Complete Hiking Guide to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park

Located between Banff and Kootenay National Parks, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park is host to some of the most glorious alpine scenery in the Canadian Rockies.

The pyramidal shaped peak of Mount Assiniboine itself is just the jewel in a crown of impressive peaks, studded with turquoise lakes and expansive alpine meadows. 

Gemma and JR sit and watch the sunset and Mount Assiniboine (with cloud cover), wearing red and green jackets
Watching the sunset at Magog Lake, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
River rushing in forest with mountain backdrop in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park is gorgeous

Despite enduring difficult weather conditions (including blizzards and torrential rain at least part of every day), we were completely spellbound during the five days we spent in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. I think it will remain one of my favourite backpacking trips for a long time. 

This guide will tell you everything you need to know to plan your own hiking trip to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park in British Columbia, Canada. 

JR standing on a rock looking out at beautiful views of turquoise Cerulean Lake surrounded by mountains in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Cerulean Lake, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Two of the most recognisable peaks in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, BC
Mount Assiniboine and Sunburst Peak, British Columbia

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, British Columbia

Often called the ‘Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies,’ Mount Assiniboine is as striking as it is beautiful. But this peak isn’t the only attraction of the area. This alpine wonderland is a real playground for hikers. The best way to explore the Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park is on a five or six day backpacking trip. 

Though the distances may seem intimidating at first for some hikers (26km one-way to reach the core area of the park), I am 100% sure no-one has ever regretted making the effort. Mount Assiniboine is just one of those amazing one of a kind places that is worth every step. 

This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a qualifying purchase though one of these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. We received gondola tickets from Banff Sunshine Village. 

 
The summit of Mount Assiniboine with cloud over summit
Cloud covered the summit of Mount Assiniboine during our visit, but it was still beautiful
Meadows of wildflowers in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park wildflowers
Mountain reflections on alpine lake in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Magog Lake, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park

12 things you must know about hiking to Mount Assiniboine

  • Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park is accessible only via foot, horse or helicopter
  • Though located in British Columbia, the park is most easily accessed via Alberta
  • The length of hike (in km) is variable, depending on your chosen trailhead(s) and itinerary
  • 5-6 days is the ideal length of time to spend backpacking in the park
  • The best time of year to hike to Mount Assiniboine is mid July to early September
  • Photographs flock to the park in September when the larch trees turn bright yellow
  • Expect all kinds of weather. Snow is possible, even in the height of summer (we hiked in a blizzard!)
  • Reservations are required for the two most popular campgrounds – Og Lake and Magog Lake
  • There are camping fees at some of the campgrounds but no hiking trail fees 
  • Hikers MUST be bear aware and should carry bear spray 
  • There is a helicopter service (and lodge) with regular flights to the core recreation area
  • Assiniboine is pronounced ‘uh-si-nuh-boyn’ 
On this hike (and any other), be sure to bring the 10 essentials and always stick to Leave No Trace principles to reduce your impact on the environment and wildlife. Help us keep nature wild!
Trail leading through field of rocks in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Valley of the Rocks in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Yellow wildflowers in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
We loved spotting different wildflowers on our hike
Gemma with a backpack looking ahead at the trail through alpine meadows
Looking ahead to the core area of Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park

How to reach the core area of Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park

As mentioned, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park is only accessible on foot, by horse or helicopter. Here are the details about the helicopter and hiking options. 

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park helicopter access

The easiest way, by far, to access the park is via helicopter. There is a helicopter landing pad only 200m from Assiniboine Lodge in the core area of Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park.

