Take the Scenic Route and Discover Highwood Pass
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- Tourism Canmore Kananaskis - July 23, 2021
At an elevation of 2,206 m (7,273 ft) above sea level, it’s one of the highest paved roads in the country, flanked by exceptional mountain views and accessible for day trips from Calgary, Canmore, or Banff.
From the north gate at King Creek to the south gate at Highwood Junction, the route is 54 km long, providing plenty of opportunities to sightsee deep in the Rocky Mountains.
Here are 4 ways you can explore this iconic region.
Amble along Alberta’s picturesque Kananaskis Trail (Highway 40) by car to reach the summit of Highwood Pass. Cradled within Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, just south of Lower Kananaskis Lake, the pass provides an extraordinary example of thrust faults.
This geological feature occurs when a section of land slips over another at a low angle, demonstrating the forces that created the Rocky Mountains.
The window of time to cycle Highwood Pass while it’s snow-free and car-free is short, with about three weeks available after the snow melts before the road is opened to vehicles. The amount of snow on the roads varies yearly, and sometimes the road will still be icy in June. Consider a one-way trip starting at the gate nearest Longview, cycle 37 km to Highwood Pass, and descend 17 km to the gate by King Creek.
Remember to pack snacks and water, and take extra layers of warm clothes. The summit of Highwood Pass is notoriously windy, and mountain weather changes quickly. Always use your judgement and be prepared to turn around.
The alpine valleys surrounding Highwood Pass are linked by high passes and ridgelines, which make excellent hiking trails. For a shorter hike, Picklejar Creek to Cliff Creek also features the option to camp, and is a moderate 5-km distance. By midsummer, most of the snow has melted, but always bring appropriate hiking gear and supplies in case of adverse conditions.
Be a friend to nature, and be prepared with bear spray, leave no trace, and marvel at the wildflowers that can be found in the meadows (but don’t take them home!).
Kananaskis Trail runs through Highwood Pass and offers access to a multitude of campgrounds and recreational areas. For the adventurous, Highwood Circuit offers a multi-day hike with campgrounds along the way, including Mist Ridge to Rickert’s Creek (13 km distance), and Sheep Valley to Junction Creek (17 km).
Plan your route and bring only what’s necessary. Always pack out what you pack in, and enjoy the solitude the backcountry has to offer.
Whether you drive, hike, bike, or camp your way through Highwood Pass, Kananaskis Country features unrivalled views and incredible mountain experiences. Bring an adventure buddy, and explore your new favourite place in the Rockies.
Please note that the road is closed from December 1 through June 15 each year for the migration of wildlife. While open, adverse weather conditions are common, so always drive with caution.
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