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Big Vistas From The Ridge Top

Guinn Pass Hike in Kananaskis Country

The Guinn Pass hike in Kananaskis Country offers up several steep sections of hiking that will get your thighs burning but rewards you with stupendous, 360 degree views. And if you feel energetic at the pass you can continue hiking up the shoulder of Mount Kidd for ever more awesome views.

Another option on the Guinn Pass hike is to head down the other side of the pass for an overnight stay at Ribbon Lake. And yet another day-tripping option from Guinn Pass is to hike up to Buller Pass but I’d recommend that only if you have masochistic tendencies.

Start the Guinn Pass hike by crossing over the Kananaskis River
Start the Guinn Pass hike by crossing over the Kananaskis River
Mileage sign on the far side of the bridge
Mileage sign on the far side of the bridge
On the hike cross many bridges
Cross many bridges on the way up to Lillian Lake

Guinn Pass trailhead

Drive to the Galatea Lakes parking lot, approximately 32 km south of Highway 1. It’s well signed on the highway.

Even though there are usually a lot of cars in the Galatea Lakes parking lot, the majority of people stop at Lillian Lake. The hike to Guinn Pass is far less popular than even the one to Galatea Lakes.

View from the parking lot
Great mountain view from the parking lot

Guinn Pass hike details

In total it’s 7.2 km one way to Guinn Pass with an elevation gain of 1,055 m. The trail I hiked pre-2013 was decommissioned because of all the extensive damage after the 2013 floods.

You still follow Galatea Creek after crossing the Kananaskis River – but you continue all the way to Lillian Lake. From there continue for 1.1 km on the well-marked trail towards Galatea Lakes. Shortly after you’ve cleared the trees you’ll come to another trail intersection.

Keep left to continue to the Galatea Lakes and right for Guinn Pass. Head across a boulder field. Then the steep climbing begins in earnest.

Hike up the steep southeast slopes of Peak 217373. You’ll cross hillsides of scree and grass. Poles come in handy for the descent. Continue to the pass, enjoying the superb mountain views unfolding the higher you get.

Walk past Lillian Lake
On the Guinn Pass hike you walk past Lillian Lake
Look for trail signs at the far end of Lillian Lake
Directions to Guinn Pass at the far end of Lillian Lake (taken in October after a couple of snowfalls)
The dainty and very beautiful forget-me-knot could be seen in a few places
The dainty and very beautiful forget-me-knot could be seen in a few places
 Buller Pass off in the distance
Buller Pass off in the distance – and accessible via a trail off of Guinn Pass

Once we got to Guinn Pass we stopped for lunch. I should have brought a piece of something soft to sit on because it’s flat and stony at the pass – and not very comfortable.

The shoulder of Mount Kidd

Part way through lunch we spotted a few hikers on the way down from the ridge, which is actually the shoulder of Mount Kidd. Once they were back at the pass they described the hike as a quick one – 15 minutes up, 15 minutes down and very worthwhile.

Sarah and I looked at each other – and then decided we’d just head for the first nob on the ridge and call it a day there.

As you can imagine, the views got better and better with every foot we climbed. By the time we reached the nob we figured we might as well go for the top as it wasn’t far then. And so we did – although I’d say for us with picture taking and discussion time it was closer to 30 minutes up and 25 minutes down.

Big vistas from the ridge top
Big vistas from the ridge top
You can see Galatea and Lillian Lakes from the shoulder of Mount Kidd
Galatea (upper lake) and Lillian Lakes can be seen from the shoulder of Mount Kidd
Looking to Guinn Pass
Looking to Guinn Pass
On the Guinn Pass hike the Mt Kidd shoulder doesn't look like much
Mt Kidd shoulder doesn’t look like much – worth doing for the views
Views in the direction of Buller Pass from the Mt Kidd shoulder
Views in the direction of Buller Pass from the Mt Kidd shoulder
From Guinn Pass good views down to Ribbon Lake
Looking down at Ribbon Lake
Me at the top of the Mt Kidd shoulder
Me at the top of the Mt Kidd shoulder

It wasn’t until 2:45 PM that we were back at the pass. We still had a lot of kilometres to get back to the car, and 3,000 feet to descend. Poles definitely come in handy on the descent.

On the Guinn Pass hike wildflowers galore in some areas
Wildflowers galore in some areas
Another view of the Mt Kidd shoulder
Another view of the Mt Kidd shoulder
Coming down from the Mt. Kidd shoulder
Coming down from the Mt. Kidd shoulder

Revive your feet near the end of the hike

By the time we got to the set of pools in the photo below, perhaps a kilometre from the parking lot, we were both ready to revive our feet. The water was icy cold and in less than 30 seconds the pain was too much. But our feet felt alive for the last of the hike.

The perfect pool for foot soaking at the end of a long day
The perfect pool for foot soaking at the end of a long day

We were back at the car by 5 PM just ten minutes ahead of the storm – brilliant timing on our part, but sheer luck.

This is one Kananaskis Country hike I HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

Racing to beat the storm at the end of the Guinn Pass hike
Racing to beat the storm at the end of the hike

Useful information about the Guinn Pass hike

  • The Galatea Lakes trailhead is about 90 minutes from Calgary along Highway 40 in Kananaskis Country. No permits are required and parking is free.
  • The total distance is 17 km to Guinn Pass and back. Add in about 1.5 km extra for the return hike to the summit of the shoulder of Mount Kidd.
  • Elevation gain to Guinn Pass is 3,000 feet. It’s about another 500 feet to the summit of the shoulder.

A few things to take on the hike

Further reading on hikes in Kananaskis

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The Guinn Pass hike in Kananaskis Country

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 9 Comments

    1. @Erik It would be a whole lot of extra vertical to go down Guinn Pass, up & down Buller Pass, back up Guinn Pass and head back to the parking lot. Hence my reference to masochists. I love the high alpine too.

  1. So that’s your secret — almond butter and banana sandwich! The scree section of the hike looks pretty dangerous. I’m glad you know what you’re doing out there.

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