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Beautiful views on the Heart Mountain hike
Beautiful views on the Heart Mountain hike

Heart Mountain Hike near Canmore

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With fickle spring weather, John and I have had a hard time finding a day on a weekend to do the Heart Mountain hike. Finally in late April the weather Gods provided the window to do it. The Heart Mountain hike near Canmore is 2.8 km one way with an elevation gain of 745 m (2,450 feet). It’s nothing but up until you reach the summit. It took us just over four hours return including time for lunch on top.

As an alternative to the out and back Heart Mountain hike, you could continue to Grant McEwan Peak and make it a much longer day or do a horseshoe loop via the ridges and exit on the Quaite Trail.

The heart shape of the mountain stands out in the snow
The heart shape of the mountain stands out in the snow

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Finding the trailhead for the hike up Heart Mountain 

Drive 100 kilometres west from Calgary or 18 kilometres east from Canmore and get off at the Lac des Arcs exit. From Calgary go over the highway overpass and then swing left at a weird intersection (before you get back onto the Trans-Canada again going east) to access the parking lot at the Heart Creek Trailhead on the south side of the Trans-Canada Highway. There is signage on the highway for Heart Creek.

From the parking lot walk east on the easy trail until you reach Heart Creek. Peer through the trees across the creek and you’ll see the trail heading up Heart Mountain.

The rough trail to the creek is closed for rehabilitation so we just continued up a ways on the Heart Creek Trail until we found an easy place to cross the creek – and then bushwhacked back down to the Heart Mountain Trailhead.

That took all of about six minutes. During spring runoff I suspect the creek is more like a river. I believe there’s a bridge further up the Heart Creek trail where you could also cross. Or do as many do and park in a rough pullout on the south side of the Trans-Canada Highway (you usually see cars here on a weekend) so that crossing the creek isn’t an issue at all.

We started hiking at the Heart Creek Trailhead
We started hiking at the Heart Creek Trailhead
Warning sign before you start climbing Heart Mountain
Warning sign before you start climbing Heart Mountain

Location map of the hike

                     

Heart Mountain hike description

If you read all the trip reports you would never attempt this hike. It is a scramble and sometimes there isn’t much of a trail. But if you stick to the ridge you should be fine. If it starts to get too steep to the west you need to retrace your steps.

There is one point about two thirds of the way up the mountain where you need to scramble up a short section of rock. Look for a piece of faded flagging in the trees and then a painted red square on the rock itself. There are some decent handholds in the cracks but I wouldn’t call it easy and my ascent was less than graceful. This can be a tricky section with a dog as well.

From there it’s straight up – really steeply at times. Look around. The mountain views are fabulous of the Bow Valley and the Heart Creek Valley – though there is a down side to the hike. You can expect the hum of cars on the Trans-Canada Highway to be with you for some time. Eventually it fades to white noise.

Stellar views in short order - the Heart Creek Trail is in the bottom of the valley
Stellar views in short order – the Heart Creek Trail is in the bottom of the valley
Lots of dogs on this trail
Lots of dogs on this trail
It's actually much harder walking on the rock than the snow
It’s actually much harder walking on the rock than the snow
Turn around on occasion to admire the views
Turn around on occasion to admire the views
See the red square on the rock - get yourself up here
See the red square on the rock – get yourself up here – the crux of the hike in my opinion

Equipment for the hike 

In late April, there is lots of snow and ice on the “trail.” Almost everyone we saw was wearing either a running shoe or a lightweight trail shoe.

If you’re young and fleet of foot and nothing goes wrong that’s great. But add in a pair of “icers’ (I love the microspikes from Kahtoola) for safety. There are big drop-offs and accidents happen. Even to young people. And it sure makes the descent a whole lot easier.

For your lunch break I recommend an inflatable seat cushion

If you like paper topographical maps pick up a cop of Gem Trek Canmore and Kananaskis Village.

Don’t forget some extra energy and protein bars.

No matter how short a hike, always take the 10 essentials.

And if you’re interested in purchasing one of my books, check out 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta.

 People - bring your icers
People – bring your “icers” or it’s a really tricky ascent & descent
This is why I hike in the mountains
This is why I hike in the mountains
Someone took the time to build a snowman on the top
Someone took the time to build a snowman on the top
Two guys enjoying the view from the Heart Mountain summit
Two guys enjoying the view
You can continue down from the summit and do a horseshoe hike
You can continue down from the summit and do a horseshoe hike
On clear days I'm told you can see all the way to Calgary - that's Mt Yamnuska to the eas
On clear days I’m told you can see all the way to Calgary – that’s Mt Yamnuska to the east
Wear icers in spring on the Heart Mountain hike
I wore my “icers” for over half the hike

When should you do the Heart Mountain hike?

The hike up Heart Mountain is a great one. Do it on the way to the Calgary airport after a vacation in Banff. Leave work early on a Friday afternoon and be up and down before the sun sets. Go on weekend before the crowds appear. The views are great – even if it’s not all wilderness. And it’s a stellar workout.

Its best done from spring until the snow starts to fall.

Further reading on hikes in the Canmore – Banff area

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The Heart Mountain Hike near Canmore

 

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