  • Flights run every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from Canmore (12 minutes flying time) and Mount Shark (8 minutes)
  • On long weekends, flights are on Monday instead of Sunday.
  • 2020 rates run at $210/per person per one way flight from Canmore and $180/per person per one way flight from the Mount Shark helipad.
  • Hikers who want to book a helicopter flight and camp must first have a confirmed BC Parks camping reservation
  • Hikers can also use the helicopter service to fly gear in and out of Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
  • The 2020 fee is $3.00 per pound/flight with the maximum bag size being 12x15x32 inches or 29x37x80 cm
Sunburst peak rising above Cerulean Lake in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Sunburst Peak with Mount Assiniboine in background
Dirt hiking trail leading through alpine meadows, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Alpine meadows in the core area of Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park

Mount Assiniboine hike trailheads

There are three main hiking routes used to reach the core area of Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. These hiking trails are accessed most often via the Mount Shark and Sunshine Village trailheads. 

Sunshine Village Trailhead

Sunshine Village is a ski resort in Banff National Park and the most northern trailhead for Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. 

  • Sunshine Village has a daily gondola in operation from late June to early September
  • The 17 minute ride takes hikers from the base area parking lot to the upper village (2159m)
  • One way tickets are issued at the discretion of management, from Guest Services at the base or at the Interpretive Centre in the upper village
  • Alternatively, you can hike up the dirt road from the base area parking lot to the upper village, an additional distance of 6km with 500m elevation gain
  • Sunshine Village is an easy drive 18km from Banff (20 minutes) on paved roads
  • The base area has a very large parking lot (200+ vehicles). If you don’t want to drive, there is a regularly scheduled free bus service from Banff

IMPORTANT: The Sunshine Meadows gondola will not running for the 2020 season. Assiniboine hikers starting from Sunshine Village will need to hike an additional 6km from the base area

Valley view from Banff Sunshine Village gondola
Banff Sunshine Village gondola

Mount Shark Trailhead (aka Bryant Creek)

Mount Shark is a hiking and cross country ski parking lot in Spray Valley Provincial Park, Alberta. It is located very close to Mount Engadine Lodge. 

  • The most direct route to Mount Shark is via Highway 742 from Canmore. It takes just over an hour. The road is mainly unpaved and bumpy in places. Take the turnoff to Mount Engadine Lodge and then continue following to the end of the road (7km) to find the parking lot
  • From Calgary, it can be quicker to drive Highway 40 south and then approach the Smith Dorrian Highway (742) from the other direction. The road is usually in better condition
  • The Mount Shark parking lot is quite large, with space for around 50-60 vehicles. There is an information board as well as a number of outhouses
  • The trail to Mount Assiniboine via Bryant Creek starts right from the parking lot. There are shorter hiking trails leaving from here as well
  • White Mountain Adventures offers an afternoon shuttle service from the Mount Shark trailhead back to Canmore, Banff and Sunshine Village
Vehicles parked in parking lot with outhouse and mountain backdrop
Mount Shark trailhead parking lot

Sunshine Village to Magog Lake (26km) – Route 1

This Mount Assiniboine hiking route starts from the gondola exit at Banff Sunshine Village ski resort. If taking the gondola doesn’t fit into your budget, it is possible to hike up the dirt road from the parking lot to the upper village (note: the summer gondola is not running in 2020).

The hike through Sunshine Meadows is spectacular on a sunny day, with many peaks and dramatic rock formations visible. Be sure to take the short detour to beautiful Rock Isle Lake – you won’t regret it!

The climb up to Quartz Ridge offers the first chance to see Mount Assiniboine in the distance. Below is Howard Douglas Lake, location of the first en-route campground and the last reliable source of water until Og Lake. 

At the 9.3km mark, you reach Citadel Pass. Get ready for a steep descent as the trail switchbacks into the depths of the valley. The detour to Porcupine campground dips even further into the valley and is a REAL knee/toe killer.

If you ignore the diversion, the trail ascends a little and then cuts through the side of a hill before entering the otherworldly Valley of the Rocks.

The path meanders up and around boulders for 5km before opening up to reveal Og Lake and its stunning mountainous backdrop. From Og Lake, it’s a fast and flat journey through alpine meadows to Magog Lake. 

