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 kilometres one way with an elevation gain of 745 metres (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, 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.
Finding the trailhead for 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.
The hike up Heart Mountain
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.
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 products from Hillsound) for safety. There are big drop-offs and accidents happen. Even to young people. And it sure makes the descent a whole lot easier.
No matter how short a hike, always include the 10 essentials.
When to do this 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.
Further reading on hikes in the Canmore – Banff area
- The Aylmer Lookout Hike in Banff National Park
- The Gorgeous Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Canmore
- The Tunnel Mountain Hike in Banff National Park
- 9 Canmore Hikes that Offer Great Views
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