At 3,618 metres (11,939 ft), Mount Assiniboine bears a striking resemblance to the Matterhorn in Switzerland. Upon the urging of the Alpine Club of Canada, British Columbia set aside 5,120 hectares of the area on February 6, 1922 as Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. In 1973, the park was increased seven-fold to its present size of 38,600 hectares.
The park is roughly triangular in shape. Apex of the triangle is at the junction of the boundaries of Banff National Park, which forms the eastern boundary, and Kootenay National Park, which forms the western boundary.
The southern boundary follows the height of land above Daer Creek and Extension Creek from Kootenay National Park to the Mitchell River, then easterly to Banff National Park and the Continental Divide.
Wilderness scenery in the park is as beautiful as any in the Canadian Rockies – jagged peaks, shimmering lakes, glistening glaciers and sun-dappled alpine meadows. A score of peaks in the park exceed 2,700 metres (8,910 ft). Mount Assiniboine, Mount Magog, Mount Sturdee, The Marshall and Lunette Peak all touch or exceed 3,100 metres (10,230 ft). No point in the park is below 1,500 metres (4,950 ft).
Lakes dot the park. The largest, Lake Magog, lies at the northern foot of Mount Assiniboine.
Boreal forests of spruce, intermixed with stands of alpine fir and lodgepole pine, cover the lower elevations. In more open areas, scattered patches of false azalea, buffalo berries, twinberries, white rhododendrons and occasionally, red elder may be found.
Between 2,100 and 2,400 metres (7,425 ft), open stands of alpine larch occur associated with alpine fir and Engelmann spruce, with a ground cover of red and white heather and grouseberries. Dense thickets of various species of low growing willows associated with bog birch can be found along mountain streams and in boggy areas.
Large areas of rocky slopes and ridges are covered by stonecrop, white flowering mountain avens, moss campion, cinquefoil, arctic willows and several species of saxifrage. Alpine meadows blaze with colour of western anemones, alpine arnica, columbine, Indian paintbrush, spring beauty, alpine fleabane, mountain daisies and hundreds of other species of wildflowers during the midsummer blossoming period.
Animals that may be seen in the park are elk, black and grizzly bears, mule deer, moose, mountain goats and bighorn sheep. The chattering of Columbian and mantled ground squirrels and chipmunks or the call of the hoary marmot and pika is often heard. Wolverine, wolf, badger, marten and coyote inhabit the park but are seldom seen.
Ninety-three species of birds have been sighted in the park, among the more common are northern harrier, gray jay, Clark’s nutcracker, white-tailed ptarmigan, pine grosbeak, rosy finch, pine siskin, boreal chickadee, chipping sparrow and white-crowned sparrow.
Weather conditions are typical of the Rocky Mountains. Snow mantles the peaks year-round and remains at lower elevations until early summer. Daytime temperatures in July, August and the first part of September can be warm but nights are cool with occasional dips below freezing.
Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park is relatively undeveloped to keep the park as unspoiled as possible. Trails provide the primary access; helicopter access is permitted Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays and statutory holiday Mondays from 11 am to 5 pm. Hiking, mountaineering and the spectacular scenery are the main attractions. Anglers try their luck but the glacial lakes and streams support small fish populations. In winter, cross-country skiers and ski-mountaineers visit the park frequently.
How to get to the park:
Highway 93 to Lake Magog: Trail starts at the junction of the Vermilion and Simpson Rives near Highway 93, about 56 kilometres (35 mi) north of Radium Hot Springs and follows the Simpson River to its junction with Surprise Creek, a distance of 9.6 kilometres (5 mi) – hiking time 2-3 hours. From this point, one trail follows Surprise Creek via Rock Lake to Ferro Pass, a distance of 10.6 kilometres (6 mi) – 2-3 hours – then to Sunburst Lake, 9.1 km (5 mi) – 2-3 hours – then to Lake Magog Campground, 1 kilometre (.6 mi).
