Hiking Kananaskis: Grizzly Peak

Located in the less crowded Kananaskis valley southeast of Banff, humble 8200 foot Grizzly Peak offers incredible views with a rating of “easy” in Kane’s “Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies” book.  I would argue that there is zero scrambling to achieve the summit of Grizzly Peak, but don’t worry, it’s ~900m (3000ft) of elevation gain in ~5km round trip, making it SUPER DUPER STEEP!

The hike begins next to the highway and immediately goes UP UP UP.  You’re pretty much exposed to the elements for the entirety of the hike, so this would not be a good choice for a sketchy weather day, IMHO.  However, because of the exposure, you have near-constant views.

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near the beginning-ish

We ascended slowly on loose sandy trail and my calves were on fireeee (partially because they hadn’t stopped being on fire from our hike of Mt. Lady MacDonald).  We gained 1100 feet in 35 minutes, not due to any show of physical fitness, but because the trail is so steep that a slow plod will afford you such elevation gain in such a time!  The western view of Kananaskis valley and highway 40 opens up rather quickly due to this rapid ascent.  Horray?

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a woman descending rapidly on our way up

After the merciless ascent from the trailhead, things flatten out a bit as you circumnavigate the mountain.  Wrapping around the back side, the eastern view opens up to lush green valleys and tall, imposing, pointy peaks!  We plodded on and began to get a view of the scree slope we’d have to slog up in order to attain the summit.  Because you just KNEW there had to be scree.  This is the Canadian Rockies, after all.

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grassy knolls on your way to the summit.  PC: David

The trail becomes steeper and steeper as you approach the scree, just to get you nice and tuckered out before you do the “one step forward, two steps back” dance.  That last several hundred feet of scree took me a nice long while.  Maybe I’ll get used to it someday…

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yours truly on the summit.  PC: David

After the Mandatory Canadian Rockies Scree, you top out on a lush rolling green hill, but there are still several hundred feet left to the summit.  Thankfully, it’s an easy ascent on soft grasses and dirt; quite surprising after the steep gully of scree!  The obvious trail peters out at this point but it’s very easy to choose your own adventure, assuming visibility is decent.  The summit offers panoramic views in all directions, and has a rather photogenic ridgeline, in my humble opinion.  This unassuming, less popular peak has some A+++ views.

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other side of the summit view with route 40 and some people

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walkin’ on the summit ridge. PC: David

On the way down I performed my typical old lady shuffle and time to descend was about the same as time to ascend (yes, I am really that slow on the way down).  And descending scree still sucks… surprise!  David spotted a large group of rocky mountain sheep on the grassy knolls below the summit, but unfortunately, they were too far away to make out much besides their brown bodies and white butts.  Besides that, the only incident of note was a fellow pair of hikers with a large dog that was suffering greatly on the 90-degree day.  On the descent, it got so overheated that it refused to move and parked it under a tree for a good long while.  This serves as an important reminder to mind your four-legged friends, especially on hot summer days!  Stay safe, y’all, and happy hiking.

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those indiscernible specs in the distance on the grass are SHEEP! (trust me).  PC: David

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