West Wind Pass Hike – Kananaskis Country
West Wind Pass is actually located within Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park which is in Kananaskis Country; my all-time favourite hiking destination in The Canadian Rockies.
West Wind Pass is probably one of the easiest hikes I’ve done in the Banff-region, but also happens to be one of the most beautiful hikes too (yes, I do say this about every hike). My favourite thing about West Wind Pass is the stellar overhead view of the Spray Lakes Reservoir – the largest and bluest lake in Kananaskis Country.
I’ll tell you all about hiking West Wind Pass, trail extensions, and all about proper day-hiking gear. Before I do that though, it’s important to note that as of summer 2021 you need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass to enter the area.
Now, let’s go hiking!
- How to get to West Wind Pass
- About West Wind Pass’ trail
- Hiking West Wind Pass
- Alternate routes to West Wind Pass
- Essential day-hiking gear
- Tips for a successful hike
- Best places to stay in Kananaskis Country
This post contains affiliate links; see my full disclosure. If you click these links and make a purchase you’re supporting The Holistic Backpacker. Thanks for your support & happy adventuring! – Taylor ♡
How To Get To West Wind Pass
Getting to the West Wind Pass trailhead is an adventure on its own. You’ll be driving down the 742, which is a slippery gravel road. I had a couple instances on this road where my car started sliding.
During dry weather you can expect to drive through massive dust clouds if you’re driving behind other people. This road seems like it goes on forever and it’s very loud and bumpy (and therefor kind of annoying), but there are so may incredible hikes along this road that it’s totally worth the struggle.
West Wind Pass is located about 1 hour from Banff, 1hr 40mins from Calgary, and about 40 minutes from Canmore. If you’re visiting Banff or Canmore you will definitely need to rent a car to get to the trailhead. You won’t find any shuttles or buses that take you down the Kananaskis highways.
About West Wind Pass’ Trail
- Distance: 4.7km
- Elevation gain: 356m
- Rated: moderate
- Type of trail: out & back
- Estimated time: under 2hrs
The West Wind Trail is clearly defined and easy to follow. Somehow my friend and I totally f***d up like we always do and managed to get lost – it’s not a real adventure unless you get lost, right? We went way off-trail and thought we were going to have to scramble to get to the top. Do not scramble anywhere on this trail, there’s no need for it.
Eventually we found our way back to the trail and had a quick and easy ascent to some of the most stunning Kananaskis views we’ve seen to date.
Something to note is that Kananaskis Country is in prime grizzly territory. At the trailhead we found a sign saying there was a grizzly in the area accompanied by a huge bear shit right next it. My friend and I managed to f** up again because both of us forgot our bear spray. Do not be like us, remember your bear spray and learn bear safety.
Aside from the bear business there isn’t anything too crazy about this trail. You’ll come across some exposed roots and rocks (as per usual) and lots of people, as this trail is well-trafficked.
Hiking West Wind Pass
Here comes the fun part. Hiking West Wind Pass is a breeze and will most likely take you an hour at the absolute max to get to the top.
For the most part you’ll be hiking in the trees, but there are breaks in the trees along the way so you do have somewhat of a view. Once you get to the top you’ll be overlooking the Spray Lakes Reservoir in front of you and you’ll have a wide open valley behind you.
As you can see people have built Inuksuks at the top – build one and leave your mark!
From here you can summit Windtower (which I’ll talk about next), but we just did the pass and headed out because we were gettin’ real hangry.
The nice part about this trail is that it’s not steep at all, so you’re getting incredible views with the smallest amount of effort!
You’ll have to keep your eye out for Big Horn Sheep too! You’ll find these bad boys all over Kananaskis along with cows (yes, cows), elk, and deer.
Alternate Route To West Wind Pass
There are SO many other trails right in this area. West Wind Pass is the most popular because it’s effortless for the incredible views you get at the top. However if you’re looking at extending the trail or adding other summits to your hike before descending, look at the following:
- Windtower Summit – this will add about 5km and an additional 600m to your hike, but will take you much higher which will open up the views more. See the Windtower map here
- Rimwall Summit – this will add under 2km, but around 500m+ gain. A very steep addition to West Wind Pass. See the map here
You could also turn this into a massive ridge walk adding the Lougheed peaks (peak 1 & peak 2), although the further you go the more likely you’ll need to set up a car drop-off or hitchhike back. Let your adventure run wild with this one, there are so many interconnecting peaks in this area!
