Pipers Pass

Time: 6 - 8 hours

Distance: 20 Km Out and Back (Although we ended up recording close to 25 Km)

Elevation Gain: 610 meters

Access: The best place to start this trail is at the trail head for Elbow Lake, this can be accessed just off of the Kananaskis Trail.

Pipers Pass is an unofficial trail and there isn't an overly wide range of information about it available. Due to this the trail is deserted, we hiked a full 25 km and didn't see another person until back at the Elbow Lake Campsite but in turn sections aren't that well marked. 

The trail starts at Elbow Lake where you'll come across the backcountry campground around 1 km from the roadside parking lot. This is a stunning lake with crystal clear water, towering mountains and reflections. The campsite alone is more than worth a visit if you don't fancy a full trek. 

Pass the lake and follow the wide distinctive trail through the Elbow River Valley, along this trail there are multiple turn offs, the first more distinctive one will lead you to a waterfall. This is the wrong one for the pass! Just pass that trail you should see a path into the woods on your left marked by a rock cairn on the right of the trail and some small pieces of orange and blue tape on the small tree on the left. 

After taking this route there is a steep decent towards the Elbow River. Depending on the time of year and height of the river you may be able to use stepping stones, if not it might be a wade so be prepared to get your feet wet!

The trail from here is narrow but distinctive, crossing multiple other streams until the trees disappear. Here the scenery really opens up, in the spring endless wildflowers adorn the meadow throughout the summer the grass is green and grazed by big horn sheep in large numbers. 

Crossing the open meadow before pipers pass.

Crossing the open meadow before pipers pass.

Descending Pipers Pass, below you can see the large boulder 

Descending Pipers Pass, below you can see the large boulder 

There is a large boulder towards the back of the meadow, this is what you need to aim for before starting the final ascent.  Through this course the trail is difficult to find so be careful not to harm any flora or fauna as you make your way to the end of the meadow. 

Just behind the large boulder lays your final challenge; a scree slope with a healthy amount of elevation gain. The final push is worth it as you are rewarded with fantastic views over both sides of the pass. It's a fantastic spot to take in the view and have a well deserved lunch break before heading back down the trail the way you came and back to the trail head. 

Pipers Pass is a fantastic day hike with plenty of challenges as well as stunning views and minimal crowds.