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Hiking Trails into Mount Assiniboine

There are various approaches to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park and I’ve now done a number of them, excepting the easiest (from the air) and some of the more obscure ones. This is a brief description of each of the four routes I’ve done, and two that I haven’t, with a final comparison matrix at the end. These are also detailed at the Mount Assiniboine Lodge website. One short section of the climber’s access route that I haven’t done (yet) is the Gmoser Ledges from the Lake Magog Campground to the Hind Hut. You can find more details of that route here. My GPS route for that section is a guess at best.

Mount Shark – Bryant Creek – Assiniboine Pass – Lake Magog

This is probably the most popular inbound route (next to flying) into the Mount Assiniboine area. There are a few reasons for its popularity, most of which can be clearly seen on the elevation profile below. This approach is relatively easy with the least amount of total height gains / losses of any of the other options. It’s straight forward to hike and is also the 2nd shortest route.

The elevation profile for the Shark – Assiniboine Pass route to Lake Magog.
The long trudge up Bryant Creek through Assiniboine Pass to Lake Magog. But it’s only a 15 minute chopper ride… 😉

Mount Shark – Wonder Pass – Lake Magog

This is the most popular egress route from the Mount Assiniboine area. Many folks fly in from the Shark Helipad and hike out via this route back to the Shark parking lot. Looking at the elevation profile below, you can see that it’s slightly longer than the Bryant Creek / Assiniboine Pass route with slightly more elevation change. The reason most people egress this way is the simple fact that it’s quite a bit more scenic than the Bryant Creek route. It obviously shares the first kilometers of trail to the Bryant Creek Shelter with the Bryant Creek / Assiniboine Pass route.

The elevation profile for the Shark – Wonder Pass route to Lake Magog.
A less boring, more scenic route along Marvel Lake and up Wonder Pass to Lake Magog.

Sunshine Meadows – Citadel Pass – Lake Magog

The ‘deluxe’ backpacking route into the Mount Assiniboine area. It is well-known simply because it’s unparalleled to the other routes in terms of views and landscape beauty, especially in late September when the larches across the Sunshine Meadows are stunning. This is the lengthiest and most tiring route, as can be seen from the elevation profile below. Take special note of the gains and losses before Citadel Pass and the rolling terrain through the Golden Valley and Valley of the Rocks past Og Lake. Add to this the fact that there’s no fresh water easily accessible from before Citadel Pass to Lake Magog and you start to appreciate how tough this route can be.

Note: This route can be even longer with more height gain if you don’t catch a ride to the Sunshine Meadows on the regular bus that drives up the ski-out road. Add another ~6km distance and 500m height gain if you forego the bus ride!

Elevation profile of the approach with approximate locations marked.
A long but scenic approach from Banff National Park to the north.

Assiniboine Creek – Hind Hut – Lake Magog

This is the “backdoor” climber’s route to the Mount Assiniboine Area! Despite being shorter than any of the other options except for the Mitchell River access route, it is used far less than most of them for accessing the general area and Lake Magog Campground for the simple reason that it is much more technical than the other approaches and involves a lot of off trail travel and height gain. This approach involves glacier hiking, steep, loose, off trail scree scrambling and a fairly serious alpine route down the headwall beneath the Hind Hut, known as the Gmoser Ledges. The shorter distance is also a bit misleading because the driving distance from Calgary or Banff is much further and involves many kilometers on a well-maintained, but gravel, mining / logging road.

This is the preferred approach (by FAR) for anyone wishing to ascend Mount Assiniboine, especially if you also want to traverse Lunette Peak and descend the SW face of Assiniboine on return like Kevin Barton and I did in late September, 2012.

The elevation profile for the Aurora Creek – Hind Hut approach to Lake Magog.
One of the shortest routes, but it’s a long drive to the trailhead and technical in nature.

Aurora Creek – Marvel Pass – Wonder Pass – Lake Magog

After posting this article on social media, I received a suggestion of a 5th route that has always been on my radar to try. I thought I’d stick it in here with the huge caveat that I haven’t (yet) done all of this one! I did trek to the wonderful Marvel Pass area in 2018, but as you can see from the elevation profile below, the route isn’t necessarily easier than any of the main backpacking routes just because it’s shorter than any of them. According to this trip report, the section of trail from below Marvel Pass to the bottom of the Wonder Pass trail is pretty manky and not well maintained at all.

Quite a bit shorter than the other 3 backpacking routes and rumored to be quite scenic, but this is no picnic on the total height gains and losses!
It better be nice with a long drive to the trailhead and some serious height gains and losses.

Mitchell River – Wedgwood Lake – Lake Magog

A sixth and even less commonly traveled route into Lake Magog and the Mount Assiniboine area is via an old horse caravan route up the Mitchell River, that was very popular in the days before the Bryant Creek trail was constructed from the Spray Lakes and became the more common access. I could only find limited online information about this route, so take what I have written here with a huge grain of salt. The general route is accurate enough but I couldn’t find any recent accounts confirming Rick Collier’s posts from 2002 which mentioned a good road running 7km north, up the Mitchell River from the Baymag Mine near the confluence of the Mitchell River and Assiniboine Creek.

Based on the BC Parks general map of the area (note the parking lot north of the mine site along the Mitchell River) and the fact that a rustic cabin (Mitchell River Cabin) exists along the route, I think there is a very good chance that the road is drivable and that this is by far the easiest, shortest and most under-utilized approach to the Mount Assiniboine area, mostly due to the mining and logging road access and lack of reports. Following is the route, mapped out as if the logging road is drivable, subtracting 7km each way. 

By far the most gradual and consistent height gain of any of the other access routes as long as the Mitchell River FSR is indeed drivable for 7km north of the Baymag mine site.
Assuming the Mitchell River FSR is drivable 7km north of the Baymag Mine, this the most straight forward and shortest backpacking approach of all the non-technical options. There’s a reason it used to be the most popular route back when horse caravans were more common than helicopters.

Comparison and Summary of Routes

Following is a summary and comparison table of the various hiking routes into the Mount Assiniboine area, with my subjective pros and cons listed for each one. Note that the distances are slightly higher than indicated in the elevation profiles above. This is due to the route files not containing every single track point, so they’re slightly under-calculated there. My totals could be slightly off but for general information and comparison, they’re closer than what’s listed anywhere else that I could find. 

Comparison and Summary of Routes into Mount Assiniboine

So there you have it. I realize there are other options and variations of trails and routes that can be done, but I have done them, haven’t seen recent information on them, and can’t speak to them. Most of them involve at least portions of the above trails and are somewhat comparable (i.e. Using the Owl Lakes and Marvel Pass route to gain Wonder Pass).

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