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; well the occupants of those cars are heading for Galatea Lakes 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"

Parking lot view at the start and the end of the day

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

The initial 5.5 kilometres follows Galatea Creek sometimes steeply to a well-marked junction. If you continue on this trail you’ll reach Lillian Lake and then Galatea Lake. But for Guinn Pass turn right, cross the stream and then make lots of noise for the next 10-15 minutes. The vegetation is thick and it looks like the perfect stop for a bear with all the berries around. Fortunately we didn’t even see bear scat. Through here there are loads of wildflowers too – more than I would have expected at this time of year.

"Wildflowers along the trail"

Wildflowers along the trail

"Forget me knots"

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

Once through the thick vegetation you can see the trail ahead. It climbs VERY steeply up a gully. You’d be surprised what quick work you can make of it though. Next up are scree slopes but they pale in comparison to my Abbott Pass hike. Blast through the scree and you’re into the good stuff – a gentler wildflower edged path and knockout views.

"A hot scree section - going up and coming down"

The scree section – going up and coming down

"The trail looking down from Guinn Pass"

The trail looking down towards Lillian Lake from Guinn Pass

"Guinn Pass below"

Guinn Pass below

Once we got to Guinn Pass we stopped for lunch – my traditional almond butter and banana sandwich, just in case you’re interested. 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.

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.

"Heading down the wildflower filled but very steep gully"

Heading down the wildflower filled but very steep gully

"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

"Map to Guinn Pass"

Map showing route and mileage to Guinn Pass

Useful information about the hike to Guinn Pass 

  • 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.

Have you hiked in Kananaskis Country?

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

Leigh McAdam

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