Ha Ling Peak Hike – The Absolute BEST Hike in Canmore
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The Ha Ling Peak hike is the absolute best hike in Canmore, Alberta. There, I said it – and I know that’s a big claim to make. I mean, Canmore offers many amazing hikes in the area. However, after hiking almost all of the trails myself I feel confident in making the statement that Ha Ling Peak is, in fact, the best.
From 1032 meters (3385 feet) above Canmore, the views from the summit of Ha Ling Peak are unbelievable. And the best part? For a view like this, you only have to hike 800 meters in elevation thanks to the road that drives you partway up the mountain to the Ha Ling Peak trailhead.
Sure, 800 meters doesn’t make it an easy hike like others such as the Lake Agnes Tea House hike near Lake Louise, but, it’s doable especially because the trail is well maintained and even has stairs in some places for a quick incline.
So if you’re up for a challenge with the most rewarding views, then it’s time to lace up your boots and conquer the Ha Ling Peak hiking trail.
In this blog, I’m going to help you prepare with all of the essential info to know before you go!
Ha Ling Peak Hike Overview
Distance: 3.9 kilometers one-way to the summit, 7.8 kilometers total return
Elevation gain: 810 meters
Time needed: 3-5 hours
Type of Trail: Out and back
Ha Ling Peak FAQs
Hiking Ha Ling Peak isn’t difficult in the sense that the trail isn’t technical by any means and is well maintained. However, it is a steep hike that will likely have you out of breath very quickly.
Some people can complete the trail to the top in as little as 90 minutes, whereas others take over 3 hours. This depends entirely on your pace during the steep inclines and your overall fitness level. It took us 3.5 hours total to hike up and down.
The summit is slightly higher in elevation than the saddle, but the views are not much different. If you get to the saddle and you’re tired, or it’s windy, then I could just stop here.
Yes, as long as they are leashed and you clean up after them.
Yes, this hike is actually one of the best winter activities in Canmore! However, it is much more dangerous and difficult. It is recommended to have snowshoes and/or crampons handy and not to hike during windy or snowy weather conditions. It’s also important to note that the road to the trailhead closes occasionally during the winter months.
What to Pack to Hike Ha Ling Peak?
Water, and lots of it – There is nowhere to fill your bottle along Ha Ling Peak trail. The trail is steep and you’ll want water and lots of it! I’d pack a bare minimum of 1.5 liters per person.
Windbreaker – The weather might be beautiful in Canmore, but up on Ha Ling Peak (especially from the saddle to the summit) it can be very windy. Don’t make the same mistake as me, and be prepared for windy weather!
Warm layers – As I said, it is much colder up on Ha Ling Peak than it is in Canmore. Warmer layers, a hat, and even gloves would come in useful.
Hiking poles – I love using hiking poles! On steep hikes like Ha Ling Peak, they are especially useful. Not only do they take the pressure off your knees, but they also provide stability which is needed on the last scramble from the saddle to the summit.
Bear spray – Bears aren’t necessarily frequent on Ha Ling Peak trail, but it is bear country and it is possible to run into one. Always carry bear spray when hiking in the Rockies and make a lot of noise!
Parking and the Ha Ling Peak Trailhead
There is a large car parking lot at the Ha Ling Peak trailhead officially called the Goat Creek Day Use Area. This parking lot is located along Smith Dorrien Road (Highway 742), a road that winds its way up from Canmore, past the Nordic Centre and the Grassi Lakes trailhead. This drive on its own is very scenic and easily one of the best things to do in Canmore!
From Canmore, it takes about 10 minutes to drive to the start of Ha Ling Peak Trail from downtown Canmore.
Although the parking lot at Ha Ling Peak is large, it is rumored to fill up on occasion. I am usually an early riser when it comes to hikes, so I’ve personally never seen it full.
With that said, the peak times to hike Ha Ling Peak is in the summer months of July and August on the weekends between 10 am and noon. To avoid not finding a parking spot, consider leaving earlier in the day or later in the afternoon for a sunset hike!
The parking lot is located across the road from the Ha Ling Peak trailhead. So once you’re parked, you need to cross Smith Dorrien road, then go over a concrete bridge and walk up the gravel road. After about 50 meters you’ll see signs and will know you’re at the start of Ha Ling Peak Trail.
Starting it off with Switchbacks
This hike does not ease you into it. In fact, right from the beginning, the incline starts. Prepare yourself for switchbacks through the forest for an hour or so.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it – this part sucks. It’s all uphill and since it’s through the forest there are no views at all. If you’re like me, at this stage you’ll be wondering why the heck you signed up for this!
