The Mount Baldy Hike in Kananaskis: Hiking the West Peak for Sunrise

Quick Stats:

The Mount Baldy Hike is an amazing short hike right at the edge of Kananaskis Country. If you want great views, and you don’t want to walk all day, this might just be the perfect hike for you!

  • Elevation gain: 978 meters (3208 ft)
  • Distance: 6.8 km (for the loop, about 3km if doing the West Peak and back)
  • Type: Hard/steep hike and scramble in parts
  • Time to complete: approx 3 hours to the West peak and back, 5-6 for the entire loop

Want to check out some of our other favourite hikes in Kananaskis? Check out our 12 of our favourite hikes in Kananaskis here

Summer Sunrise Hikes = No Sleep

Anybody who knows me knows I love my sleep. Robin often refers to me as a “human panda” because I can nap harder than anyone we know. So when our friends suggested a sunrise hike up to the summit of Mount Baldy this week, the first question that crossed my mind was, “What time do I have to get up for this?” 

The answer? – very, very early. We’re talking a 1:30am wakeup for a 5.38am summit..

Up here in the Canadian Rockies, the super long summer days are both a blessing and a curse. With the sun rising at around 5.30am and setting around 10pm, we can have days with around 17 hours of sunshine!

The downside?

For an adventurer with major FOMO such as myself, this means less and less sleep as the summer wears on.

But that’s ok, we have a lot of adventures to catch up on this year; there’s no time for sleep!

Hiking in the dark

Of course, if you’re going to try and summit for sunrise, it means you’re going to have to do the entire ascent in the dark. And that’s not for the faint hearted on Mt. Baldy.

The ascent is steep and unforgiving, with the early season moisture leaving much of the first forested section quite slippery and muddy.

A headlamp and a GPS map is an absolute must if you’re going to attempt it in the dark, as often the trail isn’t clear and route-finding can be challenging. Once you’re clear of the tree line, you’ll start to notice some of the snow capped peaks around you and the dark outline of Barrier Lake down below.

Take the right fork

One of the major issues with hiking at night is spotting the correct trail. Taking the correct trail on Mt. Baldy is important, as you can quite easily get cliffed out if you take the wrong route.

If you’re a hiker, look out for a fork in the trail that appears just at the base of the first steep rocky section. The trail to the left climbs the spine of a false summit, which ultimately leads to quite a hairy scrambling section.

The less obvious trail to the right avoids the scrambling and follows around the edge of the rocky section above. This is the route you should take as a hiker, and if you’re attempting in the dark it can be easy to miss!

From here on out it a steep grind to the summit, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the Prairies and the start of the Rocky Mountains.

The Mt. Baldy Loop

If you’re aiming to complete the loop trail, it’s generally suggested that you tackle the west summit first and follow the route in a clockwise direction.

Once you’re up on the ridge, it’s a fairly straightforward route, with one 4-6ft down climb/scramble section with a lot of exposure.

If you’re not looking for anything too challenging then it might be easier to summit the West peak, turn around and head straight back to the parking lot!

Why is Mount Baldy a great sunrise hike?

Mount Baldy is a great early season hike located in Kananaskis Provincial Park; and there are a few reasons why we love this as an early season hike:

  1. It’s located right smack in between Banff and Calgary, and it’s virtually the closest mountain you can summit from Calgary.
  2. While everything else in the area will probably have you ankle-to-knee deep in crusty snow until the days start getting significantly warmer, Baldy was bare and dry. It gets a lot of sun and was thus, the perfect place to watch the sunrise.
  3. The summit gives you some of the most incredible views of Barrier Lake and there are no major peaks that block the sun so you can witness the sunrise in its full glory from start to finish. 

Is Mt. Baldy difficult?

Mount Baldy is short and steep with some challenging scrambling sections, but if you choose the right route it’s very manageable. Just make sure to bring some decent grippy shoes and hiking poles to help you navigate the scree sections on the way down.

It definitely has scrambling sections, so make sure you’re comfortable with that before attempting the full route.

Mt. Baldy Trailhead GPS

What equipment do you need to hike Mt. Baldy at Sunrise?

Hiking at sunrise is different to a regular hike, so you’ll need to pack accordingly. Here’s what we recommend bringing.

  • Headlamps – an absolute must – one for every person!
  • Day pack
  • Bear spray (especially because it’s dark – I literally hike with it in my hand)
  • Hiking poles
  • Good hiking boots with thick soles and ankle support
  • Hot chocolate or coffee in a thermos (you’ll thank me later!)
  • Long leggings or thermals
  • Insulated layer
  • Windbreaker
  • Hat and gloves
  • Hand warmers if possible
  • A tripod if you like to take photos!
  • A GPS device – either use something like a Garmin InReach or an app like Topo Canada or All Trails

How to get to the Mt. Baldy Trailhead

Drive the Trans-Canada Highway until you reach the Stoney Nakoda Casino and take the turn off into Kananasakis. The trailhead is 8 minutes from the Tim Hortons on the left hand side. Here’s the GPS:

51.00749, -115.07284

Here are our mission stats and itinerary…

Mount Baldy trailDistance: 6.8 km long loop (we opted not to do the loop, just out and back)

  • Date of ascent: May 24, 2020
  • Predicted sunrise time: 5:38am
  • Departing from: Banff, Alberta, Canada
  • Wake-up time: 1:45am
  • Departure time: 2:20am
  • Rendezvous point: Tim Horton’s at the Stoney Nakoda Casino at 3am (an 8 minute drive from the trailhead)
  • Hike start time: 3:30am
  • Arrival at summit: 5am (we allotted much more time than necessary and spent the hour before sunrise drinking hot chocolate and watching the colours appear on the horizon)

Other things to know about hiking Mt. Baldy in Kananaskis Country

  • Leave your dogs at home! This route requires Level 2 scrambling 
  • Since this trail features several different options and its easy to take the wrong trail (which we ended up doing), make sure you download the GPS map of the trail onto your phone before you go. I highly recommend the Topo Canada app, it’s saved us on many different occasions.
  • WATCH OUT FOR TICKS!! Especially if you’re doing this early season, make sure you do a tick check once you’re down from the hike. One of them hitched a ride on a member of our group and wasn’t discovered after they arrived home. I am now having nightmares about them and can’t sleep…
  • You have to park in a ditch, so ideally don’t bring a car with low clearance!

Have an awesome hike!

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