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West Wind Pass is a 4.7km hike off the Smith Dorrien Trail near Canmore. It’s a well trafficked hike with beautiful views of the Spray Lakes reservoir behind you, Rimwall Mountain to your left and Windtower to your right. If you can pick a nice calm day to do this hike that is ideal. It tends to be windy in the pass… as the name would indicate.
Time Required: 2-3 Hours
Location: 25km drive South of Canmore
Distance: 4.7km round trip
Highest Elevation: 2083m
Elevation Gain: 350m
Difficulty: 5/10 – Family friendly, dog friendly
Season: June to mid-October for summer conditions
Additional Requirements: Crampons/spikes or snowshoes if hiking in the winter
From Canmore: Turn right off Three Sisters Dr onto Spray Lakes Rd/Three Sisters Pkwy and follow that road for roughly 20km. Park on the side of the road. Google Maps has West Wind Pass Trailhead marked.
WHAT TO BRING
- Comfortable Footwear: Hiking shoes. Make sure your shoes are broken in prior to tackling this hike to prevent unexpected blisters. You could get away with running shoes but having extra grip on the rock surfaces will come in handy!
- Water: This hike has some elevation gain to reach the pass. Be sure to bring enough water for 2-3 hours of physical exertion.
- Snacks: Bring some of your favorite snacks to enjoy along the hike. Some of our favorite snacks are trail mix, bananas, beef jerky and licorice.
- Snowshoes/Spikes: If you are attempting this hike in the fall/winter months, bring spikes as it can be icy. There can be snow waist deep if you wander off the trail, so if that’s something you want to do pack snowshoes as well.
- Weather appropriate clothing: You will be exposed to the elements throughout this hike. The pass is usually very windy, hence the name. Wear a wind breaker and have a chin strap so your hat doesn’t blow away. Check the weather forecast and plan accordingly.
- Sunscreen: If it is sunny and you’re like Mattson, who easily burns, bring sunscreen!
- Insect Repellent: Insect repellent can greatly improve your hiking experience.
- Bear Spray: You are in bear country. Always hike with bear spray that is easily accessible.
- Camera: There are numerous photo opportunities you won’t want to miss.
- This Guide: Print a copy of this guide to reference throughout the hike
Wildlife: You will be hiking in bear country. It is always advisable to check in at the local Visitor Information Center to learn of any trail closures due to wildlife. Carry bear spray in an easily accessible location. Travel in groups of multiple hikers and make lots of noise to avoid an unexpected encounter.
Leave No Trace: It is important that we enjoy the outdoors responsibly and sustainably. Some key principles to consider when hiking to “Leave No Trace” are:
- Plan ahead and prepare: Proper planning allows adventurers to hike safely while minimizing damage to the land.
- Travel on durable surfaces: Stick to the trail when possible. If there is no trail, or you must travel off trail, stay on durable surfaces to reduce your impact.
- Dispose of waste properly: Pack it in, pack it out.
- Leave what you find: Leave rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest as you find them.
- Respect wildlife: Observe wildlife from a distance. Never feed wild animals.
- Be considerate of other visitors: Be courteous to others to allow everyone to enjoy their outdoor experience.
To learn more about “Leave No Trace” visit http://www.leavenotrace.ca
Summary: West Wind Pass is between Windtower and Rimwall Peak. The out and back hike is well trafficked and straight forward. There is only about 350m elevation gain which makes this a great trail for families, dogs, and beginner hikers.
The trailhead is just off the road. Set your odometer at the turn off onto Spray Lakes Rd/Three Sisters Pkwy for 20km (Or use Google Maps). On a weekend or busy day, it will be obvious where to park as there will be other cars. The trailhead is on the north side of the road (Route marker #1 on the map).
The beginning of the trail is well trafficked and easy to follow with some elevation gain. There is pink and orange flagging tied to trees to mark the trail. Along the way there are a couple signs to reassure you that you are on the West Wind Pass Trail.
There are some rocky slab sections with cliffs to your right. If uncomfortable with that terrain, stay right wherever possible and the trail will be a little more friendly. The different trails join up to become one trail again later.
Once you reach the top of the pass (Route marker #2 on the map) there is a beautiful meadow with a trail that’s easy to see and follow. There are stunning views of the Spray Lake Reservoir and surrounding peaks. The Windtower can be summited from West Wind Pass. To summit Rimwall, you start on the same trail be veer off left before reaching the pass. Neither should be summited in the winter if you are not an experienced winter climber. After taking in the views from the pass return to your vehicle the way you came.
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Have fun out there!