If you’re looking for a great workout in the mountains that doesn’t take up the entire day, hike up Ha Ling Peak located just south of Canmore off the Spray Lakes Road. It’s an imposing, inaccessible looking peak from any vantage point in Canmore but the reality once you’re on the hiking trail is very different.
Ha Ling Peak is not difficult to hike in the sense that there are no fancy mountaineering moves required. But you may be sucking wind, especially if it’s the first hike of the season. I’m happy I’ve been doing sets of stairs through the winter. Otherwise the 737 metre (2,417 feet) elevation gain would have knocked the stuffing out of me. Even with a decent workout schedule my thigh muscles were telling me today that they’ve been well used.
The hike up Ha Ling Peak is not a long one – just 3.0 kilometres one way from the parking lot. It took us 90 minutes to get to the top – and that included a few short stops, including one to put on “icers’ in the snowy – icy – muddy section.
The first part of the hike reminds me a bit of Vancouver’s Grouse Grind. The trail heads up steeply over roots and through the trees with nary a view and doesn’t lay back on the grade for at least 30 minutes. But when it opens up, it’s impressive and the mountain views just get better and better the higher you go.
Once you hit the snow and ice, the grade moderates but without “icers” it can be a little challenging – though very doable since most people we saw didn’t have more than hiking boots on. We were told on more than one occasion that we were very smart to have brought the right equipment.
After the snow and ice you’ll get into scree and rock. This section took us about 20 – 25 minutes to climb. I kept stopping just to take in the views. On a warm Sunday in April, masses of people looked like ants on this part of the mountain. Be especially careful with so many people around that you don’t dislodge any rocks – and if you do be sure to yell – ROCK.
Although the top is very airy, with some hair-raising dropoffs along the edge, you’ll have no problem finding a safe place to sit. The views are spectacular no matter where you park yourself. Take heed of the signs asking you to avoid dislodging any rocks over the top as climbers could be on the mountain immediately below.
I’m never a fan of descents on scree so I go slowly. Sure footed people will dispatch with this part of the descent quickly. Once back in the trees I found it much easier to move quickly.
Finding the Ha Ling Peak Trailhead
Park at the Goat Creek Day Use Area – on the right if you’re driving up from Canmore. Then cross the Smith Dorrien Road and walk up the service road to the canal – a distance of about 50 metres. Cross the canal on the concrete bridge and look for the sign saying Ha Ling Peak. Head up into the woods.
Bring lots of water on this hike, especially on a warm, sunny day. If you’ve brought your dog, carry extra water for them as well. Don’t forget the sunscreen and some warm clothes for the top.
Allow three to five hours to do the return hike, depending on your fitness level and how you handle scree. Allow at least an hour on the top to enjoy the view.
As a quieter, harder alternative to Ha Ling Peak
If you want a hike that sees a lot fewer people but starts from the same trailhead then do EEOR (East End of Rundle). It’s a bigger workout with an elevation gain of 900 metres (2,952 feet) and near the top there is a little scrambling. You can see the trail in the photo below.
What’s your favourite early season hike in the mountains?
More Kananaskis Country hikes you might enjoy:
- Prairie Mountain – A Year Round Day Hike from Calgary
- A Superb Hike to Guinn Pass in Kananaskis Country
- The Cox Hill Hike in Kananaskis Country
- The Moose Mountain Hike in Kananaskis Country, Alberta
- Mountains and Stunning Views on the Hike to Buller Pass
- The Fabulous Arethusa Cirque Hike in Kananskis Country