Another trail continues along the Simpson River through Golden Valley and the Valley of the Rocks and along Og Creek to Lake Magog, a distance of 32 kilometre (20 mi). Elevation change 1,250 metres (4,125 ft), maximum elevation 2,287 metres (7,547 ft). The risk of grizzly bear encounters between Scoup and Porcupine Camps on the Simpson River Trail is higher than in other areas of the park.
Spray Reservoir to Lake Magog: Access to the trails entering the park originate from the Spray Reservoir Road located south of Canmore, Alberta. The road leads south from Canmore for approximately 15 kilometres (9 mi) to the junction of the Smith Dorian Highway. Follow the Smith Dorian Highway for approximately 39 kilometres (24 mi) to the turn-off marked Shark Mountain. There is a parking lot located 7 kilometres (3 mi) from this turn-off.
The trail to the park starts at this point and leads along the shore of Watridge Lake, crosses two bridges and meets the Bryant Creek Trail. From this point, the trail follows Bryant Creek to Assiniboine Pass, a distance of about 21 kilometres (12 mi) – six hours, then to Lake Magog 4 kilometre (2 mi) – one hour. Elevation change 520 metres (1,716 mi), maximum elevation 2,195 metres (7,253 ft).
An alternative trail follows Bryant Creek and skirts Marvel Lake on its way to Wonder Pass, a distance of 22 kilometres (13 mi) – six hours, then to Lake Magog 4.5 kilometres (3 mi) – 1.25 hours. Elevation change 700 metres (2,310 ft), maximum elevation 2,378 metres (7,847 ft)
Highway 93 to Lake Magog via the Mitchell River: A little used trail starts beyond a mine on the Mitchell River. To reach the trailhead follow Settlers Road from Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park for about 14 kilometres (9 mi) and cross the Kootenay River. Follow a good logging road along the Cross River for 18.4 kilometres (11 mi) and turn left up the Mitchell River. Parking is at the mine 6 kilometre (4 mi) further.
Large ore trucks are hauling on these roads – use extreme caution. For your own safety, permission must be obtained from the mine operators to cross their property. Just above the crusher, a 4×4 road leads from the property and stops abruptly at a steep grade. The trail starts at the base of this hill and follows the Mitchell River to Wedgewood Lake, and then to Lake Magog. Distance of about 30 kilometres (18 mi) – about 8 hours. Elevation change 1,100 metres (3,630 ft).
The trail crosses the Mitchell River in numerous locations. It is not necessary to make all of the crossings. Short and very easy bushwacks connect the crossings. Stay on the east side to the ford, then cross over to the west.
Sunshine Ski Village to Lake Magog: The access road to Sunshine Village is 10 km west of Banff on Highway 1 in Banff National Park. Public traffic is permitted to Bourgeau parking lot only, a distance of 9 kilometres (5 mi). From this point, visitors may hike 6 km to Sunshine Village or take the shuttle bus (June 20 to September 30 – snow conditions permitting).
From Sunshine Village, the trail leads to Lake Magog via Quartzridge, Citadel Pass, Golden Valley and Valley of the Rocks, distance 27 kilometres (17 mi) – 8 hrs. Elevation change 488 metres (1,610 ft), maximum elevation 2,408 metres (7,946 ft).
Day Hikes – Routes:
There have evolved over the years several day hike routes from the core area. For the most part, they are without trails but offer tremendous opportunities to view the park.
Sunburst Valley: Nublet to the Nub, descend the ridge leading down to Elizabeth Lake. From here several options: a) continue to Sunburst Lake via trail, b) walk Chucks Ridge and connect with Ferro Pass Trail and then to Cerulean and Sunburst Lakes c) follow Elizabeth Lake Trail to Ferro Pass Trail and complete the circuit via Cerulean and Sunburst Lakes.
Og Valley (East): Follow the trail to Og Pass and then trail to Windy Ridge, descend from ridge via smooth rock slope to the north end of Og Lake and then follow the trail back to your starting point.
Og Valley (West): Follow the trail to Og Lake, branch off and head for a) pass between Jones Hill and Nub, or b) ridge at the eastern toe of Jones Hill. Either route brings you out into Nub Basin. Pick a route down through to the main valley.
