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Mt Assiniboine Provincial Park Hiking Guide

Mt Assiniboine Provincial Park Hiking Guide

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British Columbia is full of beautiful places – I’m forever adding to my list of places to visit! One such place is Mt Assiniboine which I was able to visit in the summer of 2021.

I’m pleased to say that it lived up to the hype. It truly is a beautiful area and hiking Mt Assiniboine Provincial Park was a summer highlight (if I do my best to forget about the mosquitoes and heat!).

If you’re looking at Mt Assiniboine reservations, then make sure to read this Mount Assiniboine hiking guide to learn everything you need to know!

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The trail between the Niblet and the Nub

About Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park & Where is Mt Assiniboine

Mt Assiniboine is situated in eastern British Columbia, pretty close to the Alberta/BC border. While it’s close to the border with Alberta, It’s a hike-in or fly-in hike as there are no roads up to the park.

Often referred to as the Matterhorn of the Rockies, Assiniboine mountain, and the surrounding peaks and lakes will blow you away. It really is as good as it looks! There’s a reason it’s part of the Rocky Mountains UNESCO World Heritage Site!

The wildlife, lakes, forests, and mountains make the Mt Assiniboine hike one to add to your BC bucket list for sure.

Mt Assiniboine itself sits at 3,600 m high and towers over Magog Lake. It’s the snowier one in the many photos you’ve seen from the Nib/Nub hikes!

You can view a map of Assiniboine park here. This does not include the Mt Shark or Sunshine Village areas from where you’ll start the Mt Assiniboine trail.

When is the best time to visit Mt Assiniboine?

The best time to visit Mt Assiniboine is during the summer, between June and September. 

Even in the summer, it’s not uncommon for nights to dip below freezing due to the elevation. Make sure you pack some warm layers even if the weather looks good ahead of your trip.

As we learned, it’s not always the case that it gets cold. We hike in Assiniboine Park for Canada day weekend in July, temperatures were above 30°C, and at no point did it feel cold. (Don’t count on this though – it’s pretty unusual!) There’s not much shade at the campground so the peak hours of the day were spent in our tents trying to avoid too much direct sun.

Also, make sure to pack plenty of bug spray and coils as they were relentless!

How long should you spend at Mt Assiniboine?

We did 3 nights in the area; 1 night camping part way up the trail, 2 nights at Magog Lake, and then flying out the following morning.

I’d say this is a minimum as it allows for you to hike in, explore the area around Magog Lake and some of the other Mount Assiniboine hike, and relax a little too!

If you plan on doing lots of additional hikes once you’re up there, or want to hike in and out then you should add some additional days.

Mt Assiniboine Weather

The weather at Mt Assiniboine is super variable. Some years the snow sticks around into July and starts end of August, some years it’s cold and last year it was above 30°C. Be prepared for all eventualities and check the trail reports and Mount Assiniboine Lodge/Mt Assiniboine webcam to get an idea of what to expect in terms of snow.

How to get to Mt Assiniboine trailhead?

Getting to the Mount Assiniboine trail head takes a while. The remote location of Mt Assiniboine is what keeps it so special, but it’s not really possible to do a Mount Assiniboine day hike (and enjoy it thoroughly!). Depending on which route you’re taking to get to Mt Assiniboine, the trailhead varies. We drove in and out from the Mt Shark trailhead.

In normal years you can also take the gondola from Banff Sunshine Village which would be your trailhead. Or, you can fly in/out by helicopter from Canmore!

Mount Shark Trailhead

We stayed in Canmore for a few days before our hike and then headed out early in the morning to do the first portion of the hike to Lake Magog.

The road from Canmore is a gravel road that’s in pretty good condition but an AWD/4×4 vehicle would be better suited for this 40 km gravel drive. Having said that, Elvis the van managed it, just at a much slower pace than many of the trucks whizzing past!

The drive takes you through Spray Lakes Provincial Park and there are many great hiking, camping, and paddleboarding/kayaking opportunities along this road if you wish to extend your trip. You can reserve these campgrounds on the Alberta camping reservation site for backcountry camping in Alberta.

There are two Mt Shark parking lots, one for the Mount Shark helipad and the other for hikers. If you’re hiking in one way and flying out one way as we did, then it’s up to you to decide at which point you’d rather do the 2 km. I’d recommend starting with it as you’ll likely be tired and not feel like it after several days of backpacking! Luckily though, the 2 km is pretty flat and easy going.

Kananaskis Conservation Pass

If you’re parking at the Mt Shark trailhead you must purchase a Kananaskis Conservation Pass. This is similar to the National Park Pass for Banff/Jasper. You can purchase these online here.

Sunshine Village Trailhead

The Sunshine Village trailhead is much easier to get to than Mt Shark and can save you some hiking too. You can take a shuttle to the gondola from Banff, or drive yourselves. If you’re able to take the gondola you can save yourself a few km of hiking. Just double-check the gondola is running as it hasn’t been for the past couple of summers.

