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.
There are many trails in this area with a long and fascinating history.
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.
The narrow, rocky path initially through forest, widens to rocky road through spring forest ascending on gradual, consistent grade through Pack Trail Coulee.
Crocuses are plentiful and glow in the sun along the trail. There are literally thousands of them. Absolutely stunning, delicate, spring beauty.
About halfway up the trail, the grassy meadow near the top of the pass begins to peek through trail-side forest.
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.
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.
The hike up to Grass Pass expands the view behind exponentially.
At the top of Grass Pass, 2,685 m (8,809 ft) snow-capped Holy Cross Mountain captures the view on the left.
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.
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.
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.
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.