I’ve been wanting to hike Mount Yamnuska near Canmore, Alberta for a while and finally made it happen this fall. This iconic Rocky Mountain hike in the Bow Valley Provincial Park can be risky, so it’s important to be prepared and follow the advice of those who know these Alberta mountains.

You can see the majestic Mount Yamnuska from the Trans Canada highway.

About Mount Yamnuska Near Canmore, Alberta

Location: Near Canmore
Distance: 12 km loop
Difficulty: Difficult hike/beginner scramble
Elevation: 986 m gain
Time: Approx. 5-6 hours
Dog-friendly: I wouldn’t bring my Bernese mountain dog on this hike. Use your best judgement when deciding whether your pup is up for the challenge.
Features: This incredible hike features great views of the Bow Valley. The trail includes rock sections to navigate, a chain section (fun for some, scary for others), and steep scree to scramble. There’s lots of adventure on this trail, either as an out and back (see All Trails) or as a loop (my preference).

Mount Yamnuska parking lot.

Finding the Mount Yamnuska Trailhead

This popular hike has tonnes of signage and the parking area is well-maintained. If you’re coming from Calgary, take the Trans Canada Exit 114 toward Seebe/Exshaw (see Google Maps). After an hour or so driving, you may be happy to find a toilet waiting for you.

Before starting the hike and especially if you’re new to Yamnuska, take note of the map at the trailhead that clearly shows “No Go Zones” on this hike.

Read more: 5 Easy Hiking Trails for Rocky Mountain Rookies

The trailhead is on the west side of the parking lot.

Take note of several “No Go Zones” to avoid potentially hazardous situations. This mountain is a hot spot for rescues.

Hiking the Mount Yamnuska Trail

The hike starts off in the forest and eventually switchbacks up through the treeline and to the beginning of the rocky hike. The first challenge will be “the chimney.” There are some technical sections on this trail, including climbing up rocks, traversing a ledge while holding tight to chains, and scrambling several sections of scree rock. It’s important to “know before you go.” Mount Yamnuska sees a lot of rescues every season.

In October, I was hiking this trail solo, and almost returned to same way after reaching the summit. Luckily, I got some guidance from experienced Yamnuska hikers and decided to venture down the scree section on the other side. This was still technically challenging, but much quicker than climbing back over the rocky trail I’d just finished.

Go toward “Hiking & Scrambling” to get to the summit.
The trail begins in the forest leading up to the rocky hike.
Beautiful fall colours on Mount Yamnuska trail.

I wouldn’t recommend Mount Yamnuska to Rocky Mountain rookies, unless you’re up for a serious challenge—physically and mentally. Hiking experience and a decent fitness level is required.

Some of the most fun sections (or scary, depending on your outlook) include climbing up and over rocks, and using chains to walk along a rock ledge. If you can do this, there’s an amazing summit waiting on the other side!

Read more: Day Hike to Crypt Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park

Once out of the woods, follow the blue square markers to go up The Chimney.
Looking back from the top of The Chimney.

After The Chimney: Follow the blue squares!
A rock section to climb.
Looking back at the trail and the incredible views from Mt. Yam.
Mount Yamnuska’s infamous chain section. Hold tight!
Watching hikers on the chains from the other side.
There’s no shortage of views on this hike.
Getting closer to the Mount Yamnuska summit.
On top of the ridge, just below Mount Yam summit.
The view to the east on Mount Yamnuska summit.
The view to the west on the summit. This trail leads down a steep scree section, and around the mountain.

The Loop Around the Mount Yamnuska Hike

At this point, some hikers turn around and descend the same route. This was my initial plan, hearing that this loop can prove quite challenging and is best done with those who have hiked Mount Yam. After chatting with some hikers, I decided that I was up for the challenge and had all the information required to safely descend. Thankfully, I was right!

This is a steep scree section that requires skill and strong legs to descend. Hiking poles are helpful, too! Stay on the trail, and follow the blue markers.

This steep scree section leads down and around to the front of Mount Yamnuska. Follow the blue markers.
This is a very steep scree section. Do NOT go down here.
Heading down the scree after the summit.
The little pebbles are like marbles under your feet. Hiking poles help!

Once around to the south facing side of Yamnuska, there are many trail options to descend. I decided to hug the mountain until reaching the forest area where Yamnuska West Ascent Trail begins. There are trails going down the scree, but the main one seemed to be closed.

Read more: Hiking the Loop Around Upper Kananaskis Lake, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

The impressive south face of Mount Yamnuska.
All of the yellows in the Bow Valley.
Hiking along the top of the scree until reaching Yamnuska West Ascent trail.
Hug the mountain until you reach the forested section with the trail to descend.
Yamnuska West Ascent Trail.
This relatively flat trail was a welcome sight after a long morning of hiking and scrambling.

Know Before You Go to Alberta’s Rocky Mountains

Sadly, this year saw one death and several injuries on Mount Yamnuska. It’s incredibly important to be prepared and follow your gut when it comes to comfort level and skill level throughout this hike.

Mount Yamnuska is one of my favourite hikes in Alberta, with several unique challenges and spectacular terrain and views. This is not a trail for hiking novices. Do your research, and know what you’ll encounter before you arrive. I was thrilled to experience this trail solo and would highly recommend to any hiker looking for a Rocky Mountain gem.

Have you hiked Mount Yamnuska? What was your experience like? Leave a comment below!

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4 thoughts

  1. Yam is a great hike so close to Calgary, but now that the scree looks to be closed, the trail goes right under the climbing routes, so you really have to watch for rockfall from above. Hopefully they’ll reroute the trail to avoid both the scree and the climber’s access trail.

    Liked by 1 person

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