Heading out on a Pigeon Mountain hike is both exhilarating and breathtaking thanks to the challenge and the views. Pigeon Mountain is in the Bow River Valley of Kananaskis County in the Canadian Rockies. This mountain stands high above the surrounding landscape at 2,394m (7,854ft) at its peak. Other giants of the Canadian Rockies often overlook Pigeon Mountain as a must-climb hike.
The mountain is visible when driving towards Canmore, Banff, and Lake Louise. The mountain slopes to the south and south-east are crumbly and steep. This gives the appearance of a challenging and difficult climb. Its northern and western faces are however more inviting for scramblers and hikers.
The mountain is off-limits from December 1st till May or June. This is due to the mountain sheep that breed in the area during this time. The area also takes a break from hikers and tourists during this time to reset the balance in nature and gives the wilderness and wildlife time to recover.
Pigeon Mountain hike is a pleasant one with stunning views throughout the trail. Eugene Bourgeau, a French-born botanist, named the mountain Pic de Pigeon in 1858. This was due to flocks of pigeons living near the mountain. It has since been proven that pigeons were not living in the area at the time. It is unclear what species of bird the botanist saw. The name of the mountain however stuck.
Pigeon Mountain is in a subarctic climate so weather can get extremely cold and very snowy. It is therefore important to pack appropriately for any hike up Pigeon Mountain. With so many hikes to choose from in the Canadian Rockies, Pigeon Mountain hike can often be forgotten.
Here is why Pigeon Mountain should make it to the top of your hiking wish list.
Where to Begin your Pigeon Mountain Hike
Begin your Pigeon Mountain hike is from Dead Man’s Flats. This is approximately a one hour drive from Calgary and is only 10 minutes from Canmore.
There is a car park available just past the Banff Gate Mountain resort, however if the car park is full it is possible to park on the road. This trailhead is also used by people wanting to hike West Wind Pass and up towards Centennial Ridge.
How long is the hike?
Depending on your hiking experience the Pigeon Mountain hike can take anywhere between five and seven hours to complete. Obviously this time completely depends on your fitness level how often you choose to stop and on those that you are travelling with.
The hike is approximately 15.5 kilometres (9.63 miles) on a round-trip. A long hike you will gain elevation of approximately 1000m (3,280ft).
Stages of a Pigeon Mountain Hike
Stage 1: From the Car Park
From the car park, head along the main trailhead for about 100m (328ft) until you reach an intersection signalled by a blue signpost. From here head left and begin hiking underneath the powerline. Continue your hike towards Skogen pass for approximately 4 kilometres (2.49 miles).
From here the trail continues to weave away from the power line and into the woods. This section of the hike is shown by a large pile of rocks. From the car park it can take some time to reach the actual beginning of the trail to the Pigeon Mountain path. A sign indicating respect towards wildlife in the area marks the beginning of the Pigeon Mountain hike. These signs aim to inform hikers about the wildlife in the area. The signs also include annual dates of park closure. The park is often closed from December to June to protect and conserve the wildlife that live within the mountain and its forests.
Stage 2: Skogan Pass Trail
When you reach the Skogan pass trail turn off towards the left. After this point you can expect a lot of steep climbing. There are however stunning views. This particular section of the hike covers approximately 2.8 kilometres (1.74 miles) and ascends 535m (1,722ft).
Stage 3: The Push to the Summit
The next section of Pigeon Mountain hike leads up steep banks through the trees for approximately 10 minutes before reaching an open area. This is a great place to catch your breath and taking your surroundings.
The hike from this point is completely out of the trees and instead there are lush wildflower meadows still at an incline. This section of the climb leading to the summit of Pigeon Mountain covers approximately 3 kilometres (1.86 miles). The terrain is significantly rockier in comparison to the woodland you have just hiked through. It is possible that clouds form around this point creating an unusual and pleasant experience for hikers to ascend through.
The summit of Pigeon Mountain hike is rocky and rugged. A cairn, a man-made pile of stones, marks the summit of Pigeon Mountain.
From the top of the mountain the views are breathtaking. Regardless of the weather, the surrounding peaks are dramatic and awe-inspiring. If hiking later in the season, expect the peaks surrounding you to be covered in powder white snow. In spring and summer the peaks will be bare, sharp, and jagged grey rocks.
To the southeast of the true summit of Pigeon Mountain is a weather station on top of a rocky peak. It is possible to reach the weather station along several easy to navigate trails.
Below the surrounding mountains are incredible views of Lac des Arcs, and the numerous woodlands at the bases of the surrounding range. It is also possible, having hiked a little beyond the summit of Pigeon Mountain to get stunning views over Canmore.
As the summit is open and barren expect higher winds than on your initial ascent.
Descending Pigeon Mountain
The descent back down Pigeon Mountain is much less strenuous and offers more opportunities to gaze at the spectacular natural landscape around you. Accomplished hikers can easily reach the merging trail of Skogan Pass in around an hour from the summit.
If your Pigeon Mountain hike is in late summer to early autumn, bright and colourful wildflowers cover the slopes. Make the most of the scenery and pause for a picnic, or simply to take in the views surrounded by natural beauty. The scenery leading to and from Pigeon Mountain mimics the Alpine climate of Europe. Much of the local wildlife can be seen in these wildflower meadows.
The descent back down Pigeon Mountain is still steep, and can therefore become dangerous very quickly, particularly with the rocky terrain before reaching the forest. Take your time descending the mountain and take plenty of rest breaks. There are an infinite number of new vistas to gaze out at, and flowers to stop and admire, so make the most of it.
FAQS About Hiking Pigeon Mountain
What should you pack for a Pigeon Mountain Hike?
As with any hike in the Canadian Rockies, bear spray is an essential item for your backpack. General hiking essentials such as extra food, water, and a first aid kit should also be part of your pack. The summit can, regardless of the time of year, be very windy and therefore colder than other points of your hike. It is advisable to pack an extra coat or additional layers, particularly if you plan on stopping at the summit for lunch.
As the hike is challenging and steep both in ascent and descent, hiking pokes can be useful to help summit the mountain.
Can I bring my dog along on the Pigeon Mountain Hike?
Dogs are welcome on the Pigeon Mountain hike trail, however they must be kept on a lead. This is to ensure that the wildlife that live on the mountain are not disturbed.
When is the best time to attempt Pigeon Mountain Hike?
As Pigeon Mountain hike is only open from June to December, the trail can get quite busy, particularly during summer vacation and weekends. It is best therefore to head up to the start of the trail early, aiming to reach the summit by mid to late morning. This will offer spectacular views as the clouds begin to lift over the valley, and you may just have the summit to yourself. Setting off later in the morning towards lunchtime will lead to a busier hike.
The Pigeon Mountain hike has it all. Challenging elements, swift elevations, and rewarding views from the summit. There are of course numerous hikes in the surrounding area, but Pigeon Mountain hike should certainly be on your list if exploring and hiking in the region.