North Old Goat Mountain Hiking Trail
Close to Canmore, great views and you'll likely have it to yourself!
- Destination: Kananaskis
- Season: June-October
- Difficulty: Expert
- Distance: 9 kilometers (out‑and‑back)
- Elevation Gain: 1,250 meters
- Duration: 5-9 hours
About North Old Goat Mountain
There are few scrambles that are so close to a town like Canmore, and see so little traffic. Really, the great thing about this route is it can be broken up into several sections. One involves a lookout point just before the ridge, then there are two false summits before the main summit. All of these points provide great views and reaching them is progressively harder. This is a great "build your own adventure" kind of trip.
Drive 14 kilometers south of the Canmore Nordic Centre, along the Spray Lakes / Smith-Dorrien Trail (Highway 742). You'll come to the north end of Spray Lakes and the Three Sisters Dam. Rather than continuing along the Smith-Dorrien, turn right on West Side Road. This road continues south, but you'll want to park where it turns. You should see a gate blocking a road to the north.
Get your bearings before setting out. Look up at the ridge from where you’ve parked. Trace it from your right to left and you’ll see one obvious drainage directly below a distinct bump, the next drainage to your left should flow out of a bowl. Above this drainage and bowl a narrow notch. This notch is the best access to the ridge and is the objective to aim for.
The most straight forward way to get to it is to follow the drainage that leads to it. Walk about 200 meters along the road to the north and turn into the forest. Bushwhack for about 200 meters and you should find a dry creek bed, which can be followed all the way to the notch in the ridge. The drainage does have some difficulties that can be scrambled or circumvented by climbing out of the drainage and up through the forest. Alternatively, bushwhack up to the notch directly from the parking. This may be the fastest way and it shouldn’t get too thick.
It should open up in about a kilometer. Once out of the trees, it may be nice to gain the outlier to your right and use it for a break. It provides great views and even if you were to turn around here, it would feel satisfactory. Alternatively, continue on through the notch, navigating up scree and loose rock.
When you’re through the notch, two false summits can be gained to the south. The ridge walk is spectacular. The first false summit is only about 300 meters from the notch and is nothing more than a walk up. The second summit is just over 500 meters away and does have some exposure along the ridge, at most it is a moderate scramble. If the ridge is intimidating, it is possible to side slope on the west side and circumvent the more exposed sections, however, the scrambling is easier along the ridge than the slopes.
The main summit is a kilometer a half from here. Dropping down to the connecting ridge is moderate scrambling, then easy almost all the way to the top. However, the last 150 meters to the summit are really exposed! A loose knife edge ridge must be crossed, from there on, the rock is solid. One of the local climbing guide authors considers this section a difficult scramble, but I would say it leaves the boundary of scrambling and enters alpine climbing. Do not proceed unless completely confident.
On return, retrace your way along the ridge, through the notch and either bushwhack directly back to the car or follow the drainage. It is possible to descend on the north side of the ridge too, but it will make the return trip considerably longer.
- This trip is almost entirely bushwhacking and scrambling. Easy scrambling shouldn't be much more than a difficult hike. The line between difficult scrambling and climbing can get blurry. If doing a scramble considered difficult, great caution should be exercised and climbing experience is recommended.
- Expect to encounter ticks if doing this scramble in the spring time.
Where to stay
Most will likely do this trip as a day trip from Calgary. The town of Canmore is only 15 kilometers away and there is a campground only 2 kilometers from the trailhead.
Questions or comments? Let us know.
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.