Hiking to Mount Assiniboine – The Matterhorn of the Rockies

Sometimes Mother Nature gets it right. One of the most majestic mountains in Canada is perfectly situated above 3 gorgeous blue lakes set in a dense evergreen forest. Mount Assiniboine has been touted as the ‘Matterhorn of the Rockies’ for its tall, pyramidal shape and dominating presence. It is a favourite destination for many mountain lovers and should be on your must-see list.

Mount Assiniboine lies near the border between British Colombia and Alberta. There’s no short way to hike in or out of Assiniboine Provincial Park. We did a two-day hike that took us from Sunshine Village Ski Resort in Banff National Park to Lakes Og and Magog in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. We prefer this approach because it provides very scenic views passing through the open Sunshine Meadows and Valley of Rocks with glimpses of Assiniboine throughout the trip. For other access options click here.

The hike in

Sunshine Village Ski Resort to Og Lake
Distance – 29.3 km; Elevation Gain – 950 m

In the strange summer of 2020 Sunshine Village is closed and therefore so is their gondola. Usually you could take the gondola from the parking lot to the Village and begin the trek from there. Instead we had to add an hour and a half trudge up the gravel access road to reach Sunshine Village.

From there however, the hike is amazing. Sunshine Meadows is a large, open area with expansive views. The hike crosses the large meadow allowing us to admire the vista for a while. If we had more time we would have stopped at the pretty Rock Isle Lake, but it was a little too far off our route. The meadows are inhabited by hundreds of Colombia ground squirrels who screeched at us as we passed. Although we didn’t see any bears, there were plenty of recent digs. Grizzzlies dig deep in the ground searching for the screeching rodents.

The rolling hills of the meadows lead up to a lookout above Howard Douglas Lake. It’s a small, but very pretty blue lake surrounded by fir and larch trees. From the lookout the tip of Mount Assiniboine can be seen rising above the other mountain tops.

After passing the lake, the meadows continue and slowly lead up to Citadel Pass (2360 m). With the rugged looking Citadel Mountain beside us and a better view of Mount Assiniboine in the distance, it’s a nice spot for a rest.

After the pass, there is a steep descent as the trail heads far down the tight valley to Porcupine Campground. The campground is in the trees under the ridge of craggy topped mountains so there isn’t much of a view, but it’s a good place to stop for the night. If you’re not stopping, you can by-pass the campground and avoid the final 100 m descent.

From Porcupine Campground, the trail wanders through the trees to the small but pretty rocky Golden Valley. Then it climbs up and down a few ridges before reaching the interesting Valley of the Rocks. It was formed by an ancient rockslide that left its remains scattered around this large valley. The trail meanders between and around boulders of all sizes and shapes.

After the Valley of the Rocks the trail climbs to a lookout above Og Lake. What a spectacular view of the lake with Mount Assiniboine in the distance! We ski toured this same route in winter. Below is the winter view from close to the same spot.

Og Lake seems to be hiding behind a rocky outcrop below Windy Ridge, but when we get close we see it’s not enclosed. At its far end, the outcrop opens up for a fantastic view of Assiniboine. When the water is calm there is a perfect reflection on the lake. In the evenings we saw amazing alpenglow sunsets on the mountain which reflected on the still lake.


What to do in Assiniboine Provincial Park

After hiking 30 km to get to this spot, it would be a shame to turn around the next day and head out. Instead, plan to spend a couple of nights exploring this incredible area.

Enjoy the scenery at Lake Magog

This pretty lake sits at the base of the mighty Assiniboine and has the classic view of the massif. It’s the main area that people come to see. You can walk along the lake and find a quiet spot to sit and enjoy the view from its edge. There is a campground, a lodge and backcountry huts around the lake, but it never feels busy. The second picture below is from 2008, roughly the same time of year. You can see the difference in snow in the two years.

Hike to Nublet or Nub Peak
Distance – 4 km one way; Elevation Gain – 600 m

It seems as if Nub Peak was purposefully placed where it is to give you the most amazing views of Mount Assiniboine. The hike is accessed from Magog Meadows and begins as a gentle climb through a tight forest of fir until it becomes more sparse with larch trees. At the first ridge (sometimes called Niblet) is a lookout with nice views of Cerulean Lake, Mount Assiniboine and Lake Magog.

The trail leaves the lookout and follows a steep open, rocky trail up to the next viewpoint, offering better and better views as you climb. From the Nublet plateau you’ll find one of the most amazing views in Canada. Mount Assiniboine has a commanding presence towering over the three blue lakes; Magog, Sunburst and Cerulean. The scene is so perfect that you can’t take your eyes off it. Another 2 hour scramble will take you to the top of Nub Peak but we think the best views are from Nublet.

Hike to Og Pass and Windy Ridge

Og Pass is right above Og Lake, but its access is closer to Magog Lake. It’s an easy hike up a small hill for another view of Assiniboine towering above (distance – 6 km; elevation gain – 300 m approx.). The actual pass is down in the wide valley that used to be a horse route from Banff to Assiniboine. For better views you can continue following the trail to the top of Windy Ridge (2635 m).

