Scrambling up Mount Sparrowhawk is the perfect scramble for those new to scrambling or families with older children. It is not too technical, but provides an unbeatable view of the vast Spray Lakes reservoir.
From the Canmore Nordic Centre, continue west on the Smith-Dorrien (Hwy 742) as it winds up into the Spray Valley for 22.7 km. The Sparrowhawk Day Use Area will be on the right. The trailhead is across the road.
|When to do|
July - September
Yes - On Leash
Older Children only
Out and back
Mount Sparrowhawk is a difficult hike or easy scramble to one of the highest summits in the immediate area. On a clear day, the panoramic view is limited more by the curvature of the earth than other peaks!
The trail begins across the Spray Lakes road from the Mount Sparrowhawk parking lot. A very obvious trail climbs the bank next to the road and continues a moderate ascent into the forest. About 1 km from the parking lot you will reach a cairned junction. Straight takes you to the basin below Mt. Bogart; head left for Mount Sparrowhawk or Read’s Tower.
The trail ascends very steeply after this junction and within minutes you’ll have an ever-expanding view out over Spray Lakes. After gaining about 300 m over a very short distance the trail becomes less steep as you surmount Read’s Ridge. Read’s Tower looms in front of you and the summit block of Mount Sparrowhawk rises to its left. Despite appearances from this vantage point, Sparrowhawk is over 500 m higher than Read’s Tower.
To continue to Mount Sparrowhawk head directly for Read’s Tower, then turn towards the basin to its left when it looks like you’re about level with it. From the basin ascend the gully close to Read’s Tower (it’s easier than it looks), then begin the plod up 500 m of scree, generally aiming for the right-hand side of Sparrowhawk’s summit block. The scree along this entire section is solid so it’s easy going and the rapidly expanding views keep the motivation high.
Arriving at the col to the right of the summit (there is a shed here), head left up the obvious scree chute coming off the summit block. This is the most difficult part of the ascent and is only practical if it is free of snow. There are many bits of trail along this section, so take your time to carefully chose the best route. Some areas are very loose, but many are solid. We found sticking to the left on little ledges avoided the worst of the scree. With careful route selection we found it no more difficult than the initial ascent and the gully near Read’s Tower.
The summit is quite spacious and is adorned with some sort of weather and/or communications contraption. It’s anchored with a thin cable about a foot off the ground, so be careful not to trip over it as you admire the views, which are spectacular of course!
Descend the way you came.
- Fill-up on bagels in Canmore before the hike at the Rocky Mountain Bagel Co.
- Consider stopping in at the delightful Mount Engadine Lodge for a snack on the way back. They have a variety of options for hikers, and their weekend brunch is great.
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