NTS Map: 082J13. Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park in the Canadian Rockies (with an average altitude of more than 2000 meters) is the highest situated park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It is actually in BC, but the closest town is Canmore, Alberta, and the closest large city is Calgary. Its namesake, Mt. Assiniboine, 3618 meters, is often referred to as the Matterhorn of the Rocky Mountains. Though Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park has the mountain as its icon and name, it has lots more to offer. Alpine lakes with the surrounding snow-clad mountain peaks (many of them above 3000 meters) make this a paradise for backpackers. The fact that you can hike and/or scramble up to a few peaks without technical safety gear makes this an even more attractive destination.
A luxury at this park is the Assiniboine Lodge, erected in 1928 by the CPR which leased it to a Norwegian named Erling Strom in 1936, after he had run the place in the winter months for a few years. Later in 1936, Erling enlarged the lodge and built a few more cabins around the main cabin. Erling operated the lodge for almost 50 years. Today the Assiniboine Lodge is run by Sepp and Barb Renner, a Swiss/Canadian family who provide hotel services and a gourmet restaurant for their guests. They also have guided trips around the park for their guests. A cafe for backpackers is also open during afternoon hours. Even the minimalist will get tempted to try out their home-made hot chocolate and cookies or a glass of freshly made lemonade. This is also the place were you can get fire logs for the wood burning stoves at the Naiset Cabins for $5 each. A fee is collected for use of the Naiset Cabins ($15 per person per night). These cabins are simple, yet luxurious places to stay after a few cold and wet nights.
Located 500 meters from the Naiset Cabins are the Park headquarters. The rangers make daily trips to both the cabins and the campsite. If you are lucky you will be invited over for a game of cards. At the time I visited the Lake Magog area, there was only one ranger present and he soon became a great source for information (and the park HQ a gathering point for the night's game of hearts).
Some things should be noted about this park. Snow can fall any time during the year, and the temperatures can drop significantly during nights. The author got minus 10 Celsius and half a metre of snow the first night out in the park at Lake Magog. Drinking water is provided at the Lake Magog Campground and at the Naiset Cabins. The campground has a simple food cache to hang your food. There is a $5 fee to stay at the campground. If you are planning a trip to this park, which I recommend strongly you do, make sure you have at least 4 days to spend. Making the 26 km approach to the park takes at least a full day, and then a day going back. Less strong hikers would want to do this in two days, with an overnight stay midways at the Bryant Creek Shelter.
Note that the Bryant Creek Shelter is in Banff National Park and a park permit is required to stay overnight. If you are continuing to Lake Magog that day, this is a great place for a rest and lunch.<
Mt. Shark Parking Lot to Lake Magog
Elevation gain - 395m (1,300')
Estimated hiking time - Bryant Creek Shelter 3-4 hours, Lake Magog 8-10 hours.
To get to the trailhead take the exit to Canmore, and follow the signs to Spray Lakes, going 34 km past the Nordic Centre. Turn of at the Mt. Engadine Lodge Junction and continue another 5.3 km to the Mt. Shark parking Lot.
The first 6 km is on a very long dirt road, but do not give up hope. After that you enter a pleasant forest with some good views for the next 17 km until you reach Assiniboine Pass. The trail through the forest is wide and very well maintained. After you reach the Warden Cabin Junction at 7.1 km, you pass 2 campgrounds before you reach the Bryant Creek shelter at 13.6 km and the Bryant Creek warden cabin at 14.3 km. You should refill you water bottles at Bryant Creek Shelter. After leaving Bryant Creek you reach the last campground at 17.3 km, and shortly after you reach a junction where a horse trail goes left and the hiking trail goes right. These two trails rejoin later just before the Assiniboine Pass. After a dry period the horse trail is the shorter and perhaps a better choice. If you choose to take the hiker trail, a branch at 18 km meets the trail to Allenby Pass coming from the right, and the trail to the Assiniboine Pass going left. On you way up to Assiniboine Pass you will gain some 1500 feet, but once you are at the pass the trail to Lake Magog is a pleasant 45 minutes walk in sub alpine meadows and alpine forest. When you get to Lake Magog and the Assiniboine Lodge go straight for the Naiset cabins for another 500 meters, or make a left to go to the Lake Magog campground. Once up at Lake Magog you may enjoy the best hiking in Western Canada at no expense with unlimited views of mountain peaks and alpine lakes.Another option is to use the local helicopter service going up. Don't use it going down, as the hike from Lake Magog to the parking lot is really worth the effort. Details about booking the helicopter are at the end of this trail description.