Helicopter to Mt Assiniboine

Alternatively, you can get the helicopter to Mt Assiniboine. Most people fly in from the Mt Shark trailhead (details above) but some fly in from Canmore.

We flew out from Mt Assiniboine to Mt Shark and I’d highly recommend flying one way if you can. The views are stunning and it’s awesome to get a different perspective of what you’ve hiked or are about to hike!

For 2022 Mt Assiniboine helicopter prices are:

  • From Mt Shark 1 way: $195+ pp
  • From Canmore 1 way: $225+

Flights must be booked through the Assiniboine Lodge and proof of your camping reservation is required. BC Parks camping reservations for Mount Assiniboine are booked here.

Helicopter flights only leave on Fridays, Sundays and Wednesdays, and on long weekends flights operate on Mondays instead of Sundays. Bear that in mind if you’re planning to take a helicopter – you’ll need to make sure your camping reservations match up!

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Views from the helicopter on the way out

Hiking Mount Assiniboine

If you’ve decided to hike into Mt Assiniboine or out (or both ways!), there are a few different routes you can take. We hiked to Mt Assiniboine from Mt Shark via Wonder Pass. Alternatively, you can go from Mt Shark via Assiniboine Pass, or from Sunshine Village via Og Lake.

Some people hiking both ways decide to start at one end and finish at the other meaning you’ll get to tick off most of the main trails in the park – an epic hike!

Below you’ll find information on all three main hiking trails to Mt Assiniboine.

Hiking to Mt Assiniboine via Wonder Pass

This is the route we took, choosing to hike in and then fly out. That way we felt like we’d earned the treat of a helicopter, plus it was cool to see all the routes we’d hiked a few days before!

Day 1: Mt Shark – Br 14 Camp

Starting from Mt Shark, the first 14km are relatively flat and shaded. We were glad it was shaded since our trip to Mt Assiniboine coincided with BC’s first major heatwave (36-40°C!).

We’d initially planned to do the 30 km hike from Mt Shark to Mt Assiniboine in one day but given the heat, we broke it up over two and camped at McBride’s Camp (Br 14) (reserved through Park’s Canada – Banff National Park).

There aren’t many views on the first 14 km from Mt Shark to Marvel Lake. The grizzly bear warning sign kept us on our toes and making some noise as we hiked on, and the stream near camp offered a refreshing dip.

Day 2: Br 14 Camp – Magog Lake

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marvel lake mt assiniboine park

Day 2 was a much bigger day and we met up with our friends who we’d hiked to Berg Lake with the year before and mentally prepared for the climb.

Assiniboine Pass is supposedly slightly easier than Wonder Pass, but Wonder Pass is arguably even prettier. Whichever you choose I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

The hike to Wonder Pass begins with a flat walk through some stunning meadows surrounded by mountains. You’ll then begin to gain elevation slowly, crossing a few streams and you walk above Marvel Lake.

As you reach the end of Marvel Lake there are the notorious switchbacks!

These switchbacks are steep and hard going especially with a big backpack and 30°C heat! Just take it slow, have some breaks and you’ll get there.

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At the top of Wonder Pass Assiniboine
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After the switchbacks, the views get seriously impressive. The elevation is pretty much done by this point and you’ll slowly make your way downhill towards Mt Assiniboine, Mt Assiniboine Lodge, and Magog Lake.

On the way down you’ll pass by a waterfall, some more streams, and then the cute Naiset Huts that mark the start of the lodge area. From here it’s just 2 km with views of Mt Assiniboine until you get to Magog Lake campsite!

Total Length: 26 km

Split the route by camping at:

  • Marvel Lake
  • Br 14
  • Br 9
  • Br 17

*Number denotes km from Mt Shark trailhead

All the above campsites are in Banff National Park. For Banff camping reservations you must book via Parks Canada and are located in Banff National Park. As with most backcountry camping in Banff, the facilities include a cooking shelter, bear bins, and pit toilets.

Hiking to Mt Assiniboine via Assiniboine Pass

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Mount Assiniboine, Canada

If you’re hiking via Assiniboine Pass you’ll go from Mt Shark and follow the same 14 km to Br 14 camp. At this point, instead of turning left and heading alongside Marvel Lake, you’ll continue straight and walk through the valley for another 5.5 km before turning left.

Take the hiker’s high trail on the right apart from August 1st – September 30th when this route is normally closed in an effort to reduce contact between humans and grizzly bears.

Total Length: 27.5 km

Split the route by camping at:

  • Marvel Lake Campground (13 km)
  • Br 14
  • Br 9
  • Br 17

*Number denotes km from Mt Shark trailhead

All the above campsites are booked via Parks Canada and are located in Banff National Park.

Hiking from Sunshine to Assiniboine

The Sunshine Village to Mt Assiniboine hike is the longest of the routes but is said to be slightly easier.

