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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
- Carry the 10 essentials, bear spray (make sure it’s accessible) and take lots of water or water purification drops for the return trip. Consider carrying hiking poles.
- There isn’t much to sit on at Guinn Pass come lunch time. I swear by my almost weightless inflatable seat cushion.
- If you love wildflowers pick up a copy of Popular Wildflowers of Alberta and the Canadian Rockies.
- I always pack a buff as it’s a multi-purpose piece of cloth yet it takes up almost no room.
- No matter how the day starts I always carry rain gear. And I find a ball cap or brim hat with a chin strap invaluable in the rain or on a hot, in your face sunny day.
Further reading on hikes in Kananaskis
- The Stunning Hike to Buller Pass in Kananaskis
- The Hike to Black Prince Cirque
- The Hike to Burstall Pass in Kananaskis Country
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