JR standing on ridge looking down on lake with mountain backdrop
Quartz Ridge provides the first views of Mount Assiniboine from the Sunshine Village trailhead. Howard Douglas Lake can be seen on the left

Mount Shark to Magog Lake – Routes 2 and 3

Route 2 and 3 both start at the same trailhead (Mount Shark) and follow the same path for 13.5km.

The first 6km is exceptionally flat, wide and very easy to follow. Mountains peek through the trees, a hint of the sights to come. After Watridge Lake, the trail climbs up and down a ridge and then sticks into the trees along a river valley. It’s dark and not particularly picturesque. 

To liven up the trip, consider taking the 1.6km return detour to Karst Spring at Watridge Lake. Here, a hugely impressive cascading waterfall emerges from underneath a rock. I think it’s definitely worth the time to see. 

Gemma sat on a log looking at a cascading waterfall
Karst Spring, near Watridge Lake – a worthy detour when hiking to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park from Mount Shark!

Mount Shark to Magog Lake via Wonder Pass (26km) – Route 2

Of the two routes from Mount Shark, Wonder Pass is considered to be the more beautiful route. There is, however, more elevation gain (580m vs 460m) and the ascent (or descent, from the other direction) is steeper. 

From the fork, the trail follows the shoreline (albeit from a distance) of pretty Marvel Lake for 5km. And then the real climbing begins, with a long series of switchbacks and scree slopes. 

Reaching Wonder Pass offers phenomenal views and the chance to stand on a provincial border. Now in British Columbia (and Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park), the hard part of the hike is done. The next 6km features a manageable 220m descent, with plenty of mountain panoramas, alpine meadows and another lake (Gog Lake). 

A wide flat trail leading towards mountains
Hiking from Mount Shark towards Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park

Mount Shark to Magog Lake via Assiniboine Pass (27.5km) – Route 3

Thought to be the least scenic route to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, Assiniboine Pass is also the longest. It remains a popular choice, however, as the ascent is steadier with less elevation gain.

From the Wonder Pass fork, the trail continues and then opens up to an expansive meadow with views of craggy Mount Cautley. After another couple of kilometres, the route returns to the woods and passes the Allenby campground.

Soon after, the trail splits again with a hiker’s ‘high’ pass trail on the right and the ‘lower’ horse trail on the left. The high pass is closed from 1st August to September due to grizzly bear activity. During this time, hikers have to use the lower horse trail to reach Assiniboine Pass. The two trails rejoin just below the summit of the pass. 

Over the pass and into British Columbia, Mount Assiniboine is now visible. Magog Lake campground is now less than 4km away with very little elevation change. 

Snow capped mountains and a lake, behind forest
Epic mountain views in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park from the Niblet

Camping in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park offers more than 75 walk in tent campsites, distributed between half a dozen campgrounds.

Magog Lake (in the core area) and Og Lake are the two most popular campgrounds. For this reason, campers must have a reservation to stay overnight in these campgrounds from 26th June to 30th September. This restriction has been in force since 2018. 

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Reservations for Og and Magog Lakes can be made four months in advance through the BC Parks Discover Camping website
  • In addition to the $10/night per adult camping fee, there is a $6 per night reservation fee (up to $18 max)
  • Making a reservation guarantees a spot in the campground, not a specific tent pad
  • Campsites are allocated on arrival via a first come, first serve system
  • An on-site Park Facility Operator (PFO) checks reservations and issues camping permits every evening
  • If you missed out on a reservation, it’s worth checking for cancellations on the Discover Camping booking system
  • Hikers without reservations are still allowed to hike to the Mount Assiniboine core area but must camp elsewhere
  • Check in time is 1pm and check out time 12pm
Tent pads and tent in front of forest and mountainous background in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Magog Lake Campground, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park

Magog Lake campground

The most used campground in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, Magog Lake has:

  • 40 tent campsites
  • A semi enclosed cooking shelter
  • An open cooking area
  • Six food storage locations (some cache, some with bear hangs)
  • Two grey water pits
  • Three water taps (water treatment recommended)
  • Five outhouses

Magog Lake campground is located close to the lake (5-10 minutes walk from most sites) and is surprisingly private, with sites clustered into groups (2-4 sites) and separated by trees.

