Out & back

Elevation
397m

Level
Hard

Time
5 Hours

 

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Tryst Lake is an underdog on the bucket list but deserves equally as much attention. This hike offers nature’s simplistically beautiful views of an alpine lake shrouded by towering walls of pines, roofed by large mountains and occasionally veiled by mist. Situated at the foot of the Fist, pass the Mount Engadine Lodge and travel south to the end of the parking lot. Hike through the forest of Spray Valley Provincial Park and enjoy views from below that rival our favourites from above. In the Spring, grouse occasionally frequent the area.

Karst Spring

Nature’s Architectural Beauty

Distance
9.0km

Trail type
Out & back

Elevation
302m

Level
Easy

Time
2-3 Hours

 

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Children love Karst Spring for its special karst formations while parents love the trail for the variety of its landscape. Karst Spring is a rejuvenatory trail abundant in wildlife viewing opportunities throughout moose habitat. The trail is a force of nature, beautiful for its mighty free-fall downhill. Among the trees, begin your hike from the Mount Shark parking lot. Elevation will climb gradually as you traverse through a meadow and marshy land. Forging its own path among the trees and driftwood, Karst Spring funnels through the layers of Shark Ridge to create its magical formation.

Wasootch Ridge

Forested Views for the Trailblazers

Distance
15.4km

Trail type
Out & back

Elevation
1,451m

Level
Hard

Time
5-6 Hours

 

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Last but not least, Wasootch Ridge is a hike to-be bucket listed for the scramblers. Test your endurance with this steep hike and share the skies with powerful mountain ridges as you attempt the summit. Begin travelling through the Wasootch Ridge Day Area parking lot, best trekked in May as the snow begins to melt. Wasootch Ridge is fit for the tree lovers, with a densely lined trail of trees welcoming you as you climb to the ridgeline. Take a look at the Nakiska Ski Resort as the trees thin the closer you get to the summit. Feel a part of the pattern of mountain peaks and enjoy an unforgettable lunch amongst chipmunks and the endless view from the top of the world!

The Trails Await!

Spring is upon us and after a long winter– in more ways than one!– a trip to Kananaskis for some epic hikes is just what the doctor ordered. Alberta’s wild, open and free natural playground has so many can’t miss trails that we’re spoiled for choice. Pick the experience and difficulty level you want, make sure your hiking boots are in tip top shape and head to the mountains. See you on the trails!