West Wind Pass Trail, Kananaskis

by - Tuesday, May 03, 2016

West Wind Pass in Bow Valley Wildland Park is a rare gem that offers beautiful views with very little effort. While the trail may be steep, it's only 2.1 kilometres, so even little kids can do it! Of course no one will believe you when you show them your stunning above-treeline photos! The trailhead is located on Spray Lakes Road, a short drive from Canmore.


West Wind Pass At a Glance 

Distance: 4.2 km
Elevation Gain: 380 m
Time: Allow 3 hours if hiking with small children
Nearest Washrooms: Driftwood Day Use Area
Stroller Friendly? No.
Geocaches: There are a few geocaches along the hike! Download and store cache data at home as there is no cell service on the trail.
Recommended age: 4 & up (Wear proper footwear so you don't slip. It is short, but steep!)

Directions: From Canmore, get onto Spray Lakes Drive / Three Sisters Parkway / AB-742 (becomes Smith-Dorrien Trail). Continue on AB-742 for about 16 kilometres until you reach Driftwood Day Use Area. There are washrooms here if you need them. From here, set your odometer to zero and pull over 1.6 km past Driftwood Day Use. Park on the side of the road. The trail starts on the north side of the road (opposite the lake), to the left of the creek.

Trailhead: There is no sign marking the trailhead. Pull over 1.6 km past Driftwood Day Use (if coming from Canmore). Trailhead Coordinates: 50.976405, -115.321332

Closures: There is a seasonal closure from December 1-June 15 each year for West Wind Valley (north of West Wind Pass) and West Wind Ridge (north-west of West Wind Pass), but not Wind Pass, so please respect the closure and stay on trail and return the way you came. The closure is in effect to preserve critical grazing areas for wildlife. See Alberta Parks' map of the affected area here.

Fun Fact: West Wind Pass is notoriously windy, but is actually named for West Wind Creek! (Source)

West Wind Pass

Trip Description

Stay to the left of the creek to go up to West Wind Pass (watch for bikes as the first section is shared with cyclists). Very soon after, you'll see a wildlife camera - give it a wave! - and orange flagging on your right. Follow the steep hiking trail up and up, and you'll be rewarded with views along the ever deepening ravine. Wind Tower (part of Mount Lougheed) is the peak to your right. Rimwall, not visible until you get higher, is on your left. Be sure to turn back from time to time to enjoy views of Spray Lakes and the surrounding peaks!

Wind Tower and Lougheed Peak
The trail hugs the ravine most of the way, so keep little ones close as the ravine walls are steep in spots.  Going up is not too bad, but coming down can be a bit slippery with sections of loose rock.

West Wind Pass Trail
Wind Tower Watching Over Us
Spray Lakes Reservoir 
Prairie Crocus on West Wind Pass Trail 
Rimwall
View from the pass!
As you approach the pass, there are rocky outcroppings that make great shelters on a blustery day. They're also great for climbing! Climb up and get perfect panoramic pics! Spray Valley is to the south and Wind Valley is to the north.

View from the rocks!
Spectacular!!
Shout out to KEEN for keeping me in comfy footwear
This kid is part mountain goat!
POG Family on West Wind Pass
The descent was quick with only one slip (famous last words to my youngest: "Don't run!"), and in what seemed like no time, we were back at the car. Big POG (6) said "I didn't know it was that steep on the way up! I could've done more!" Next time, young grasshopper!

West Wind Pass
Some parts of the trail are narrow.
Lovely views for most of the way!
Cue the Smurfs Song here

Follow the path around! 

More Fun in the Area

Stop at Driftwood Day Use to play in the lake!

Fishing at Driftwood Day Use
Watch for moose around the dam - I usually see a few there, but not this time (they were likely in the shade as it was hot!).

Not enough hiking for one day? Hike the popular trail to Grassi Lakes on your way home! There is an easy trail (stroller friendly, unpaved) or "difficult" trail (not stroller friendly, has stairs) depending on how you're feeling. We usually take the difficult trail up as it's prettier, and descend via the easy trail.

Going Further

For a longer hike, hike adjacent Windtower. Windtower is 1000 metres elevation gain and 10 km return from the trailhead (not the pass). A super fun scramble, but not suitable for little kids as there are several cliff bands to go over and exposure at the top (huge dropoff).

View from Windtower
Rimwall Summit is also accessed via West Wind Pass Trail, and has similar elevation gain, but requires route-finding. I recommend going with someone who has gone before or reading detailed trip descriptions. Again, not for little kids as there is some sketchy scree on slab and exposure.

Let me know if you go and how you liked it! :)

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