Mount Assiniboine, on the eastern edge of British Columbia, is one of the most incredible places that you could ever lay your eyes on. Nestled deep in the backcountry, hiking Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park (also referred to as Mt Assiniboine) is an epic challenge for any adventurer, but the rewards at the end are so sweet. Jagged mountain peaks, colourful lakes, wildlife, and the sheer remoteness of this place make it one of the absolute best places to visit in Canada. You’ll be blown away by the Mount Assiniboine hike!
This mountain is known locally as the Matterhorn of the Rockies and it’s easy to see why. The dramatic peak narrows to a fine point at the top and bears an uncanny resemblance to the Matterhorn that divides Switzerland and Italy. While seeing this peak is the main goal for most visitors here, there are so many other amazing viewpoints and hikes in Mount Assiniboine Park for you to enjoy once you arrive.
This guide is designed to tell you everything you need to know about this incredible place. Find out where it is, how to get here, where to stay and all of the best places to see once you make it into the park. British Columbia is home to endless epic mountain scenery but we think this one stands out as the absolute best.
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Essentials You Need to Pack
As you start to plan your trip you will need to consider the hiking and camping gear you will need for your upcoming adventure. In particular, if you are backcountry camping rather than staying in Assiniboine Lodge, then you will need to think more carefully about everything you need to pack. Below are some items that were essential for our trip.
- Warm and waterproof clothing
- More than enough food for your whole trip
- A camp stove, gas and camp cookware
- Insulated Sleeping Pad – check out the Therm-a-Rest ProLite Apex Sleeping Pad at REI or at MEC
- Sleeping bag rated for well below freezing – check out the Hyke & Byke sleeping bag
- Sleeping bag fleece liner – check out the Litume Fleece Liner
- Water filter – the Sawyer Mini Water Filter is the absolute best choice
- Lightweight tent – the MSR Elixir 2 is our favourite
- Packable day pack for day trips – check out the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack
- Bear Spray
- Paper map in case your phone dies
How to Get to Mount Assiniboine?
The park is situated on the eastern edge of British Columbia, right on the border with Alberta and just south of Banff National Park. See the Mt Assiniboine map above to see exactly where it is. There are no roads into the park as it is truly situated in the backcountry and can only be accessed via three hiking trails or you can take a helicopter flight in. All these options are discussed in more detail below but here is a quick look at the options:
- Hike from Mount Shark via Assiniboine Pass – 27.5 km
- Hike from Mount Shark via Wonder Pass – 26 km
- Hike from Sunshine Village – 30 km
- Helicopter flight from Mount Shark Helipad – 8 minute flight
Mount Assiniboine Hike
There are three different trails you can take if you want to take on the challenge of hiking into the provincial park. Two of these trails both start from the Mount Shark trailhead which is around a 1 hour 10-minute drive from Canmore and is approximately a 26 kilometre hike. The third option is to leave from Sunshine Village which is a 20-minute drive from Banff and is a 30 kilometre hike.
All of these trails are fantastic options as you’ll get amazing views and there’s something special about hiking in the remote wilderness of BC.
*If you are hiking or flying from Mount Shark and you want to leave your car at the trailhead parking lot or heliport parking lot you need to purchase a Kananaskis Conservation Pass.
Hike from Mount Shark Trailhead
The Mount Shark trailhead is found just over an hour’s drive south from Canmore. You will drive along the gravel roads of the Smith Dorrien Trail into Spray Valley Provincial Park. The gravel roads are well maintained and you can drive any car along these roads in the summer months. The drive itself is quite pretty as you drive along Spray Lakes Reservoir with mountains surrounding you on all sides.
There are two parking lots that you can park in. The main parking lot is right at the Mount Shark trailhead, or alternatively, if you are flying in one way and hiking back out again, you can park at the Mount Shark helipad.
There are two different routes that you can take when leaving from the Mount Shark trailhead. While the first half of the trail is the same, you can then choose to go either via Wonder Creek or Assiniboine Pass. The trail splits at Bryant Creek, which is 13km in, and you can make your decision on which way to go from here.
