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A Superb Hike To Guinn Pass In Kananaskis Country

A Superb Hike to Guinn Pass in Kananaskis Country

A hike to Guinn Pass 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.

Or head down the other side of the pass for an overnight stay at Ribbon Lake. 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.

"Hiking down towards Guinn Pass from the Mount Kidd shoulder"

Hiking down towards Guinn Pass from the Mount Kidd shoulder

The hike to Guinn Pass is often overlooked in favour of a hike to Lillian and Galatea Lakes. And all those cars you see in the Galatea Lakes parking lot. The occupants of those cars are mostly heading for Lillian Lake so chances are you’ll see very few people on the way to the pass.

Definitely make the hike to the lakes but then come back another time and see for yourself how glorious it is up on top.

"Parking lot view at the start and the end of the day for the Guinn Pass hike

View from the parking lot

Sarah – my longtime friend from elementary school days in Ottawa – and I made the hike to Guinn’s Pass in about 2.5 hours just a week ago.

The hike to Guinn Pass

In total it’s 7.2 kilometres one way to Guinn Pass with an elevation gain of 1,055 metres. 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 kilometres 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.

"Forget me knots"

The dainty and very beautiful forget-me-knot could be seen in a few places

"The trail looking down from Guinn Pass"

The trail looking down towards Lillian Lake from Guinn Pass

"Guinn Pass below on the Guinn Pass hike

Guinn Pass below

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.

"Sarah - heading for the top of the Mt. Kidd shoulder"

Sarah – heading for the top of the Mt. Kidd shoulder

"Buller Pass off in the distance"

Buller Pass off in the distance – and accessible via a trail off of Guinn Pass

"Big vistas from the ridge top"

Big vistas from the ridge top

"Galatea and Lillian Lakes can be seen 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

"Looking down at Ribbon Lake"

Looking down at Ribbon Lake

It wasn’t until 2:45 that we were back at the pass. We still had 8.5 kilometres to get back to the car, and 3,000 feet to descend. Poles definitely come in handy on the descent.

"Indian paintbrush in pink"

Indian paintbrush in pink

"The shoulder of Mount Kidd that we'd just climbed"

Looking up to the shoulder of Mount Kidd that we’d just climbed

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 hike"

Racing to beat the storm at the end of the hike

"Storm clouds developing"

Storm clouds developing

Useful information about the hike

  • The Galatea 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 kilometres to Guinn Pass and back. Add in about 1.5 kilometres 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.
  • Carry the 10 essentials, bear spray and take lots of water or a filter for the return trip. Consider carrying poles.

Other posts dealing with hikes in the Kananaskis area you might like:

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 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 12 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.

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