That is until you reach the first viewpoint…
The First Viewpoint
This viewpoint is on the edge of a cliff. It is a fairly new development on the Ha Ling Peak trail and marks roughly the halfway point to the saddle. From the viewpoint, you’ll have views back over the valley where you parked, Rundle mountain, and Goats Creek.
You can really get some spectacular photos from here.
In all honesty, if by this point you are really tired you can end the hike here. The views from this first viewpoint are amazing, and the next half of the Ha Ling Peak hike is even harder than the first half – don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Related Read: If you want some other great photo locations in the area, check our blog about the most Instagrammable places in Banff and surrounds!
Staircase to the Ha Ling Saddle
After the viewpoint, it is back through the forest for a short while before you reach the tree line. Where the trees begin to end the stairs begin.
That’s right, Alberta Parks has put a fair bit of money into Ha Ling Peak Trail and it really shows with the massive, fancy staircases installed on the edge of the mountain. These staircases may make your legs burn, but they allow you to move up the mountain quickly and easily without worrying about the rocky shale.
There are just over 400 steps across a couple of staircases. Once at the top of the stairs you have reached the saddle – congrats!
Now, you must decide to hike to Ha Ling Peak Summit or not.
Scrambling to the Summit
When I climbed Ha Ling Peak for the first time, I had every intention of making it all the way to the summit. But by the time I made it to the saddle I started to question that plan.
It was super windy and the trail was just shale rocks that made keeping my footing difficult. Not to mention the fact that I was already tired. I was content just staying at the saddle and enjoying the views from there.
But Daniel wasn’t having it. He wanted to be able to say he summitted Ha Ling Peak! So we continued on.
Carefully we scrambled across rocks taking it one step at a time. The wind was howling and there were clouds everywhere. And then, it started to snow! It was June and we did not expect such crazy weather. I was freezing.
The climb from the saddle to the summit is the most technical part. The rocks move beneath your feet, but if you’re careful it is perfectly safe. This last climb gains about 100 meters over about 0.5 kilometers so it is also steep.
If the weather isn’t great then I wouldn’t recommend heading to the summit. The views from the saddle are virtually the same as the summit anyway, so it might not be worth the effort or risk.
No matter if you make it to the saddle or summit, the views are crazy! Just pray you have a clear day as I have also hiked Ha Ling Peak when I couldn’t see a single thing thanks to a ton of cloud (you can tell by the two sets of photos I’ve used!)
Alternative Hike to Miners Peak
If you want a little bit of a different (and easier) hike than to the Ha Ling Peak summit, you can actually choose to visit Miners Peak instead! The saddle of Ha Ling Peak Trail connects to both Ha Ling Peak and Miners peak – Ha Ling to the left, and Miners to the right as you’re walking up.
Miners Peak is closer and less of a climb than Ha Ling. It’s often a lot less busy, which in summer months, is an important factor to consider.
If you want to hike Miners Peak then you walk the Ha Ling Peak Trail all the way to the top of the stairs when you reach the saddle. Follow the trail to the right and make your way up to the peak in front of you (that’s Miners Peak.)
From the top of Miners Peak, you’ll have similar views to those from Ha Ling Peak. The main difference is that you’ll also have views of Ha Ling Peak itself (like pictured above.)
It’s a great alternative to the Ha Ling summit!
A Quick Descent
The one good thing about the Ha Ling Peak hike being so steep is that the way down is quick and easy! Literally, it’ll take less than half the time to get back down as it did on the way up!
You walk the same trail on the way down as the way up.
Essential Info for Hiking Ha Ling Peak
Check the weather forecast
Hiking to the summit can be challenging and somewhat dangerous is really bad weather conditions including wind. Also, if it is cloudy, you might get all the way to the top and not see anything at all. We had to hike the trail twice to finally get the views we wanted.
Pack the right gear
Warm clothing is essential even in the summer, lots of water, and crampons or snowshoes in the winter. Hiking poles will also come in handy on a steep hike such as Ha Ling Peak.
Be prepared for a workout
Although a popular hike, it is a challenging steep hike. It’s much much harder than Grassi Lakes but easier than the Heart Horseshoe Loop Track.
The Trail Doesn’t Start at the Parking Lot
The trail starts on the other side of the road opposite the car parking lot. You’ll have to cross Smith Dorrien Road, walk over the concrete bridge, and up the gravel road to reach the official start of the trailhead.
Related Read: For more ideas of great activities in the area including hikes, check out our blog about 33 awesome things to do in Banff National Park!
Before you go…
So, now do you believe me that Ha Ling Peak is the best hike in Canmore? If not, then I challenge you to give it try on a clear day. I think you’ll end up loving it as much as I did (or at least I hope so!)
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Enjoy your hike!
December 15, 2020