The first 13 kilometres of the route from Mount Shark to Assiniboine are quite easy-going along wide and well-maintained gravel tracks. There are some moderate changes in elevation but for the most part, it is quite easy. The climbing really only begins when you take either Wonder Pass or Assiniboine Pass.
Hike via Assiniboine Pass Trail
- Length: 27.5 km
- Elevation Gain: 450 metres
- Time Needed: 8 hours
This Mt Assiniboine hike is slightly easier of the two routes that depart from Mount Shark, but is the less scenic of the two. While it is possible to tackle this route all in one day, we would recommend splitting this into two days and staying overnight in one of the campsites along the way. You can find campsites at:
- Big Springs (BR9) – 9.6km
- Marvel Lake Campground (BR13) – 13km
- McBrides Camp (BR14) – 13.3km
- Allenby Junction Campground (BR17) – 16.4km
- O’Brien Group Campground – 21.6km
A backcountry permit is mandatory for anyone camping in Banff National Park and must be secured prior to your trip. For reservations please visit here.
While the overall elevation gain isn’t huge, about 450 metres, the sheer length of the hike with several days worth of gear on your back makes it very tough. To take this route you will continue straight at Bryant Creek, instead of turning left to take the Wonder Pass trail.
At 17.8km you will reach a junction with the hiker’s high trail on the right and the horse path on the left. It is usually recommended to take the hiker’s high pass on the right but it is closed from August 1st – September 30th in an effort to reduce contact between humans and grizzly bears as they are very active in this area during these months.
The climb up Assiniboine Pass is the hardest part of the trail but once you have made it to the top, it is a beautiful 3km hike down towards Mount Assiniboine.
Hike Via Wonder Pass Assiniboine
- Length: 26 km
- Elevation Gain: 580 metres
- Time Needed: 9 hours
The second Mount Assiniboine trail you can take from Mount Shark is via Wonder Pass. To take the Wonder Pass route you turn left at Bryant Creek and you will follow a spectacular trail, cut into the side of the mountain below Wonder Peak. As you walk along this trail you will get incredible views down to Marvel Lake. Much of this trail above Marvel Lake has been cleared by avalanches so you get unobstructed views.
Similarly to the Assiniboine Pass, we recommend splitting this trail into two days as there is a brutal set of switchbacks at the far end of Marvel Lake that you have to climb. You can find campsites at:
- Big Springs (BR19) – 9.6km
- Marvel Lake Campground (BR13) – 13km
*Please remember a backcountry permit is mandatory for anyone camping in Banff National Park and must be secured prior to your trip.
While walking above Marvel Lake is the highlight of this hike, the meadows at the top of the switchbacks are a close second. With most of the elevation gain done by this point you can enjoy walking through the valley with nothing but mountain scenery as far as the eye can see. There is even a waterfall and some smaller lakes towards the end of this route as you pass through some more forests.
The last few kilometres of this route are also downhill towards Assiniboine Lodge and you’ll get incredible views as Magog Lake and the distinctive peak of Mount Assiniboine come into view.
Hike from Sunshine Village to Mount Assiniboine
- Length: 30 km
- Elevation Gain: 400 metres
- Time Needed: 10 hours
The trail from Sunshine to Assiniboine is the longest of the 3 routes but is slightly easier. It is only a 20-minute drive from Banff to reach the base of the ski resort and there is a shuttle bus you can take. You can get a bit of a head start on this hike by taking the gondola up to Sunshine Village. This will save you a very dull walk along forest roads. You can check the gondola times here.
A short climb will take you up to Citadel Pass before you descend steeply back down into the valley. Then it is a gentle uphill hike all the way to Magog Lake. If you want to split this Mount Assiniboine hiking trail up into two days you can stay at either:
- Porcupine Campground – 12.5km
- Og Lake Campground – 22.2km
All of these Mount Assiniboine backpacking routes are a challenge but we highly recommend hiking at least one way as the experience walking through the beautiful backcountry is special. Follow our recommendation below to get what we consider to be the best of both worlds.
