Placeholder Routes & Places


Day Hike - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

CANCELED 9/5 due to very unhealthy smoky air. "Northern Larch Fest" - 5 days of amazing photo-oriented hikes and possible northern lights among premier golden larches and mountain scenery in Kananaskis region of Alberta Rockies - hikes include Burstall Pass, Ptarmigan Cirque, Pocaterra Ridge, Little Highwood Pass, Chester Lake and Arethusa Cirque. Kananaskis, Canadian Rockies and SE BC trails offer more extensive larch hikes than Washington's North Cascades. Options after Kananaskis hikes: more larch hikes in SE BC or add golden eagle/raptor migration viewing opportunity following Kananaskis hikes.

  • Moderate
  • Moderate
  • Mileage: 41.0 mi
  • Pace: 1 - 1.5

Updated 8/11:

Trailhead meeting time:  8:30am for following hikes  9/16 Chester Lake, 9/17 Burstall Pass, 9/18 Ptarmigan Cirque including Little Highwood Pass and Highwood Meadows, 9/19 Pocaterra Ridge, 9/20 Arethusa Cirque.

Kananaskis Conservation Pass required for each vehicle parking in Kananaskis area provincial parks, rec areas, trailheads, campgrounds.  $15 Can/day, $90Can/yr.  Info:

* Updated 9/5:  CANCELED 9/5 due to very unhealthy smoky air.  To be rescheduled in 2024.

Leader is monitoring Kananaskis area (BC SE & AB Kananaskis) for any current wildfire risks (low), air quality (fair  20-40 ratings, better than Seattle), weather/temps (mild warm/cooler than Seattle).  See links to weather forecasts incl air quality for Kananaskis AB 

Northern lights possible! Aurora forecast monitored by leader for possible moderate to high Aurora activity in Highwood Pass / Kananaskis  Lakes area, a premier location for exceptional dramatic northern lights some years during late August and around autumn equinox in September.  Leader  witnessed one of best northern lights seen by her in Canada during late August / September.

 Members only.  Leader permission forms will include complete responses with following information:   provide examples (location, distance, daily elev gain) of moderate/strenuous US/Canadian day hikes (or backpacks) with 6-10+ mile/day and 1500-3000' gain during current year to prior 24 months, primary interest(s) (photography, hiking, other) in this particular trip, describe activities/conditioning do you do weekly for fitness, experience and comfort with travel over snow (light accumulation or snowfields), comfort and previous experience with backcountry travel in grizzly habitat, participant will carry red pepper spray/bear deterrent on all hikes, indicate you will bring microspikes (for snow conditions or snow fields) and trekking poles, commitment to participating in all 5 days -or- minimum 4 days of hiking), transportation plans (drive or need ride, carpool interest), confirm responsibility for arranging own accommodations, and have current passport for border crossing.   Leader permission approvals will be based on on full responses with expected qualifications, and prospective participant's  compatibility with group and photography objectives. 

Day hike itinerary:  9/16 Chester Lake, 9/17 Burstall Pass, 9/18 Ptarmigan Cirque incl. Little Highwood Pass and Highwood Meadows, 9/19 Pocaterra Ridge via Little Highwood Pass, 9/20 Arethusa Cirque.   Alternate hikes including Rawson Lake (on route/place) may be available, depending on interest/conditions; also see following link for other hike options:

  • Added trail details with links below for two hikes not on route/place: 

Pocaterra Ridge via Little Highwood Pass (7.8mi loop or shorter out-back to peak 2, up to 3400' gain) ridge hike over 1-3 peaks in combination with descent to Little Highwood Pass and Rockfall Valley, includes crossing of  Pocaterra Creek on small log jam below flagged crossing.  Hike at and above treeline, through and above larch stands.  Directions to trailhead:  from Stoney Nakoda Casino on the TransCanada (Hwy 1), take Highway 40 south for roughly 37.3 mi. Park at the Little Highwood Pass parking lot.

Arethusa Cirque (3.4 mi RT, 900-1155' gain):  spectacular larch hike, with great views.   Counterclockwise travel recommended, following any flagging.  Some steep, challenging sections including a boulder field, and possible stream crossing.   Directions to trailhead:  From Stoney Nakoda Casino on the TransCanada (Hwy 1), take Highway 40 south for roughly 42.9 mi. Drive past Highwood Pass and roughly 1.1 mi past, see a dirt track on your left which leads to a dirt parking lot (trailhead). 

NOTE:  Each participant will carry red pepper spray bear deterrent and practice grizzly safe travel/hiking on all trails.

 * You may wish to reserve accommodations ASAP at your risk to secure accommodation space, prior to leader permission review/approval and if you feel you meet leader expectations for experience and qualifications, and aware that reservations will not guarantee leader approval. 

Participants are responsible for reserving own front country accommodations and reservations recommended ASAP for 9/15-21, including day prior to and day following hike days (9/16-20).  Reserve with Alberta Parks (Alpine Club of Canada for Canmore hostel, International Hosteling for Kananaskis International Wilderness Hostel, or Canmore area motel):  Provincial park campgrounds near Smith Dorien Spray trail (hwy 742) or Kananaskis Trail (hwy 40) - between Canmore south/east and Upper Kananaskis Lakes include.  Bow Valley, Peter Lougheed, Sibbald Lake, etc.).   The HI Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel may have limited space, with reservations required ASAP.  As of 6/26, most nearby Alberta provincial park campsites are fully booked through 9/21, except Sibbald Lake (where leader staying). 

Alberta Provincial Park reservations (online & phone):

Alpine Club of Canada for Canmore hostel/dorm reservation (online & phone):

HI Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel reservation (online & phone):

Guidebooks:  Kananaskis Country Trail Guide Vol 1, Canadian Rockies Trail Guide.

Links to Kananaskis / Canadian Rockies best fall larch trails:

Pocaterra Ridge hike links:

Arethusa Cirque hike links:

Observe major golden eagle/raptor migration in Kananaskis corridor, mid to late Sept or optional day following  hikes to observe - see details and observation sites at:

See backpack (camp/hut-based) posting for Elk Lakes Provincial Park (9/12-15) via TH near Upper Kananaskis Lake. 

If you have extra time after the Peter Lougheed trip, consider doing other premier scenic larch hikes in Banff NP / Lake Louise-Moraine Lake area or joining leader on hikes/backpacks at BC's East/West Kootenays (Monica Meadows, Jumbo Pass, Diana Lake, etc.).  All reservable front-country camps in Banff NP and adjacent national parks are likely fully booked with occasional cancellation spaces, and a few non-reservable campgrounds may be available.  Bus reservations required to Banff/Moraine Lake trailheads and bus option available for Lake Louise (or very early arrival at trailhead) - prepare for crowded larch trails in Banff NP.   Similar scarce accommodation options in addition to camping - IH hostels in Banff & Lake Louise, ACC Clubhouse dorm in Canmore (just outside of Banff), motels/B&Bs (Canmore, Banff, Lk Louise, Field BC).  High clearance vehicles w/spare tire advised for Monica Meadows and Jumbo Pass trailheads.


Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials

  • Navigation
  • Headlamp
  • Sun protection
  • First aid
  • Knife
  • Fire
  • Shelter
  • Extra food
  • Extra water
  • Extra clothes
  • Microspikes (required for possible snow travel)
  • Trekking poles recommended
  • Red pepper spray bear deterrent
  • Camera, or cell phone  for photos
Trip Reports