Day Hikes – Trails:
Mt Assiniboine Lodge to Og Lake, 5.6 kilometres (3 mi), easy
Mt Assiniboine Lodge to Gog Lake, 1.8 kilometres (1 mi), easy
Mt Assiniboine Lodge to Nub,4 kilometres (2 mi), moderate
Mt Assiniboine Lodge to Mt. Cautley, 4.8 kilometres (3 mi), strenuous
Mt Assiniboine Lodge to Wonder Pass Viewpt, 5.6 kilometres (3 mi), easy
Mt Assiniboine Lodge to Windy Ridge, 5.7 kilometres (3 mi), strenuous
Sunburst Lake to Rock Lake, 11.3 kilometres (7 mi), moderate
Sunburst Lake to Elizabeth Lake, 1.7 kilometre (1 mi), moderate
Sunburst Lake to Wedgewood Lake, 5.1 kilometres (3 mi), moderate
Sunshine Meadows: There are a number of excellent day hiking trails in the Sunshine Meadows area. Starting at Sunshine Ski Village in Banff National Park, various loop trails traverse representative alpine meadows and lakes in the boundary area of Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park.
Winter: An increasing number of cross-country skiers are visiting the park during the winter. Telemark skiing is also popular. The Assiniboine Pass is the most popular route into the park.
Use the trailhead facilities in Peter Lougheed Provinical Park, Alberta, from Mount Shark along the Karst Trail to Watridge Lake. From there, follow the trail around the northeast shore to the Bryant Creek trailhead in Banff National Park. Follow the Bryant Creek Trail over Assiniboine Pass.
When skiing this route in reverse, caution must be taken not to miss the Bryant Creek/Watridge Lake connection. This route is safe from avalanches as long as the basic route finding techniques are used.
In normal years, conditions for ski-touring are generally good from December 15 to April 30. Naiset Cabins for overnight stays require reservations from December 1 to May 31. Cabins are booked through Mt. Assiniboine Lodge.
Camping: The main camping area is on a bench above the west side of Lake Magog. A fee per site/party per night is charged at this camping area. Nearby springs and small streams provide water. A primus-type stove must be used for cooking. Tents may be erected at designated sites only. A group camping area with accommodation for up to 25 persons is located at O’Brien Meadows. Reservations are required for this site. Camping is also permitted at the north end of Og Lake. Camping is booked through Mt. Assiniboine Lodge.
Cabins: Four alpine cabin shelters, known as Naiset Cabins, with accommodation for 31 persons, are located on the south side of Magog Creek. A fee is charged for use of the cabins. Shelters may be occupied, so come equipped to camp.
A climbing shelter known as the R.C. Hind Hut is located in the Assiniboine Bowl. The hut accommodates 16 and serves as a base camp for mountain climbers. Other cabins are located at Surprise Creek, Mitchell River and Police Meadows.
Horses: Horses are allowed in the park under permit. The letter of authority will outline camping locations, grazing areas and trails open to horse traffic.
Angling: Fishing in the glacial lakes and waterways is unpredictable. Rock Isle, Larix and Grizzly Lakes are closed to angling.
Open fires: The core area, Citadel Pass, Eohippus Lakes and vicinity of Sunshine Village trails are closed to open fires. Fires are permitted in the heaters in the Naiset Cabins and at other camping locations throughout the park. Cooking is not permitted inside the Naiset Cabins.
Mountain biking: Mountain bikes are allowed only from the Mt. Shark trailhead (near Spray Lakes) to Banff National Park border (approximately the first 6-7 kms) and not allowed on this trail once in Banff National Park.
Commercial Facilities: A concessionaire-operated resort, Mount Assiniboine Lodge, is situated near Lake Magog. Reservations for overnight and meals are required.
Reservations to fly in (or fly your gear in) is available by booking with Mt. Assiniboine Lodge directly (via Mount Shark Heliport). Mt. Assiniboine Lodge.com