Elk Pass

Bragg Creek and Sheep River
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Elk Pass

Distance: 12.2km
Elevation: 282m
Time: 2-3h

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The Elk Pass cross-country ski route is a popular ski route in the Kananaskis Lakes area. With a base elevation of 1730m, this usually means pretty nice snow, and is a favourite both early and late in the season.

Getting there

Take Highway 40 south from the TransCanada to the Winter gate. Go right here and follow the road for 11.9km. Look out for a signed right-hand turn for Elk Pass, and park in the parking lot here.

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About

When to do

Mid-November to April

Backcountry Campsites

Elk Lakes ACC Hut

Toilets

Elk Pass Parking Lot

Pets allowed

No

Avalanche Risk

None

Family friendly

Older Children only

Route Signage

Average

Crowd Levels

Moderate

Route Type

Out and back

Type of XC Route

Double Track-set


Elevation


Detailed Description

The cross-country ski to Elk Pass is a great ski in the Kananaskis Lakes area. There are a range of trails accessible from the Elk Pass cross-country ski trailhead, though any path up Elk Pass will go on a blue trail, suitable for intermediates.

Also, while we describe the Elk Pass route, there is also an exceptional circuit for more advanced skiers. The circuit follows our route to Elk Pass and continues around on Tyrwhitt to Whiskey Jack and then back to the trailhead on Moraine, for a total circuit of roughly 18.5km.

Finally, you can go over Elk Pass and descend down to the ACC’s Elk Lakes Cabin, which is roughly 6.3km and involves a descent of roughly 220m from the pass.

The route we have shown is a fun cross-country ski to do for intermediate skiers who don’t mind a bit of descent.

From the Elk Pass parking lot, head out on the green Elk Pass Trail. This easy ski trail has a steep uphill after about 800m, and the uphill gains almost 90m as it connects with the Hydroline utility corridor. The uphill can be painful in very icy conditions, especially coming down.

Once over this hump, you descend a bit and then start to ascend again, only now in a pretty forest. After 2.9km on the Elk Pass cross-country ski trail you come to the junction for the Blueberry Hill trail, which goes off to your right. Don’t take this today, but it is a fun ski for another day (see insider hints for more on this XC ski trail).

Continue another 1.5km to Elk Pass, where there is a picnic table. From Elk Pass, most intermediate skiers return the way they came, being careful on the descent. If you are looking for a longer day, continue on the wonderful Tyrwhitt trail and make a circuit.

Insider Hints

  • There are a few great variants on this trail. First of all, advanced skiers can try the black XC ski trail to Blueberry Hill. This is a fun, 3.5km XC ski each way, ending in a nice viewpoint overlooking both Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes. We like doing this trail when there is recent fresh snow as it makes the route a bit softer, and safer while descending.

  • You can also continue from Elk Pass in a northern direction on Tyrwhitt, making a circuit by descending on Whiskey Jack and coming back on the Moraine or Boulton Creek trails.

  • Finally, we love the ACC’s Elk Lakes Cabin. If you have touring skis, consider a few nights there, it’s stunning.

  • This area is pretty isolated, with the only food/gas/drinks at the Fortress Junction Service Station, back on Highway 40, about halfway to Nakiska.

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