Grass Pass - Kananaskis Country - Hiking Alberta

 

Grass Pass is a popular hike in the Highwood region of Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.

 

 

The hike to Grass Pass begins from the east section of the Sentinel Recreation Area parking lot (severely flood damaged in June 2013) about 35 KM (21⅞ miles) west of Longview, Alberta, Canada, and 3.8 KM (2.4 miles) west of the Kananaskis Country entrance sign on Highway 541

The parking area is graced by 1,905 m (6,250 ft) Mount Mann rising above the crystal clear waters of the Highwood River.

 

Grass Pass - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Mount Mann towering above the Highwood River at the Sentinel Recreation Area in South Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

There are many trails in this area with a long and fascinating history.

 

Grass Pass_- Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada 

 

The trail-head is gained by walking a short distance east to a footpath near the Sentinel sign on the north side of Hwy 541.

 

Grass Pass - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The narrow, rocky path initially through forest, widens to rocky road through spring forest ascending on gradual, consistent grade through Pack Trail Coulee.

 

Grass Pass_- Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Grass Pass_- Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Crocuses are plentiful and glow in the sun along the trail.  There are literally thousands of them.  Absolutely stunning, delicate, spring beauty.

 

Grass Pass_- Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

About halfway up the trail, the grassy meadow near the top of the pass begins to peek through trail-side forest.

 

Grass Pass_- Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Crocus colors vary from deep purple to near white.  To photograph one blossom is to find dozens, even more beautiful, within the next few feet.  The entire day could easily be spent capturing the beauty of the prolific and delicate spring flowers which become increasingly plentiful as altitude increases.  Discipline is mandatory.

 

Grass Pass_- Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The final approach to Grass Pass proceeds through grassland with steep rock walls to the left and heavily forested slopes to the right, as the coulee expands in width, while ascent anticipates the top of the trail.

 

Grass Pass_- Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The final stretch to Grass Pass in South Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The hike up to Grass Pass expands the view behind exponentially.

 

Grass Pass_- Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Looking back to the valley bottom where the hike to Grass Pass began.

 

At the top of Grass Pass, 2,685 m (8,809 ft) snow-capped Holy Cross Mountain captures the view on the left.

 

Grass Pass_- Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The hike over Grass Pass continues a short distance into Wileman Valley.  Past Holy Cross Mountain, Mount Head is the foreground to the Highwood Range in the Don Getty Wildland Provincial Park section of Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.

 

Grass Pass_- Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The Highwood River, where the 3.4 KM (2⅛ mile) 425 m (1,394 ft) ascent begins, is clearly visible from the expansive and serene Grass Pass saddle.  A scenic lunch spot is chosen on the north spur leading to Boundary Pine to revel in the peace, quiet, sun, refreshing breeze and mountain vistas.  Richardson's squirrel joins me and waits patiently for a peanut.

 

Grass Pass_- Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The view from Grass Pass straight down to the Highwood River where my hike began.

 

After lunch, the hike proceeds east then south along the short, flat and narrow trail towards Boundary Pine, on top of the surprisingly bald ridge which had been to the right during the ascent to Grass Pass through Pack Trail Coulee.  The short and beautiful hike to Boundary Pine, as well as the alternative return will be covered in a subsequent post.

 

Grass Pass_- Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The view from the lunch spot towards the Boundary Pine ridge.

 

When hiking in the Highwood and Cataract Creek area of South Kananaskis Country, past efforts have been predominantly focused in the Kananaskis Trail corridor. 

The approach from Longview is a longer drive than from Calgary and previous trips have characteristically driven past the trails on the drive west from Longview.  Thanks to a recent post at Making Waves, this Grass Pass Hike came to my attention as an excellent, early season opportunity, where snow disperses more rapidly with the southern exposure. 

This great day is completed with the drive home on the infamous Cowboy Trail.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Thank you for your comment, Bob. Grass Pass is an excellent hike in Highwood. I hope you had a chance to hike over to Boundary Pine. Thank you for the retweet. Always appreciated. I will check out your Twitter feed. Your blog is of similar approach to mine and I hope people will take the time to check it out.

One of our friends, organized a small group hike to Grass Pass recently and everyone quite enjoyed it. Jim (the organizer) recently sent everyone in the group an email with several links including a link to your blog which was a delightful way to relive and share our experiences. We already follow one another on Twitter, so I just retweeted your blog about Grass Pass and will monitor your hikes more closely in the days ahead. Maybe there are other ways we can support one another. Happy trails, Bob

Well, this is a bit embarrassing. I planned to hike to Grass Pass. At the pass I checked my map and assumed incorrectly that Boundary Tree was the name of the ridge. I did not realize it was an actual tree so I was absorbed with the incredible views surrounding me. I was not looking for an individual tree. I took many photographs, as always, but the famous tree known as 'Boundary Tree' is not in any of them. Sorry. It means I will need to return for my own satisfaction. Ignorance is not always bliss. As for the return route along the unnamed ridge, I will publish as quickly as time permits. Thank you for your comment, Andra. You have an impressive suite of adventures on your blog. We have walked on many of the same trails.

O.K. now I can hardly wait to see your photo of the Boundary Pine and read about the balance of your hike! Hurry, hurry get busy! : ) Please don't make us wait too long!

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