There are several stunning hikes throughout the mountains of Alberta. My favourite is Ptarmigan Cirque which lies in the midst of Kananaskis Country.

Kananaskis Country

The entrance of Kananaskis country is an hour’s drive from Calgary. Kananaskis Country is an amazing gorgeous nature paradise, it features an ecological reserve, four wildland provincial parks, and five provincial parks. The area has numerous stunning hikes including longer hikes requiring days of walking deep into the mountains. If you want to see the beauty of this hike, check out my blog post featuring a virtual vacation to Kananaskis set to classical music.

The Highwood Pass

The hike begins at the Highwood Pass which clocks in at 2206 meters (7,273 ft) above sea level. This road is only open to vehicles for 6 months of the year. From December 1st to June 15th, the road closes for wildlife migration. The Highwood Pass is the highest paved road in Canada and is 54 km long, lying between King Creek and Highwood Junction.

Ptarmigan Cirque

In the middle of the pass lies the entrance to Ptarmigan Cirque. There is a parking lot to get to the Cirque, you cross the highway, and then there is a bit of a strenuous short hike with an elevation gain of 210 meters in the first portion of the hike. This first portion is the worst of it. The remainder of the hike is quite pleasant. It is considered a moderately challenging hike.

After the ascent, the hike is wonderful. You cross meadows, reach mountains with ridges that are so defined, and view the highway far below between mountain peaks. The mountain ranges feel like a Tolkien novel at times. In fact, down south from the Cirque lies Mist Mountain. It is not the mountain range that inspired The Hobbit’s Misty Mountain, but it is still majestic.

Mount Arethusa, photo printed with permission, credit: JB Stickley

For an avid hiker, this is a quick hike with an average completion time of 90 minutes. For those wanting to have a leisurely hike, this is an ideal hike in the summertime. At the peak of the hike, there are some good spots to sit and have a light picnic, rest, or take in the sights. Photography buffs will want some time as the scenery is breathtaking. Here I am below, enjoying the meadow and mountains.

Photo credit: JB Stickley

Some hikers like to do this hike in the winter. Winter hiking gear such as icers, snowshoes, or crampons are suggested. Several hikers discuss the winter hike conditions in the reviews section of All Trails.

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