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.
About Mount Yamnuska Trail
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).
2021 UPDATE: Alberta Parks is closing Mount Yamnuska from the end of May to November for construction.
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
Mount Yamnuska Hike
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.
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
Mount Yamnuska Loop
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.
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
Know Before You Go
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.
Mount Yamnuska Trail Map
Have you hiked Mount Yamnuska? Tell me about your experience on this Alberta-famous trail?
That is an incredible place to hike.
I couldn’t agree more!
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.
That’s very true. The scree was closed when I was there, but I didn’t have any trouble with falling rocks. I wonder if they will reroute in the future?