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Recommended Hiking Gear
The following items are some of my favourites – I never hit the trail without them!
The Capture Clip by Peak Design is a sturdy, safe, and super convenient way to carry your camera while hiking or backpacking.
Find it on Amazon (CAD).
Find it on Peak Design (US).
A hydration reservoir is SO important. It holds 2L+ of water and keeps you hydrated on-trail. I use the 2L Hydrapak; it never leaks and has a detachable tube.
Things to look for in a good quality day-pack: sternum strap, hip belt (with pockets), and a breathable mesh system for your back. I use the Osprey Sirrus 24L pack (men’s version) and I LOVE it!
What To Wear Hiking in the Rockies
For a detailed guide on what to wear hiking in the Canadian Rockies, check out this post.
Choosing what to wear hiking can be confusing, but the secret to properly dressing for a hike is layering. You can mix and match the tops and bottoms you already own to make up your base layers, however in addition to those clothes you’ll need a few extra things:
A waterproof jacket is the most important layer for hiking – it keeps you warm and protects you from wind and rain. I use the Marmot Eco Precip Jacket (men’s version) which is totally a bang-for-your-buck. If rain is in the forecast, don’t forget to pack waterproof pants (men’s version) too.
A good pair of hiking boots are Gore-tex, provide ankle support, and are durable. I use the Scarpa Kailash boot (men’s version) and they’ve never let me down. You’ll also want a good quality pair of socks. I use Smartwool – they’re great quality and last an entire season.
A puffer jacket acts as your warm layer. I use the hoodless Columbia Women’s Heavenly Jacket (men’s version). Alternatively you can use a fleece zip – I have this one (men’s version) from Columbia. Both of these options are perfect layers to keep you warm on windy, cold, or high elevation hikes.
Rocky Mountain hiking exposes you to different natural elements and conditions – it’s imperative that you’re prepared for whatever nature throws at you. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way!
More: Day-hiking Gear Guide
More: What to Wear Hiking in the Canadian Rockies
Tips For A Successful Hike
- Get a Kananaskis Conservation Pass (required as of summer, 2021)
- Remember your bear spray
- Set yourself up for success by reading my day-hiking gear guide and find out how to dress for a day-hike in the Rocky Mountains
Where to Stay in Kananaskis Country
Unless you plan on camping, there are very limited options for accommodations within Kananaskis Country itself. Here are a few options for every budget:
- Camping – Kananaskis offers tons of camping facilities scattered throughout the area and they almost always have availability. If you’re one to free-camp, Kananaskis has PLUZ (Public Land Use Zones) and Wildland areas, both of which you can random camp in for free. This is something I have yet to figure out in the Kananaskis region, but if you’re interested you can find more information about it here
- Hostels – Hostels are almost always cheaper than staying in a hotel or air bib. Kananaskis is home to the HI-Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel.
- Budget Hotel – Crosswaters Resort in Kananaskis Village.
- Luxury Stay – the Kananaskis Mountain Lodge is one of the most luxurious getaways in the Banff-region. The mountain lodge is home to the Kananaskis Nordic Spa which has the nicest heated pools and saunas! Alternatively, check out the Mount Engadine Lodge.
- Stay nearby – as I mentioned, accommodations in Kananaskis are limited. Instead you may want to look for hotels in Canmore or Banff.
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About The Author
Hey! I’m Taylor – the voice behind The Holistic Backpacker.
After moving to Banff National Park in 2020 I became an outdoor adventure enthusiast and vowed to never stop exploring.
I’m now focused on travelling the world and seeing everything our beautiful home has to offer.
I created The Holistic Backpacker so I could share my adventures and help connect people like you with the same amazing experiences.
I am also an advocate for the environment and do as much as I can to take care of our planet.
Get to know me and my story more here 🙂
I can’t wait to share my adventures with you!