Hike to Wonder Pass
Distance – 3.5 km; Elevation gain – 205m

If you’re not hiking in or out via Wonder Pass, you can still visit it in a nice easy day hike. From Lake Magog follow the trail through the open meadow reaching the small, peaceful Gog Lake. From there the trail climbs up through a sparse forest passing a lovely waterfall. The pass is a large open area with a few larch trees and looks out to Marvel Peak and Mount Gloria. It would be lovely in the fall when the larch needles have changed to a golden colour.

Visit Og Lake

If you’re staying at Lake Magog, the 6 km hike to Og Lake is a worthwhile objective. Set in a rocky valley, Og Lake offers one of the best views of Assiniboine. It’s often overlooked because Lake Magog has the classic view, but this pretty lake shouldn’t be missed. The hike between the two travels through Og Meadows which is covered in low brush that provide a nice green colour to the landscape. We’ve also done this route in the winter on skis. The final picture is a wintery scene from Og Meadows for comparison.

Visit Lakes Sunburst, Cerulean and Elizabeth

We didn’t go visit these lakes, but from Magog meadows there are three relatively easy hikes to that take you to these pretty lakes. These hikes are well marked on sign posts.


Access

There are a few ways to get to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. None of them involve a car.

Helicopter – Those with little time or interest in hiking can take a helicopter in and out from either Canmore or Mount Shark.

Hiking – There are also a few different options for arriving on foot. You can hike in and out from Mount Shark using two different routes, or hike Sunshine to Mount Shark (or reverse) and take the shuttle to return to your car. For shuttle times and costs click here.

  1. From the Mt. Shark Nordic ski trails parking lot in Kananaskis, two trails take you to Lake Magog. They both leave Mount Shark on the trail to Bryant Creek where the trail splits. Both can be done in one long day, or stay at one of the campgrounds near Bryant Creek. Many people will hike in one trail and out the other.

a. Assiniboine Pass – One trail leaves Bryant Creek via Asssiniboine Pass. It’s a flat but less scenic option. Distance: 27.5 km Elevation gain: 460 m


b. Wonder Pass – A second trail goes via Wonder Pass. It is by far prettier but has a bit more elevation gain. The trail travels above the 5 km long Marvel Lake. Distance – 26 km; Elevation gain – 580 m

Marvel Lake pictures courtesy Eliza.

2. Sunshine – The hike from Sunshine Village Ski Resort, through Citadel Pass and then to Assiniboine is the most scenic option. Distance – 23 km and roughly 450 m elevation gain (In summer 2020 Sunshine Village gondola is closed so it adds 6.5 km and a gain of 525 m to the trip.)

3. Finally a trail goes through Allenby Pass and then Og Pass. It is a longer hike with fewer camping options as well as being a horse route. It is the least favoured option by hikers.


Where to stay

Assiniboine Lodge

This gorgeous private lodge offers lovely accommodation on the shores of Lake Magog. In the summer of 2020 however, the lodge is closed.

Naiset Huts

More rustic than the lodge, these huts have dormitory sleeping, a cooking room, outhouses and food storage. You need to bring your own food.

The lodge and huts can be booked on-line here

Campgrounds

There are 2 main campgrounds near Mount Assiniboine, Lake Magog and Og Lake. They both offer pluses and minuses. Lake Magog is situated right below Assiniboine and has amazing views, but is larger and busier. Og Lake is 6 km away so you have to hike to access most trails. Its quieter and has different, but also spectacular views of the mountain.

The campgrounds have a cooking area with grey water dump, lockers and or poles for food storage. Water is available but must be filtered or treated. Og Lake had one of the cleanest outhouses we’ve seen and a large supply of toilet paper! Campgrounds can be booked on-line here . During the peak summer season, you must have a pre-booked campsite as there are no walk-in sites available.

Bryant Creek Area Campgrounds – If you’re hiking from Mount Shark you can break up the long day by staying at BR9, BR13, BR14 or the Bryant Creek Shelter (Book these campgrounds here)

Porcupine Campground – On the hike in we stayed one night at Porcupine Campground. There are no fees and no reservation is necessary, but it is a first-come first-served site. There is a cooking area, food storage lockers, tent pads and an outhouse. Water is available from the stream and must be filtered or treated.

Tips for a great stay in Mount Assiniboine

• Bring warm cloths as it can get very cold. This year we went on the last week in August and overnight temperatures were 4° C. On our hike out, the last 45 minutes we were in a hail storm.
• On day hikes expect sudden changes in weather. Bring a rain jacket/gortex, an extra sweater, gloves and a toque in a small backpack.
• Bring bear spray and/or bear bangers and keep watch for all wildlife. Educate yourself on safety in the backcountry.

To ead our other hikes from around the world go to Treks.

Coming Next: The Classic Wapta Traverse in the Summer

For extra pictures from Canada click here. For pictures from other blogs go to Gallery at monkeystale.ca

To read about more of our adventures go to Destinations.

If you like what you read, please comment or share (with credit) using the links below.

46 comments

Submit a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s