Baldy Pass is a popular hiking classic in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.
Baldy Pass is a popular, classic, day hike with lots to offer. The one-way distance to Baldy Pass is 4 KM (2½ miles) with an elevation gain near 575 m (1,886 ft). The pass stands at 1,990 m (6,529 ft), however, there is an opportunity to increase distance and elevation, to achieve substantially enhanced reward.
The parking area, south past the end of Barrier Lake and picturesque O'Shaughnessy Falls, is shared with access to the Porcupine Group Camp. Old Baldy Mountain looms above to the east. The trail-head is on the other (east) side of Kananaskis Trail.
The initially gentle trail proceeds through forest to a T-intersection and a trail sign. Take a moment to enjoy the view of Mount Lorette, framed in the cut line to the right, then turn left on an old fire road. Following the right hand branch leads south to Wasootch Creek.
The trail remains relatively flat but the gravel surface changes to loose rock created by the gradual disintegration of an unnamed ridge to the south of Baldy Pass. The terrain makes a good case for wearing appropriate and protective hiking footwear.
The trail meanders over and around the dry, rocky, riverbed surface as the valley continues to narrow into wonderful views on either side.
As the trail begins to gain well-graded elevation, patches of snow and ice begin to appear in more sheltered spots along the trail. These snow mounds become more substantial as elevation increases and occasionally encounters the remnants of winter avalanche activity. There are none which are difficult to handle.
Views of 2,192 m (7,192 ft) Old Baldy Mountain begin to open up on the far side of the valley.
Arrival at Baldy Pass presents views badly compromised by maturing evergreen forest.
The solution to this constricted view is a short hike to the right, up a well-traveled rocky slope, towards higher points and the unnamed ridge above to the south. The scope of the vistas opens up dramatically and swiftly as the extra elevation is easily gained.
Climb a bit and take the time at each plateau to absorb the view before proceeding higher.
A plateau with large pockets of deeper snow in sheltered areas, begins to compromise forward progress. In a beautiful open area, the pack is pulled and damp laundry is hung over tree branches to dry while lunch is enjoyed in the warmth of the sun, perfectly balanced by a gentle, cool breeze. The view is spectacular. It is quiet and peaceful. Wandering for a bit to scout access to climb to the higher point finds nothing free of snow, but that is OK. The magic of the mountains have mellowed the intent to proceed.
There is little sense in gaining the rocky knoll above me without completing the climb to the top of the ridge. The view from the top would be clearly outstanding. Another day. Mountains are dependable. They stay where they are.
Following a thoroughly satisfying lunch in paradise, the return hike proceeds by approximately the same route. There is a labyrinth of trail option from the crowds of people who have been here in days, weeks and years past.
Cairns dot the down route. Some are very creative. Hiking alone always makes it special to commune with nature, one on one. Not everyone would agree.
On the way back to the car, some of the images from the morning are repeated in afternoon light on this ideal day for hiking.
Emerging from the forest at the trail-head, new spring-green leaves glow in the sun at the dawn of a new, summer season.
The following map of the Baldy Pass trail shows the entire loop for this popular, 20.2 KM (12⅝ mile) mountain bike circuit which usually begins from the Colonel's Cabin parking area at the University of Calgary Field Station.
In the Rocky Mountain Books, 'Backcountry Biking in the Canadian Rockies' the ride rates as moderate/advanced.
There is still time left in the day before the return to Calgary and Porcupine Creek is just a short distance south on Kananaskis Trail.