Fires are not allowed anywhere in the campground. Magog Lake campground is a 2km walk (20-30 mins) from Assiniboine Lodge.

I’d highly recommend taking a photo of the campground layout from the information board before you look for a campsite. The layout is a bit confusing! We stayed at campsite 19, which was close to the lake and the open air cooking area. 

Set up tent on tent pad in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Our campsite in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
JR sat at cooking area table looking at Mount Assiniboine
Open air cooking area at Magog Lake Campground, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Three tent pads with bear hang in Lake Magog campground
Magog Lake campground tent pads

Og Lake campground

Og Lake campground is located on trail to/from Sunshine Village and has:

  • 10 tent pads
  • an open cooking area
  • food cache
  • grey water pit
  • outhouse

The tent pads are scattered a short distance from the lake, with views towards Mount Assiniboine itself. Og Lake campground is a lot more open than Magog Lake, with mostly low foliage and very few trees. 

I was surprised how much I liked the Og Lake campground. If you can’t get a reservation for Magog Lake for as long as you’d like, it’s still definitely feasible to extend your trip by reserving the Og Lake campground instead. It’s a very easy and flat 5km hike to Magog Lake. 

Seating area with table at edge of Og Lake campground, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Open air cooking area at Og Lake, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park

Other Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park campgrounds

  • Porcupine – 13km north of Magog Lake (half way from Sunshine Village). 10 sites, outhouse, food cache, open cooking area. No fees
  • Mitchell Meadows – West of Magog Lake. Three sites, outhouse, food cache, grey water disposal pit. No fees 
  • O’Brien Meadows Group Campground – Northeast of Magog Lake. 15 person minimum with advance reservation only (through Assiniboine Lodge)
  • O’Brien Horse Camp – Northeast of Magog Lake. For use by visitors on horseback only, no hikers allowed
Forest with set up tent on tent pad
Porcupine campground is free to stay overnight in

Campgrounds in Banff National Park

The following campsites are located Banff National Park, on trails leading to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park.

Here’s what you need to know about camping in Banff National Park:

  • Backcountry visitors must make reservations for overnight backcountry trips. There are no self registration vaults at the campgrounds or trailheads
  • Maximum length of stay is 3 nights at each campsite
  • Backcountry permits cost $10.02 per night, per person. This is charged in addition to the National Parks daily admission fee
  • The following campgrounds are all reservable via the online Parks Canada Reservation Service. Reservations cost $11.50
  • Alternatively, you can call 1-877-737-3783 to make a reservation. Telephone reservations are $13.50
  • Reservations usually open around late January. In 2020, reservations launched on 23rd January at 8am MST for all visits between April 2020 and March 2021
  • Allenby Junction is the least used of those mentioned below and is consequently a little overgrown. 

There are five campgrounds in Banff National Park that are regularly used by Mount Assiniboine hikers:

  • Howard Douglas Lake SU8 – 6km from Sunshine Village trailhead. 5 sites, outhouse, open cooking area, bear hang
  • Big Springs BR9 – 9.6km from Mount Shark (Bryant Creek) trailhead. 5 tent sites, outhouse, open cooking area, bear hang
  • Marvel Lake BR13 – 13km from Mount Shark trailhead. 10 raised tent pads, two outhouses, bear hang
  • McBride’s Camp BR14 – 14km from Mount Shark trailhead. 10 raised tent pads, outhouse, bear hang
  • Allenby Junction BR17 – 18.5km from Mount Shark trailhead. 5 tent sites, outhouse, open cooking area, bear hang

There is also reservable basic shelter at Bryant Creek with room for 12 hikers in two sleeping rooms, located 13.8km from the Mount Shark trailhead. In addition to the backcountry permit fee, there is a $6.95 per person, per night fee. 

