Smutwood Peak Hiking Trail
One of the best views in Kananaskis Country
- Season: July–October
- Difficulty: Demanding
- Distance: 18.8 kilometers (out‑and‑back)
- Elevation Gain: 140 meters
- Duration: 7–9 hours
About Smutwood Peak
It has been dubbed Smutwood Peak by a local author, because it is found between Mount Smuts and Mount Birdwood. Over the course of the last few years, it has had a significant increased in popularity, especially among amateur and professional photographers. Rightfully so, the view from the top is one of the best in Kananaskis Country. While Smutwood Peak is the destination, Mount Birdwood is the star attraction, with its imposing ridges and sharp summit. The Birdwood Lakes and surrounding grassy slopes enhance the view.
The trailhead lies just off the dusty Smith-Dorrien / Spray Lakes Trail, also known as Highway 742. The latter may mislead the reader into believing this is a paved road, it is not. Drive approximately 33 kilometers south of the Canmore Nordic Centre and turn onto right on Mount Shark Road (this is also the turn off for Engadine Lodge). Drive for another kilometer, crossing a bridge, and look for parking on the left hand side.
It is also possible to come up from the other side of the Smith-Dorrien / Spray Lakes trail. This would involve taking Highway 40 to the Kananaskis Lakes Trail and Kananaskis Lakes Trail to the Smith-Dorrien / Spray Lakes Trail.
The hike begins along an old logging road. Follow it for 2.5 kilometers and look for a turn your right. The intersection will be obvious. This trail parallels Commonwealth Creek and leads to Smuts Pass. A neat little waterfall will be encountered shortly. Unless it's early in the season or it has been raining a lot, it will likely be a beautiful twin waterfall. Further on a calm pond will be found. Photographers may want to take a break here and capture the surrounding peaks in its mirror reflection.
Continue along the trail to the pass. As elevation is gained, the trail may become faint. Keep heading up and west, towards the Birdwood Lakes. When the first lake is in view, look for a trail along the scree slope on the left. The ridge and high point will be seen directly ahead and the route should be quite obvious.
The rest of the way is considered an easy scramble. Gain the ridge and to continue on to the high point. Any hands-on scrambling should be easy or can be bypassed on the left. Some loose rocks / scree will be encountered. The summit may contain a register. Take some time to enjoy the view!
It can be a long day, especially in the summer. Bring lots of water. There are plenty of water sources along the trail. Even along the ridge to the summit, a snow patch may be found year round. Giardia is a common, so use a water filter if drinking from the water source along the way.
Bears do frequent this area and multiple bears have been spotted around the Birdwood Lakes. Make noise and carry bear spray.
In the late summer you may find many wild strawberries along the trail, especially the old logging road. Higher up, wildflowers may be in bloom. Autumn is not a bad time to visit either. While there are some larch trees, most of the colour change will be in the bush and the grassy slopes.
There are no toilets at the trailhead. Canmore is a good place to stop and there are some toilets in nearby parking lots, such as Chester Lake and Engadine.
Where to stay
If you stay at Engadine Lodge, you don't even need to drive! The closest town is Canmore, about 30 kilometers north.
By Marko Stavric
Marko has been on numerous adventures in the Canadian Rockies and all across the world, always bringing his camera along with him.
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