From Canmore, it's easy to access the Smith Dorrien Trail - Highway 40 loop, a…
What a delight the Pigeon Mountain hike near Canmore turned out to be. Once you get away from the powerline and break through the trees, views are superb. The same goes for wildflowers. They’re excellent in the meadows in summer and even in early fall when there are plenty of reds and yellows to enliven the landscape. Although the climb to the summit is a stiff one, it modulates often enough that you can catch your breath. For stretches you can even see your ultimate destination – no disappointing false summits on this hike.
A real bonus to doing the Pigeon Mountain hike is the relative ease of getting to the trailhead. It is accessed from Dead Man’s Flats, just an hour’s drive from Calgary or a 10-minute drive from Canmore. But count on a full day hike. It will take you somewhere between 5 – 7 hours. We did it in 5 hours and 20 minutes including lunch, summit, photography, and snack stops. Dogs are allowed on a leash.
Fun fact: In 1858 when the Palliser expedition went through, Eugene Bourgeau named the mountain, Pic de Pigeons, despite the fact pigeons were not in the area. And at one point the mountain was home to a ski hill with two poma lifts. According to the Calgary Herald, 500 children received free ski lessons here every year for about three years. It permanently closed in 1983 and the equipment was sold off.
Pigeon Mountain stats
- The trail is closed from December 1 – June 15th to protect wildlife.
- The hike is approximately 15.5 km return.
- Elevation gain is somewhere around 1000 metres.
- There is nothing technical about the hike.
- Allow 5 – 7 hours depending on your hiking speed and how much you like to linger on summits.
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Finding the Pigeon Mountain trailhead
Drive west from Calgary to the Dead Man Flat’s exit. Go south on the overpass and drive up a gravel road to a parking lot located just past the Banff Gate Mountain Resort. If it’s busy, you may have to park on the road.
The trailhead is also used for hiking up West Wind Pass, and Centennial Ridge. (One year we did it as a one-way hike and descended the trail from Mt Allan to the parking lot used for this hike.) In theory, you could hike to Skogan Pass too though it’s better in winter when you can ski it, at least if the snow is good.
Pigeon Mountain hike description
From the main trailhead, hike about 100 m to reach the intersection pictured below. Go left and hike under the powerline. Follow it towards Skogan Pass for about 4 km. The trail weaves away from the powerline and into the woods on three occasions – which was a treat in the heat as it was shaded. It took us 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach the trail to Pigeon Mountain proper.
If you kept going you would reach Skogan Pass. From there you can to a long descent to the parking lot used for the Troll Falls hike.
From the turnoff at the Skogan Pass Trail you can count on a lot of steep climbing – though with great views. In total you have another 535 m to climb over approximately 2.8 km.
Once you turn off onto the Pigeon Mountain trail, hike steeply up through the trees for about 10 minutes to reach an open area. Catch your breath before continuing.
What the descent looks like
It was a treat to focus on the landscape and not my heavy breathing on the way down. It took us just an hour to get back to the junction with the Skogan Pass trail. The mountain scenery was excellent the whole way down to the trees.
This is a hard hike, primarily because of the elevation gain. You might want to build up to it, if its early in the hiking season. Don’t forget the bear spray and the 10 hiking essentials.
A few things to take on the hike
- Take lots of water for you and your dogs as there is only one place to get it – and that’s about 20 minutes in from the trailhead.
- It can get blowy on top so pack a warm coat.
- The paper map for this hike is Gem Trek Canmore and Kananaskis Village.
- An inflatable seat cushion is a treat to sit on at lunch time.
- Many people will want to use hiking poles, especially for the descent. These carbon ones are excellent.
A few more hikes nearby
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