Calm turquoise lake with mist and backdrop of mountains
Howard Douglas Lake, Banff National Park

Accommodation in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park

Camping isn’t the only way to stay overnight in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. For a more luxurious experience, consider the Naiset Huts or Assiniboine Lodge. 

Naiset Huts

The Naiset Huts are a collection of five basic one room huts located close to Assiniboine Lodge in the core area of the park.

Owned by BC Parks, the huts are operated by Assiniboine Lodge. Telephone reservations open in mid January. It is still worth checking for cancellations if you don’t manage to get a spot. 

Each hut sleeps 5-8 people, dormitory style on plywood bunk beds with foam mattresses (provided). There is a wood burning stove, with compressed fire logs available for purchase at Assiniboine Lodge for $7 a piece. 

The huts share three outhouses as well as the enclosed Wonder Lodge Cooking Shelter. This modern log cabin has running water, lighting and two propane cooking stoves. Each hut is allocated an outside food locker for storage. 

Assiniboine Lodge also operates the Hind Hut, a mountaineering cabin located at the base of Mount Assiniboine. 

Wooden cabin with signpost in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
One of the Naiset huts in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Interior view of cooking shelter with cookstoves and tables
Wonder Lodge Cooking Shelter

Assiniboine Lodge

Assiniboine Lodge was built in 1915, becoming North America’s first backcountry ski lodge. With seven cabins, five lodge rooms, indoor flushing toilets, a bathhouse (with sauna!) and all meals included, Assiniboine Lodge offers the most comfortable overnight experience in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. 

Prices start at $360/night per person for a lodge room, rising to $440/night per person for a private cabin. Assiniboine Lodge can be booked out up to a year in advance

Assiniboine Lodge opens its doors to hikers every day at 4-5pm for afternoon tea. As well as cake, tea and coffee, wine ($7 a glass) and beer can also be purchased ($7.50 a can). It’s a lovely treat during a backpacking trip. Be sure to bring cash!

JR walking past one of the cabins at Assiniboine Lodge
One of the cabins at Assiniboine Lodge, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Plate of cake slices and cup of tea in front of the fire at Assiniboine Lodge
Afternoon tea at Assiniboine Lodge, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park

Example Mount Assiniboine backpacking itineraries

With three main routes in and out plus a helicopter service, there are many ways to structure a Mount Assiniboine backpacking trip. Factors to consider when choosing your own itinerary include cost, time, distance and hiking ability. 

When considering a route and itinerary, remember that there is the option to fly your gear out using the helicopter service (scheduled on Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays). Hiking with less gear can really increase speed and distance covered!

Sunshine Village to Sunshine Village (out and back)

If you are hiking in a group with one vehicle and don’t want to bother with a shuttle, consider this backpacking route. This is the one we chose and I definitely don’t regret it. The views were so beautiful that I didn’t mind hiking the same trail twice. 

A typical Sunshine Village to Sunshine Village out and back itinerary may look like this:

  • Day 1 – Start from Sunshine Village and stay overnight at Howard Douglas Lake (6km), Porcupine (13km) or Og Lake (21km)
  • Day 2 – Hike to the core area (20/13/5km), stay overnight at Magog Lake
  • Day 3 – Explore core area, stay overnight at Magog Lake
  • Day 4 – Hike to Wonder Pass and back, stay overnight at Magog Lake
  • Day 5 – Hike from Magog Lake and camp at Howard Douglas Lake (20km), Porcupine (13km) or Og Lake (5km)
  • Day 6 – Hike to Sunshine Village (6/13/21km) in time for the last gondola ride at approximately 5.45pm (note – gondola is not running in 2020)

Variations to this itinerary:

