Bucket list item fulfilled. Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park in BC is basically a magical wonderland where the scenery almost defies what the eye can perceive as real. And I finally got to go there!
I have long dreamed of visiting Mount Assiniboine. The mountain that is the park's namesake is the southern Canadian Rockies' tallest, at an elevation of 3,618 metres. But I just wanted to hike in the park, not climb the mountain. Living in a community of alpinists, it's worthwhile making that distinction. I mean, look at it. I can't even imagine...
This park, like Lake O'Hara, features terrain that will amaze you with every step. Snow-capped peaks (even in summer), brilliant blue lakes, wildflower-filled meadows—it is truly one of the most beautiful corners of the world I've ever had the privilege to experience.
Mount Assiniboine is a bit of a challenge to access. Actually, it's an adventure. One option is hiking in, with or without your gear. Because my group of six was staying at a Naiset Hut (one of the three types of accommodation in the park—the other two are the campground and Assiniboine Lodge), we hiked in with our gear since we didn't need to worry about bringing tents.
You can heli your gear (and yourself, for that matter) to the park, but I personally enjoyed the accomplishment of hiking 25 km in and out with my pack. The longest I'd ever hiked with a pack (overnight pack, not day pack) before this trip was 8 km to and from Bow Hut each way and I wanted to see how I could handle the challenge.
It was surprisingly much easier than I expected. Having a pack that fits you properly and knowing what to bring and what not to bring makes all the difference. That being said, next time I visit Mount Assiniboine I might heli out with my gear because I think it would be an awesome experience. Also, by the time I was almost finished hiking 60 km in three days, my left knee was pretty sore.
There are three routes hikers can take into the park. We hiked in via Assiniboine Pass (that took us eight hours) and out via Wonder Pass (that took us eight and a half hours), both which begin in Kananaskis Country. The other route is from Sunshine Meadows in Banff National Park. They're all about the same length, give or take a kilometre or two.
It was the last week of June and the forecast was sunny and in the mid-20s. A little hot for hiking, but nonetheless beautiful for spending three days outdoors. We started around 8 am and enjoyed a relatively easy first four hours or so on the trail. We stopped for lunch just before a warden cabin in a meadow. Then we had to hike through some tall brush near a river, and after that we started our ascent to Assiniboine Pass, which was where things got tougher.
After what felt like hours and many more kilometres than it probably was, we reached the top of Assiniboine Pass. Although we were too tired to really celebrate, we were all happy to have made it that far. It was only three more kilometres to the lodge and mostly downhill from there. When we got our first glimpse of Mount Assiniboine we became reenergized.
We had all been guessing as we walked along the trail how much a beer at the lodge would cost, but when we finally arrived and sat down to a breathtaking view of Mount Assiniboine and Lake Magog, I don't think anyone would have cared how expensive the beer was. It actually ended up being toward the lower end of our guesses.
The next day we explored the park and hiked about 10 km around a few stunning alpine lakes and to the top of Nub Peak, where we got an incredible view. You can get a great view from the Nublet, too, but I'd recommend continuing the short distance to the top of the peak for more expansive surroundings. Naturally, we did some yoga on the Nublet.
On the morning of our departure, we left for Wonder Pass around 10 am after breakfast. (Side note, the cooking shelter at the Naiset Huts is awesome—spacious, clean and new feeling. You also don't need to bring any kitchenware as it's provided).
As we began our journey home, we walked through a larch forest that would be gorgeous in fall, past a thundering waterfall and to Wonder Pass where the view lived up to its name. I was glad we hiked out and not in on this trail, as I think it would have been more of a slog uphill than Assiniboine Pass.
We descended for many kilometres and were treated to a view of Marvel Lake on the way down. It was surreal. The trail eventually met up with the river near the warden cabin we passed on our way in. We stopped at a campground for lunch where we saw a deer and a somewhat aggressive squirrel.
We were all tired and in "are we there yet?" mode as we made our way back to the parking lot. Distance markers would have been helpful here, but we made it back and all felt good about what we'd accomplished and the beauty we'd been surrounded by the past few days.