Lake Magog to Windy Ridge
Elevation gain - 485m (1,600').
Estimated hiking time: 2.5-3 hours up and 2 hours down.
From Lake Magog follow the trail to Assiniboine pass until you reach the meadows. Go straight were the trail to Assiniboine pass forks right. You are now on the trail to Og Lake. Continue this path all the way to Og Lake for a bad weather day hike. The trail across the meadow is faint, and some route finding skills will be needed. Though on a bad day just walk diagonally north-northeast to a small belt of alpine forest a few kilometres before you start the decent to Og Lake. From here the path is clearly marked, and you now start to gain elevation. First, go just a few hundred feet on the Allenby Pass trail which will join the trail to Mt. Shark parking lot just below Assiniboine Pass. When you reach the first plateau, a trail forks to the left for Windy Ridge. After a short while you start the switchbacks up to the second plateau. Once up here you are presented with a superb view on a clear day, and a good place for lunch and a short rest before you start the last part up the talus slopes to reach Windy Ridge. Continue up a steep talus slope to the crest just below Og Mountain. It is possible to scramble up towards Og Mountain, but this should only be tempted if you feel absolutely comfortable with heights. Remember it is technically harder to go down than up. Once up at Windy Ridge you have the world at your feet.
Lake Magog to Nub Peak
Elevation gain - 365m (1,200').
Estimated hiking time 2-2.5 hours up and 1.5-2 hours down.
From the Naiset Cabins hike pass the Assiniboine Lodge and make a left (E) for the Lake Magog campground. Once at the campground make a right (NE). Soon you will pass Cerulean Lake, and an old cabin. Continue following the trail till you reach Sunburst Lake. Once you reach the lake, take the trail going right (NNE), and now you start gaining altitude on your way to the Nublet. Soon you will be out of the woods and in the alpine, and you see your goal. At the Nublet, cross the ridge to reach Nub Peak. This trail is a perfect half-day outing from anywhere around the Assiniboine Lodge.
Lake Magog to Wonder Peak
Elevation gain - 687m (2,250').
Estimated hiking time 1 hour up to Wonder pass. 1.5 hours up to Wonder Peak. 1.5 hour down.From Lake Magog Campground take the trail past the Assiniboine Lodge and between the Ranger cabin and the Naiset Cabins. Continue gaining elevation going south until you reach Wonder Pass. At Wonder Pass go left of the trail going to Marvel Lake. When the snow is gone, there is a faint trail going up to Wonder Peak (at the time the author climbed this peak there were 2 feet of snow on the ground). Now you really start to gain altitude, and as you push on, the views become more and more stunning. Once at the peak you have the world at your feet, and an unusual view of Mt. Assiniboine seeing it from the south. You will find that it doesn't look as spectacular as it does from Lake Magog. During the hike back to the campground you will feel like a new person, remembering how it was having the world at your feet.
Useful Information: Mount Assiniboine Lodge Tel: (403) 678-2883. Fax: (403)403-678-4877. Office & Reservations Manager- Sandy Wing between 8:00 am-2:00 p.m. Mon-Fri Mountain Time
For Summer Camping and Summer Naiset Hut Information, Contact BC Parks at (250)422-4200.