  • We hiked this route in five days rather than six (with only two nights at Magog Lake) and wished we’d had longer in the core area. This itinerary reflects that
  • Getting a late start is perfectly doable on this route, with Howard Douglas Lake campground being only 5km from the top of the Sunshine Village gondola
  • We stayed at Porcupine on Day 1 and Howard Douglas Lake on our way back. Camping at Porcupine involves a surprisingly steep (and tedious) descent. Hiking to Howard Douglas made for a longer day but we enjoyed avoiding the Porcupine campground!
Gorgeous blue lake with island, mountain backdrop
Rock Isle lake, Sunshine Meadows, is a very worthy detour when hiking to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park from Sunshine Village
Elevated forest view with mountain backdrop, descending Citadel Pass
Descending from Citadel Pass

Mount Shark to Mount Shark via Wonder Pass and Assiniboine Pass (out and back)

This is another itinerary that works well if you only have one vehicle available to you. A bonus of this route is being able to hike a loop (two different trails) rather than hiking the same path twice. It’s also a little cheaper than the Sunshine Village equivalent since you don’t need to pay for a gondola. The downside is that there are no free campsites en-route. 

A typical itinerary from Mount Shark may something like this: 

  • Day 1 – Start from Mount Shark and stay overnight at McBride’s Camp (14km) or Allenby Junction (18.5km)
  • Day 2 – Hike to the core area via Assiniboine Pass (12/7.5km), stay overnight at Magog Lake
  • Day 3 – Explore core area, stay overnight at Magog Lake
  • Day 4 – Explore core area, stay overnight at Magog Lake
  • Day 5 – Hike Wonder Pass and stay at Marvel Lake (12km) or Big Springs overnight (15.4km)
  • Day 6 – Hike from Marvel Lake (14k) or Big Springs (10.6km) to Mount Shark trailhead

Variations to this itinerary:

  • Hiking the loop the other way around (Wonder Pass first, Assiniboine Pass second) is totally possible but the steeper grade of Wonder Pass makes for a more tiring ascent. The elevation gained on Assiniboine Pass is more gradual
  • Mount Shark to Allenby Junction is a longer hiking day but means an earlier arrival in the Mount Assiniboine core area on Day 2. If time is of the essence, you could easily drop the third night at Magog Lake
Gemma hiking, approaching Og Lake with mountainous backdrop
Approaching Og Lake in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park

Sunshine Village to Mount Shark via Wonder Pass (thru-hike) 

This route is ideal if you want to hike both of two most scenic routes in and out of Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park.

A typical Sunshine Village to Mount Shark backpacking trip may look like this: 

  • Day 1 – Start from Sunshine Village and stay overnight at Howard Douglas Lake (6km), Porcupine (13km) or Og Lake (21km)
  • Day 2 – Hike to the core area (20/13/5km), stay overnight at Magog Lake 
  • Day 3 – Explore core area, stay overnight at Magog Lake 
  • Day 4 – Explore core area, stay overnight at Magog Lake 
  • Day 5 – Hike Wonder Pass and stay at Marvel Lake (12km) or Big Springs (15.4km) overnight
  • Day 6 – Hike from Marvel Lake (14km) or Big Springs (10.6km) to Mount Shark, take 4.30pm shuttle back to Sunshine Village 

Variations to this itinerary:

  • To shorten this trip, you could skip one day in the core area. This would be especially do-able if you stayed at Og Lake the first night, followed by two nights at Magog Lake
  • If you are able to run your own two car shuttle system between Sunshine Village and Mount Shark, there is less of a need to get back to Mount Shark by 4.30pm. So you could hike less on Day 5 if desired
River running down to Lake Magog with Mount Assiniboine behind
Magog Lake view from close to the campground

Helicopter to Assiniboine Lodge, hike out to Mount Shark via Wonder Pass

A popular (but pricey) option is to take a one-way helicopter ride to Mount Assiniboine’s core area and then hike out.

