The must-see mountain icons of Canmore and Kananaskis
- Nature and Parks
- Tourism Canmore Kananaskis - July 16, 2021
Nestled in the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies lies Canmore, surrounded by mountains that have their own history, personality, possibility for adventure and potential for award-winning photographs. Some have become more iconic than others over the years, such as the Three Sisters, Ha Ling Peak and Mount Lawrence Grassi, but some deeper exploration during your visit will uncover hidden gems equally worthy of your time and attention.
The Three Sisters, Canmore’s most iconic and unmistakable peaks, were initially referred to as the three nuns in 1883 after a fresh snowfall left them veiled in white. But they took their present name just a few short years later, appearing on George Dawson’s geological survey maps as the Three Sisters in 1886. They also feature in the Indigenous Stoney Nakoda story of Ĩ-ktomnĩ, the old man or trickster, who would promise three sisters in marriage whenever in trouble.
The names Faith (Big Sister), Charity (Middle Sister) and Hope (Little Sister) have also been used informally for them, and the first successful ascents of each occurred in 1887, 1921 and 1925, respectively. Interestingly, Little Sister is the most challenging peak to climb in the Canmore area by its easiest route, requiring technical rock climbing skills.
Ha Ling Peak, Canmore’s most hiked mountain, is steeped in myth. As the story goes, in 1896, Ha Ling, a Chinese cook in the Oskaloosa Hotel at Mineside in Canmore, was the first to the top after taking on a $50 bet. Unfortunately, he wasn’t believed upon his return (by lunchtime!) and the small flag he planted at the summit could not be seen from town. He went back up the very next day with witnesses in tow and a bigger flag. It is possible that he wasn’t climbing it in friendly competition but rather to honour a cultural tradition, or maybe it was both. Either way, it was a special feat.
Today, Ha Ling Peak is within reach of beginner hikers and athletes testing their limits, such as on Sisyphus Summits, a 550-metre (1,804-foot) bolted sport climb, or as part of local trail running folklore on the Canmore Quad.
Mount Lawrence Grassi celebrates another local legend. Originally hailing from Italy, Lawrence Grassi arrived in Canmore in 1912 and made a name for himself working in the local mines, as a climbing guide and as a gifted and determined trail builder, constructing remarkable hiking trails in the Lake O’Hara area as well as around Canmore.
The mountain bearing his name is the high point on a larger massif called the Ehagay Nakoda Range by the Indigenous Stoney Nakoda people, which means “the last Nakoda” (or “human being”) and refers to the mountain’s creation which occurred as part of a trick in those stories. The range includes Ha Ling Peak, Miners Peak, Mount Lawrence Grassi and Ships Prow Peak.
Diving deeper into the landmarks surrounding Canmore you will find three underrated mountains also worthy of iconic status: Mount Lougheed, East End of Rundle (EEOR, as it’s commonly known) and the newly minted Bald Eagle Peak, each with easily distinguishable features. See if you can spot them from town!
With Canmore being the springboard to Kananaskis you can also add three glaciated peaks in Kananaskis to your sightseeing bucket list as well: Mount Joffre (best seen from Northover Ridge, one of Kananaskis’ premier backpacking routes), Mount Sir Douglas (best seen from Burstall Pass, one of the area’s best day hikes) and Mount French (best seen on a ski traverse of the Haig Glacier).
The mountains of Canmore and Kananaskis are truly spectacular and hold a special place in the hearts of locals and visitors alike. So much so that they have taken on iconic status over the years as stories old and new are intertwined on their ridges, summits, faces, glaciers and gullies providing the main attraction to visit the area and stay until you have had a chance to create your own.