Considered to be an 'easy' scramble but 'difficult' hike, depending on your skill or fittness level this trip will take roughly 6-9 hours (round-trip). Within half an hour from the trailhead, the Mount Sparrowhawk hike will afford you excellent views of the Spray Lakes valley. •Height: 3,121 m (10,240 ft) •Elevation Gain: 1,415 m (4,643 ft) •Distance: 10.0 km / Round Trip
From the trailhead, the trail is a steady and fairly steep climb through forest. About 10-15 mins into the hike the trail levels off slightly and you will reach a small clearing with two forks that is marked with a large pile of rocks, some scratched trees and possibly some blue ribbon-tape tied to the trees. From here, take the left fork. (The right fork leads to the Sparrowhawk Tarns which is an easier but very different hike). Continue climbing up fairly steep forested trail and begin to gain views of Read's Tower straight ahead. Eventually, at treeline, the trail levels off again as you reach the top of the spine you've been climbing and you are now immediately beneath Read's Tower*. Mount Sparrowhawk is now clearly visible up and to the left of Read's Tower. From here, you are now only 1.8km from the peak but you have many meters of elevation left to gain. The trail is now faint and lightly trod into the grass. Descend slightly to the left and then begin to follow the lightly beaten trail back up towards Mount Sparrowhawk. Very quickly you will leave the grass and from here you are scrambling and there is no longer an apparent trail, but the route is quite simply "up". Keep travelling up and generally toward the pass that is just right of the peak. Depending on the season you may begin encountering snow so gaiters are recommended. Reach a weather station in the pass and gain stunning views of the valley below. From here you can scramble up the rest of the way to the top of Mount Sparrowhawk.
*You can opt to hike Read's Tower instead if you are feeling tired (or as well in the same day if you are feeling ambitious). Instead of descending down to the left towards Mount Sparrowhawk you can descend down to the right then follow the lightly beaten, fairly obvious trail up Read's Tower.
From Canmore follow the signs to the Canmore Nordic Centre, up the hill. From the Nordic Centre turn off, reset your odometer to 0 and travel 22.7km along the Smith-Dorrien/Spray Lakes gravel road and park in the Sparrowhawk day-use area on the right. The trailhead is just across the road from the parking lot. You will see a well-trod trail (just north of the creek) leading uphill into the forest, though there is no "official" trailhead or signage for this hike.
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Posted By: mud113
- Sat Nov 07 22:49:55 UTC 2015
Upside-Some of the best view in the Rockies -Not technical -Plenty of fossils to find -Great variation in terrain Downside-Rather strenuous in terms of elevation gain. This goes double for the last third of the hike. -Can be cool and windy all year round CommentI completed this hike at the start of October 2015. I attempted it the year before but couldn't make it to the top due to weather conditions.
I wanted to comment on this hike because this trail has changed as of 2015. There is now a mountain biking trail that you have to follow for about 15 minutes until you come to your first junction. From the trail-head you'll want to follow this biking trail (even though it does go West into the trees more than the previous trail). After a short walk you'll come to your first junction. If you look down the one trail you'll see a new wooden bridge that takes you over a small creek. Don't take this trail if you're looking to get to the top of Sparrowhaw. A short time later you'll come a second junction. You'll want to stay left at this point. There used to be flagging and a sign indicating the correct path, but it appears those have been removed since the new trail was created. After that it's smooth sailing to the top!
Posted By: familyofschmidts
- Mon Jul 06 10:56:10 UTC 2015
UpsideThe hike portion was awesome! Watch your footing and you'll be fine. Strong legs will definitely help with the elevation gain. DownsideNot for the unexperienced. CommentMy husband and I did this trail on July 5/15. Only one other group out so very isolated yet peaceful. It took us 3.5 hours roundtrip, but i will admit I chickened out on the last .5 k of the scramble. We figure IF we had done the entire thing, probably 5 hours roundtrip (we are both fit people but new to scrambles). Stopped for a quick snack in the gully, came across a marmot just a few metres away. It seemed quite interested in us, though we kept our distance. He was sitting there waiting for us on the way back too!
Posted By: ChrisMarry
- Fri Jul 25 06:16:12 UTC 2014
UpsideViews are absolutely stunning and almost all along the hike! 360 view on the summit, incredible! DownsideNone CommentOne of the best I've done, so beautiful and a challenging elevation gain, no technical challenges though. I have tried this hike for the first time last October and there were a lot of snow and I couldn't see the head of the mountain that was hidden by the clouds, I had to turn back before scrambling up to the summit. I waited late in July this time to make sure I would make it to the top and we did! Believe it or not, we still had a little snowfall while on the summit.
Once at the head, we tried to climb on the left side of it. We went up a gully and realized it was way over our level of expertise, we are not climbers yet and we had no equipment anyway. We got back to the scree slope surrounding the impressive summit and walked around to its right until we got back hiking trail, actually behind the head. Then, its a scree slope to the top. Keep left while going up as the scree is packed so its easier to go up. Going down a bit more in the gully is easier with a bit of loose scree to slide in. Thats a must in Kananaskis in my opinion.