A typical itinerary may something like this: 

  • Day 1 – Fly out from Mount Shark helipad, camp at Magog Lake(or stay at the Lodge or Naiset Huts)
  • Day 2 – Explore core area, stay overnight at Magog Lake
  • Day 3 – Explore core area, stay overnight at Magog Lake
  • Day 4 – Hike Wonder Pass and stay at Marvel Lake (12km) or Big Springs (15.4km) overnight
  • Day 5 – Hike from Marvel Lake (14km) or Big Springs (10.6km) to Mount Shark, walk to helipad (2km)

Variations to this itinerary:

  • To shorten this trip, you could skip one day in the core area or hike out on the same day (e.g. day 4)
  • It is completely possible to do this itinerary the other way around (hike in, fly out) but hiking out means carrying less food and therefore a lighter pack and easier journey
River leading towards Mount Assiniboine
Spectacular views in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park

Exploring the Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park core area

The Mount Assiniboine core area offers an alpine hiking paradise. No matter where you go, you’ll get to see magnificent views of mountain peaks, turquoise lakes and gorgeous meadows.

We had one full day to explore the core park area and felt we needed slightly longer. Two days would be ideal.

Here are my picks for day hiking from the Magog Lake area. But, whatever you do, don’t forget to head to Assiniboine Lodge for afternoon tea at 4pm! The meadows surrounding the lodge are also wonderful to explore. 

Sunburst and Cerulean lakes

Located so close to the Magog Lake campground, Sunburst and Cerulean lakes are a must see. Distinctive Sunburst Peak (also known as Goat’s Tower) looms above both of these brilliantly coloured lakes, offering a most spectacular backdrop. 

Sunburst Lake is a very short 10 minute walk from the campground. A cabin sits on the shore of the lake, a legacy to Lizzie Rummel. Born into German aristocracy, Lizzie started work at Assiniboine Lodge in 1938 at the age of 41. She followed her dreams to open her own lodge at Sunburst Lake in 1951 and welcomed guests for 20 years. 

Cerulean Lake is another 15 minutes further on from Sunburst Lake. On a calm day, the reflections on the lake surface are simply breathtaking. The shore of the lake is the perfect place to stop and relax. 

Distinctive peak above Cerulean Lake, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Sunburst Peak, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park

Niblet, Nublet and Nub summit

This trio of peaks offer some of the most epic panoramas in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. Accessible via two trails (one near Elizabeth Lake and the other at a junction between the Lodge and Magog Lake campground), it is possible to hike to the Niblet/Nublet/Nub as a 12km loop with 550m total elevation gain. 

From the Elizabeth Lake side, the climb is fairly steep and quick to the Niblet. The ascent from the other direction is a lot more gradual. Whichever way you go, the effort pays off quickly. The Niblet has stunning views over Mount Assiniboine, Magog Lake, Sunburst Peak, Cerulean Lake and surrounding peaks. 

At this point, you have the choice whether to keep hiking to the Nublet. The trail is steeper here and more rocky. Of course, the views open up even more. Continuing on to the Nub involve more elevation, significant exposure, some ridge walking and light scrambling. The route is also less defined. 

Looking out to Cerulean Lake, Sunburst Lake, Sunburst Peak and Mount Assiniboine from Niblet peak

Wonder Pass Lookout

If you don’t plan to hike through Wonder Pass, this 11km return trip (220m elevation gain) offers the chance to see what you missed. The trail travels through meadows, passes Gog Lake before climbing steeply to Wonder Pass itself (so much easier with a day pack!) There are stunning views to see both north and south. For adventurous hikers, there is the opportunity to scramble to the top of Wonder Peak.