Helicopter Reservations: Summer Helicopter Reservations from: June 2- October 7/2002Winter Helicopter Reservations from: February 15-April 14/2002COST: $110.00 per person each way, plus 7% GSTCall (403)678-2883 between 8:00 am and 2:00 pm Mon-Fri Mountain Time.
Don't waste your time in the Canadian Rockies, an opinionated Hiking Guide by Cathy and Craig Copeland
Banff-Assiniboine: A Beautiful World by Don Beers.
Assiniboine Provincial Park Topographical Maps:
Mount Assiniboine 82J/13, Gem Trek Banff & Mt. Assiniboine. Note that the first 6-8 km of the trip from Mt. Shark parking lot is not covered by the 82J/13 map, but the trail is so obvious that it is not needed.
Note: Weather in alpine areas can change rapidly and without warning, so expect snow and lightning in any season.The ascent of Mt. Assiniboine is a mountain climb. If you lack required experience Contact Yamnuska Mountain Guides in Canmore, Alberta.
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Posted By: jpl
- Mon Mar 24 14:34:31 EDT 2008
UpsideThe views from Marvel Lake to Assiniboine are breathtaking, almost no words to describe the beauty - so worth the hike! Assiniboine itself is one of the best parks, lush, peaceful and grand. When we first saw the peak itself, we cried it was that magnificent! So many great hikes you need to stay atleast a few days! We camped at Lake Magog and even though we ended up in the overflow, I think we got the best view! We camped right beside the peak! It was in full view the entire time!
DownsideThe parking lot (either Mt. Shark or further down at the trailhead) to Marvel lake, not much to look at and the first few kilometers are in the direct sun, so on a hot day, wow near heat stroke! BUT this was my first ever backcountry hike/camp and I made it! So if I can, anybody can do this hike! Lake Magog overflow campground lots of mosquitos even in august, so be prepared with repellent.
CommentMany options, can helicopter in than hike out or hike in helicopter out. Or hike both ways and have your gear helicoptered in and out for you! You don't need to exhaust yourself to experience this hike! We hiked in and helied out, it was really cool because you go right over the Bryant creek trail, you can see the trail and the warden cabin! If you carry your gear, you will take 2 days forsure to hike this if you have your gear helicoptered in you can hike in one long day. This is a place that you would return to over and over again.
Posted By: calneffy
- Fri Sep 14 02:36:48 EDT 2007
UpsideHiked in from Mt.Shark via the Wonder Pass route, the view of Marvel lake was...marvelous. Breathtaking views all the time.
Downsidewatch out for the restricted areas during berry season, lots of grizzly activity, but not that it should hold you back
CommentDid this as a solo hike, one day in took 7 hours via wonder pass from mount shark, did nub peak scramble on day 2 then hiked back down though wonder pass to bryant creek campground, then back to mount shark on day 3. It was gorgeous, the photos inspired all my friends to try hiking!
Posted By: Park2
- Fri Jan 27 00:18:28 EST 2006
UpsideMy first backcountry trip, 6 nights, from about where the nordic center is nowadays to Sunshine (Naiset cabins for 3 nights). Met an older lady (Dorthy Gow?) who had skied in with her nephew. Went for a night ski, looking across the lake could hear an avalance come down some where close to Assiniboine.
DownsideNaiset cabins - $15/person/night?? Man, when I was a kid.... (it was free).
CommentTransponders? We couldn't even spell them back then. I musta used up a couple lives right there.
Posted By: San-dee
- Mon Sep 26 22:46:07 EDT 2005
UpsideAbsolutely stunning views from wherever you are in this park!
CommentWas hiking in late summer & experienced the first snow of the season!
Posted By: mtnhiker
- Wed Aug 21 11:56:21 EDT 2002
UpsideOne of the most beautiful areas of the Canadian Rockies
DownsideNo down sides
CommentI have traveled the park summer, fall and winter. Each season brings out a new and wonderfull side of the park