Mount Lougheed, a peak so huge and prominent that it even has its own sign and small viewing area on the trans-Canada highway., offers one of the most scenic approaches and best summit panoramas in Kananaskis! The face visible from the highway, however, is not a scramble, so don’t be put off - an easy scramble route does exist on the other side.
From the Canmore Nordic Centre, continue west on the Smith-Dorrien (Hwy 742) as it winds up into the Spray Valley for 22.2 km. There is parking just before the sign for Spurling Creek; the trail begins on across the road.
|When to do|
July - September
Several Day Use Areas along Highway 742
Yes - On Leash
Out and back
We got an early start and began the hike up Spencer Creek at 7:45 am. We had expected this to involve a bit of bushwhacking on faint trail, but the trail that starts just north of the creek was in spectacular shape and better maintained than many of the official trails in Kananaskis. No bushwhacking or route finding whatsoever was necessary along its entire length. Nice mossy forest complete with a wonderful stream in the beginning and vast meadows near the end made for a very pleasant approach and had us thinking a lazy return trip up Spencer Creek would be worth it on its own. Even if you have zero interest in scrambling you might want to check the creek trail out.
From the back of the valley we began to make our way up the steep grass and rock slopes to the north, detouring from the best ascent slope to avoid some resting sheep. A small grassy plateau above this granted a view of the impossible-looking ascent slopes of the Mount Lougheed scramble route, but armed with the knowledge from many reports on the web we started up the enormous 300 m high scree cone in high confidence. Thankfully our ascent was greatly aided by a stiff breeze and frequent cloudy periods that kept us from overheating too much. Near the top, the scree cone cliffs started to block the way, but a visible trail in the scree and a few cairns led us easily through. Unlike many other scrambles, this route seemed obvious. Above the second small cliff band we detoured a bit from our planned route, ascending quite high on a scree rib before cutting across a scree and slab bowl, but this worked well and there was even a good trail through the scree. After this, it was a straightforward 200 m slog to the summit ridge, followed by an easy walk to the summit.
Our summit stay was unusually pleasant too! With the cloud gone the combination of sun and a stiff breeze kept the temperature just right, and with no threat of incoming thunderstorms (a bit of a rarity, actually) we were able to lounge around for well over an hour. We also took a wander over to the western false summit hoping to get a good view of Spray Lake, but the narrowing ridge stopped us before the full lake was visible. The descent was no more difficult than the ascent, but it did require a bit of care to stay on route.
We capped off the adventure by stopping at the upper reaches of Spencer Creek and soaking our feet in the icy water while relaxing in the shade.
- It can get hot on this hike, as it’s west-facing and exposed. Consider bringing some swimming trunks and a lot of courage to swim in the chilly Spray Lake down by the car.
- Fill-up on bagels in Canmore before the hike at the Rocky Mountain Bagel Co.
- Really hot days may need slurpees, which can be found at the Mac’s store in Canmore on Bow Valley Trail, in a strip mall just off of Railway Ave.
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