Trail with ground covered in snow and mist covering mountain views on the way to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Expect all weather conditions when hiking in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park! It was heavily snowing when we headed out from Sunshine Village in early July

Essential items to bring on any Mount Assiniboine hiking trip

  • Cash – Assiniboine Lodge welcomes hikers between 4-5pm for afternoon tea (beer and wine also available) Purchases must be made with (Canadian) cash. In 2019, the price was $10 for a plate of six cake slices and unlimited tea/coffee
  • Warm layers – As mentioned, the weather in the Mount Assiniboine area can change fast. It can be cold even in summer. Be sure to bring a mixture of layers, including some warmer clothing (we love merino wool) and waterproofs (jackets and pants)
  • Bear spray – The Canadian Rockies are home to both black and grizzly bears. It is imperative to keep alert, make noise and know what to do if you see a bear. Be sure to carry bear spray in an accessible place and know how to use it 
  • Hiking poles – We always hike with at least one hiking pole each. I like using poles for balance when hiking with a pack. They can also help to reduces knee strain when descending. Black Diamond’s Carbon Zs are super light and pack down easily
  • Water filter or purification method – Prepare to treat all water sources during your Mount Assiniboine backpacking trip. There are three water taps in the Magog Lake campground but BC Parks recommends to treat the water. On this trip, we just used Aquatabs to purify water (we usually bring a BeFree filter too)
  • Camping reservation confirmation – If staying at Magog or Og Lakes, print off your Discover Camping reservation and bring it with you. The Park Facility Operator (PFO) will need to see this to issue your camping permit
  • Visiting from outside of Canada? Be sure to have travel insurance before heading out on this hike. We use World Nomads whenever we travel. If you’re from the UK or the EU, also check out True Traveller

If you liked this post, check out these other hiking posts:

Hiking the Beautiful Kananaskis Valley, Alberta

A Guide to Hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail, British Columbia

Hiking to Della Falls, Canada’s Highest Waterfall, Vancouver Island

Thru-hiking the Heather Trail, Manning Park, British Columbia

Complete Guide to Magnificent Valhalla Provincial Park, British Columbia

Often called the 'Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies,' Mount Assiniboine is as striking as it is beautiful. The pyramidal shaped peak is distinctive, even in a place so magnificent as the Rockies. But this peak isn't the only attraction in this park. The surrounding area, too, is also unbelievably spectacular. This guide will tell you everything you need to know to plan your own trip to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park in British Columbia, Canada. offtracktravel.ca

Mount Assiniboine is a jewel in the crown of the Canadian Rockies and a hiker's dream. This comprehensive hiking guide will explain everything you need to know about planning a backpacking trip to this magnificent provincial park in British Columbia. offtracktravel.ca
Banff Sunshine Meadows offers spectacular alpine hiking in the Canadian Rockies. From here, you can reach Mount Assiniboine, often called "Canada's Matterhorn." Click here to discover everything you need to know about hiking to Mount Assiniboine from Sunshine Meadows near Banff. offtracktravel.ca

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2 thoughts on “Complete Hiking Guide to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park”

  1. What a superb introduction to Assiniboine Provincial Park, and Mount Assiniboine. For me, it brought back a host of memories when with three other guys in July of 1971 we backpacked into Magog Lake from the head of the Spray Lakes, along Bryant Creek. We did a loop hike to Magog and then returned over Wonder Pass and back down the valley along Marvel and Gloria? lakes to the warden’s cabin and then from there I think it was about a 7 mile hike back to our vehicle on Bryant Creek. It was a marvellous hike. I was amazed at the photos of Magog Lake in this article where the lake water level was so low! Back then of course there were no facilities and we just found a nice level grassy spot in the trees above the lake. Ken Jones was the park warden at the time and he came by a couple of times for chats, usually doing about 13 miles a day patrolling. I don’t have the title handy, but a book was written about him some years back. A fascinating character. Once again, thanks for generating the memories of a wonderful trip way back in 71..

    Reply
    • Hi John,

      Thanks so much for your comment! I’m so impressed to hear that you backpacked into Mount Assiniboine back in 1971 – I bet it would certainly be different than now. Still as beautiful, there is no doubt. You are absolutely correct that you would have hiked alongside Gloria Lake, I had to shorten the description down but before I edited it, there was a mention of that lake too! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

      Reply

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