Quick Stats: Mount Baldy
Location: One hour away from Calgary, Alberta, in Kananaskis Country just outside Banff National Park.
Elevation: 2193 metres
Round-trip time: 4-6 hours
Difficulty: Moderate (due to the crux, which is about 2/3rds of the way to the peak and is avoidable)
Height gain: 788 metres
Round-trip distance: 5 km
How to Get There
Total drive time from Calgary: 40 minutes to an hour, depending on where you start from
Directions: Head west on the Trans Canada Highway. At around the half-hour mark, take exit 118 onto Kananaskis Trail (AB-40 South). The trailhead is 12.7 km south from the TCH, and about 1.6 km past Barrier Lake. You’ll likely see cars parked on the left side of the road by a small stream (this is the trailhead) and a little further up on the right in a bigger parking area.
The trail starts on the left of the stream and rises constantly. You may see some ribbons on branches along the route. The trees are pretty sparse most of the way, so don’t forget to turn around and take in the view.
Around 1-1.5 hours in, you’ll come to a fork in the path. To the left the trail gets steeper and rockier — this is the crux. It requires a bit of an easy downclimb, but the real difficulty (and the reason why some, including me, choose to head right and up scree to avoid it) is in the exposure. It may be a little challenge for some, but it’s not for those who have a fear of heights and are prone to panicking. Personally, I did give it a try, but had to backtrack a bit when it was too much. This probably added an extra 20-30 minutes to my overall trip time.
There is a bit of scrambling and slight exposure past this point, but nothing too intense. The final push to the peak has plenty of loose rock, but the path is fairly worn because it is such a popular scramble.
Bring poles. Sure I saw plenty of people without them, but they take a lot of weight off your joints and give you a lot more balance on the way down.
Wear layers. When you’re heading up constantly and the sun is beating down, it can be hot. However, depending on the season, it can get cold higher up and there will probably be snow near the peak. For some reference, I did this hike in early April. I didn’t need a heavy coat or anything, but I did bring a thermal layer.
Watch for wildlife on the roads. We came across a half-dozen bighorn sheep crossing the road on the way back to the city. Those guys can come out of nowhere. Be mindful.
Turn around. By the time you get to the top and head back down, you’ll probably be focussed on just getting back to the road. So, take some time on the way up to take in the view of the valleys, rivers, mountains. Don’t take for granted the fact that views like this can be found just an hour away from a major city!