Windtower Hiking Trail
An often recommended peak for those getting into scrambling
- Destination: Kananaskis
- Season: May-November
- Difficulty: Demanding
- Distance: 9.9 kilometers (out‑and‑back)
- Elevation Gain: 990 meters
- Duration: 5-7 hours
If you ask folks local to this area to recommend a beginner scramble, this one is likely to make the list, for good reason. It is mostly a difficult hike, it has several options, it sees a fair amount of traffic (safety in numbers) and it has great views. It’s also very close to Canmore and a short drive from Calgary.
From Canmore, get on the Spray Lakes / Smith-Dorrien Trail (Highway 742). It is roughly 18.5 kilometers from the Canmore Nordic Centre. Keep an eye out for the Driftwood day use area sign. The pull out for the trailhead is about 2 kilometers south of this sign.
This scramble can be done by using the West Wind Pass trailhead, which can be located on some maps. Although popular in use, there is no official parking area. The pull out spot that exists will likely be full. If this is the case, just park along the road.
The most straight forward way up is the well-worn West Wind Pass trail. There should be signage, but if not, it should be obvious. This route, as the name suggests, goes up to West Wind Pass, along Spuring Creek. The mountain on your left is named Rimwall, the mountain on the right is Windtower.
As you near the pass, you’ll see cliff bands blocking access to Windtower, but a trail from the pass through these cliff bands should be easy to find and follow. If you stick to this trail, you may encounter some hands on scrambling, but very little. If you lose the trail, look for cairns to show the way. Once through the cliff bands, the terrain is easy all the way to the summit. Just follow the turned over scree.
An alternative to the West Wind Pass trail does exist. It’s more direct, shorter, but pretty faint in places and can be easy to lose. Just a little further south (on the right, if you’re looking from the road) is another trail that leads into the forest. This start of this trail is obvious very quickly it connects to the High Rockies biking trail that runs parallel to the road. Turn right when you meet up with the High Rockies trail, walk for about 200 meters and keep a look out for a faint trail that goes into the forest on the left. If you’ve found it, you’ll be gaining elevation very quickly and at times look down on the Spurling Creek drainage. Once through the woods (about 2 kilometers) look for signs of cairns to lead you to the scree slope which leads to the summit.
The summit offers great views and most parties will want to sit here for a little while. As the name suggests, it does get windy. If you still have energy, you can continue along the ridge south, towards Mount Lougheed, or climb down the main summit of Windtower towards a lower peak to the northeast. The latter involves difficult scrambling and loose rock.
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.