Optional pre and post trip accommodation packages are available from $80 per person per night for shared room lodging ($160 for single occupancy). Purchase with booking. Subject to availability.
How difficult is it?
How fit and experienced need you be?
This trip is rated challenging due to substantial elevation gains over untracked, rocky terrain. Backpack weights are moderate. Participants will be carrying personal clothing and gear plus a fair share of food and group gear (tents, stoves etc) for the entire trip. As food and fuel are used up the backpacks become a little lighter day by day. By keeping personal gear light, pack weights need not exceed 15kg (33lbs). Please read our Traveling Light & Making Backpacking More Fun for information and suggestions for clothing and equipment.
Prior hiking experience is not a prerequisite but is strongly recommended. Participants must be in good physical condition and able to carry a backpack over hilly terrain for a succession of days.
The trails range from easy to minimal to non-existent at some places. In addition we may have to ford some streams. We will hike a regular and steady pace that conserves energy but you must be in as good as possible hiking shape before you come. We cannot emphasize enough that training pays great dividends in enjoyment. We suggest you train by walking and/or cycling and/or hiking (ideally in hilly terrain).
The Highwood region of the Front Ranges of the Canadian Rockies lies just to the south of Canmore. Small alpine valleys are linked by high passes and ridgelines make spectacular trails. As the summer progresses the area becomes dry and so a perfect time to hike there is in the late spring. Most of the winter snows have melted and wildflowers are found on the forest floor and alpine meadow alike.
We especially recommend this hike to those of you who like to avoid high season travel and who want to explore less beaten trails.
Day 1: Picklejar to Cliff Creek
At 8.00am we meet at the Yamnuska Mountain Adventures office in Canmore. We'll go over the trip with you and check to see that you are properly outfitted. Once packed we drive for and hour and a half south over the Highwood Pass to the Picklejar Creek trailhead. The highway itself is one of the most beautiful in the Rockies and a must for dedicated sightseers let alone hikers!
We hike up Picklejar Creek (named for the nearby lake with fish so abundant it was like a "picklejar") and over the pass at its head to a great campsite in Cliff Creek. Distance 5km. Elevation gain 515m, loss 50m.
Day 2: Mist Ridge to Rickert's Creek
Today we are going to enjoy one of the exceptionally fine ridge walks that typify hiking in the Front Ranges of the Rockies. We follow the crest of Mist Ridge for 5km during which we'll be able to enjoy the expansive views of the surrounding peaks and ranges. We then drop onto Rickert's Pass from where we can to descend to the Sheep Valley and another lovely campsite. Distance 13km. Elevation gain 225m, loss 600m.
Day 3: Sheep Valley to Junction Creek
We have a long way to go but easy trails and negligible elevation gains will make for easy travel as we head down the Sheep Valley past the huge overhanging cliff face of Gibraltar Mountain. Following a good route that stays above the south bank of the Sheep River we head into Junction Creek. We follow the valley to a campsite by a spectacular waterfall. Distance 17km. Elevation gain 100m, loss 100m.
Day 4: Junction Creek to Picklejar Lakes
Or final day takes us high into the alpine zone once more. Climbing steadily we head up into a wild and beautiful valley. We go right to the highest meadows, well above treeline, to a narrow pass at 2400m. A long scree descent drops us down to Picklejar lakes where we rejoin the regular trail. A further hour an a half of hiking brings us back to the highway 2km from where we set out four days earlier. We then return to Canmore. Distance 10km. Elevation gain 600m., loss 650m.
Note: Bad weather can make parts of this itinerary inadvisable. Alternate routes in the region do exist and may be used if conditions dictate a change.
Meeting Place and Time
We will meet you at our Yamnuska Mountain Adventures office at 8.00am the morning of Day 1.
Our office is located at 200, 50 Lincoln Park, Canmore. See this map for location.
For your greater convenience we offer a pre-meeting shuttle service within Canmore. Please let us know in advance where you will be staying if needing this service. Pickup will occur between 7.40 and 7.50am.
Please ensure that you have your hiking equipment with you.
Accommodation and Meals
On the trail you will be staying in modern, lightweight 2- and 1-person weather-proof tents.
Accommodation in Canmore is not included. For your convenience we can arrange hotel accommodations in Canmore for $160 per night. This accommodation can be booked with the trip online or by calling us. Subject to availability. Hostel accommodation is also available for $30 per night.
You can also make your own arrangements. Check our links page for a range of Canmore accommodations.
Excess luggage can be left at your hotel or our office.
We supply all meals and trail snacks from lunch on Day 1 to lunch on Day 4. Groups generally go out for dinner in Canmore on the final evening (own cost).
Trail cuisine is constructed from lightweight ingredients including our Yamnuska custom-made dehydrated dinners. Please specify any special dietary requirements you have on booking so we can incorporate them into our menus. A dietary surcharge will apply.
Guides and Group Size
Yamnuska Mountain Adventure guides are certified through the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. Our professional guides have extensive experience in the Canadian Rockies. Guides also have advanced wilderness first aid training and heritage interpretation accreditation. Guides carry emergency equipment including a first aid kit, bear spray and radio.
There will be a maximum of eight guests and a minimum of four.
Getting to Canmore and Transportation
Canmore is situated 100km (65 miles) west of Calgary on the Trans-Canada Highway. It is well served by scheduled bus lines both from Calgary (airport and downtown), Banff (20km west) and points further west. Calgary International Airport is well connected to major cities throughout North America and Europe. Once in Canmore we will supply all transport needed for the trip.
Frequent shuttles connect Calgary International Airport and Canmore. Greyhound Bus Lines (1 800 661 8747) serves Canmore from points east and west along the Trans-Canada Highway. Call 403 609 8790, 403 609 0300, 403 609 1490 or 403 609 8505 for taxis in Canmore. We can organize airport shuttle for $55 each way.
Clothing and Equipment
We supply group camping and cooking equipment plus a full emergency and first-aid kit. You will need to bring personal equipment (backpack, sleeping bag etc) and clothing. Yamnuska Mountain Adventures does have rental and retail equipment such as sleeping bags, mats, and backpacks. Rental Gear List. Contact us in advance to reserve.
There are two basic types of insurance that most travelers need to consider: Medical and Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance. We offer our guests coverage for both and highly recommend you purchase it.
Emergency Medical Expenses Insurance:
In Kananaskis Country there may be a charge for rescue if you need to be evacuated by professional services. We strongly recommend a travel and medical insurance that will cover you in the unlikely event of an emergency.
Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance:
We recognize that our guests’ schedules may change for many reasons; business, family, flight delays, injuries and other unplanned events. For these eventualities the Trip Cancellation/Interruption insurance is a great way to protect your investment.
For all your travel insurance requirements we recommend the Simpson Group. This agency offers a wide range of travel insurance options including Trip Cancellation/Interruption, Travel Medical and Personal Effect Loss for Canadian and International Travelers. We highly recommend purchasing this insurance. For more information and to purchase a plan, visit the Simpson Group’s website.