If you take the gondola up, it’s just a short climb to Citadel Pass then a steep descent back into the valley. Then it’s uphill for the remainder of the hike to Magog Lake.

You can split the route up by camping at:

  • Porcupine Campground, 12.5km
  • Og Lake Campground, 22.2km

Booked via DiscoverCamping.ca

Where to stay at Mt Assiniboine

hiking mt assiniboine

There are a few different accommodation options for Mt Assiniboine which is unusual for such a remote location. Unfortunately, none of them are particularly easy to book with reservations getting snapped up quickly whichever option you choose!

Mount Assiniboine Camping Reservations

The closest campsite to Mt Assiniboine is the Magog Lake campsite. While this campground isn’t right on the lake, it is just a short walk down to the lake and puts you in a great location for nearby hikes such as The Nib/Nub viewpoint.

You must reserve in peak season (June 26 – September 30) to camp at Mt Assiniboine and reservations are done through DiscoverCamping.ca. Reservations usually go in seconds, so you’ll need to book as soon as they go live. If you don’t manage to get them then keep an eye out on the website for cancellations.

The campground has a large sheltered area with picnic tables, taps for washing, and several outhouses. You must pack out everything that you pack in and all water should be treated before you drink it.

See my Berg Lake packing list for an idea of what to pack for this type of trip!

You can still get a taste of the lodge life if you’re a camper! The lodge opens to campers for an hour on select days where you’re invited to enjoy beer, wine, and cake. After hiking in a heatwave and battling mosquitoes, the chance to enjoy an ice-cold beer and some cake was much enjoyed!

There’ll usually be a sign on the notice board as you come into Magog Camp to let you know the times/days this is being offered.

Naiset Huts

The Naiset Huts are a slight step up from camping while still being affordable.

You can reserve single beds in these dorm-style huts, or rent the entire hut. Per person, per night it’s around $25, with the entire hut costing $125-$200 depending on the size you go for.

These huts are still basic accommodation. You’ll need to bring your own sleeping bag but there is a fire if it’s cold. Firewood must be bought from the Lodge and there’s a cooking shelter nearby which you must use.

Naiset Hut bookings must be made through Assiniboine Lodge over the phone.

Assiniboine Lodge

If you’re looking to treat yourself or aren’t a fan of camping, then the Assiniboine Lodge is for you!

This lodge was built in 1928 and was the first backcountry ski lodge in North America. You can stay in either a lodge room or one of the cabins. All meals are included and you can enjoy the amazing views in front of the lodge.

The lodge is definitely an expensive option with rooms starting at $380 per person, per night. There is a 2-night minimum stay and your stay must match up with the helicopter flights, even if you are hiking in and out.

All lodge bookings are direct through Assiniboine Lodge.

Mt Assiniboine Hikes

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Arriving at Magog Lake is impressive, but the best views involve a little bit more effort! Here are some of the additional hikes you can do around the area.

The Niblet/Nublet/Nub Trail

This is the trail you’ll want to take to get that view of Mt Assiniboine and the lakes.

Nub Peak is the highest point with an elevation gain of around 600 m from Lake Magog to the peak. You can also stop at either the niblet or the Nublet both of which have equally amazing views with a little less effort.

The trail to this viewpoint takes you back towards the Lodge from the campground and then throw the forests, past the shores of Sunburst and Cerulean Laes, and then uphill via some switchbacks to the Niblet.

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Wonder Pass

If you didn’t hike in via Wonder Pass and don’t plan to hike out that way I’d highly recommend doing this as a day hike. The views from the top of the pass are beautiful and well worth the effort!

Lake Magog

Lake Magog is just downhill from the campground, there’s a small path alongside a stream that you can follow to get down there. It’s a beautiful lake right in front of Mt Assiniboine. If you want to walk around here you can walk along the right-hand side as you approach it towards the foot of the mountain for even better views.

Sunburst Lake

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Sunburst Lake is one of the more well-known lakes in Mount Assiniboine Park. It’s only around 15 minutes from the campground and well worth visiting.

Cerulean Lake

The other lake you’ve seen in the Assiniboine photo is Cerulean Lake. It’s a short, relatively flat 30 minute walk from Magog campground and it’s beautiful with Sunburst peak in the background. Since it was so hot when we visited, we couldn’t resist a dip!

Elizabeth Lake

cerulean lake mt assiniboine

A little bit further than the above two lakes is Elizabeth Lake. It’s well signposted and you’ll head downhill towards the lake that sits below the Nub. This one wasn’t the best for swimming (too many bugs) but it was a nice walk and worth doing if you’ve got a day to chill in the park.

What to pack for Mt Assiniboine hike

Check out my Berg Lake packing list which is what I referred to when packing for this multi-day hike in Mt Assiniboine Park. Make sure to take both your bear spray and mosquito repellent for your Mount Assiniboine backpacking trip, as well as the usual items you’d take while camping.