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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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