Helicopter to Assiniboine
If hiking for 30 kilometres with several days’ worth of gear on your back doesn’t sound like much fun then you can take an 8 minute Mount Assiniboine helicopter flight that will drop you off right next to Assiniboine Lodge. There are two Mt Assiniboine helicopter routes to choose from:
- Mount Shark to Assiniboine Lodge – $195 per person, per one way flight + 5% tax
- Canmore to Assiniboine Lodge – $225 per person, per one way flight + 5% tax
The helipad in Canmore is much easier to access but if you fly from Mount Shark you do have the option to hike one way and fly the other. There is more information on this in our suggested route below.
The other option you have, if you are determined to hike but don’t want to carry the weight is to pay for only your luggage to go on the flight and you can take a day bag and hike through in one day.
All helicopter flights in and out of Mount Assiniboine must be booked directly through the lodge. If you are not staying at the lodge you will be asked for your camping reservation number before being allowed to book a flight. Helicopter flights only leave on Fridays, Sundays and Wednesdays, and on long weekends flights operate on Mondays instead of Sundays. You can find more details on flight times and book your flights here.
Our Suggested Route
While we are avid hikers, and we suggest hiking at least one way, we actually don’t suggest hiking in both ways as it is quite a brutal hike. The best option is to drive to Mount Shark helipad, fly into Assiniboine and then hike out via Wonder Pass.
Flying in means you will arrive in the park with fresh legs so you can go and explore as much as possible during your time here. During our time here we still hiked over 15km each day and it was nice to be able to not feel exhausted upon arrival as we flew in. Hiking out via Wonder Pass is also much easier as most of the route is downhill and you’ll get incredible views over Marvel Lake without having to hike up the steep switchbacks.
We think it’s absolutely worth the money to take the flight and the views you get on the way in really are sensational.
Where to Stay in Mount Assiniboine
Lake Magog Campground
This is by far the most popular accommodation option here as it is the cheapest and gives you the most authentic backcountry experience. It costs $10 per person, per night, and during the peak season, June 26 – September 30, you are required to have a reservation. There are around 40 tent pads at Lake Magog campground.
At the campground, you will find a large sheltered area with picnic tables, taps with greywater and several outhouses. As this is a true backcountry site you will need to pack out everything that you pack in and all water should be treated before you drink it (bring a sawyer mini water filter).
If you choose the right spot, the views from the campground are ridiculous. There are plenty of sites that have a clear view up to the rocky, pyramid-style peak of Mt Assiniboine. We stayed in tent pad #38 but #28 and #29 were also amazing. The campground is located 2km from the lodge. You can see a map of the campground here.
Mt Assiniboine camping reservations can be made through the backcountry section of the Discover Camping website which you can find here. The campground tends to book up minutes after the reservation system opens, which is usually several months before the June to September reservable season comes into effect.
Mount Assiniboine camping is an epic experience but it is one you have to be well prepared for. Even in the middle of the summer it is common for the temperatures to be a few degrees below freezing as the Lake Magog elevation is around 2180 metres. Check out our favourite backpacking tents and make sure you have the right gear when you visit.
You will need an insulated sleeping pad, a sleeping bag rated for well below minus temperatures and our favourite trick to stay warm is to boil water and pour it into your reusable Nalgene water bottle. Put this at the bottom of your sleeping bag and you’ll stay warm all night.
The Naiset Huts at Mt Assiniboine are a great option for those who may not want to camp but still want something affordable. You can reserve single beds in these communal 5,6 or 8 person huts, or you can rent the entire hut. Prices per person, per night are usually around $25 or you can rent the entire hut for $125, $150 or $200 depending on which size hut you choose.
The Naiset Huts are still quite basic and you are required to bring your own sleeping bags, although each hut does have a fire to help you stay warm through the cold nights. Firewood is available from the Assiniboine Lodge. The Wonder Lodge Cooking Shelter is also a communal area where guests can cook as you are not allowed to cook inside the huts.
All Naiset Hut reservations must be made directly through Assiniboine Lodge, BC. You can find more information on the huts here but all reservations have to be made over the phone.
Mount Assiniboine Lodge
If you are looking for something a little more luxurious than camping or a shared Naiset Hut, then a stay at Mt Assiniboine Lodge is a perfect choice. The beautiful rustic lodge was built in 1928 and was the first backcountry ski lodge in North America. You can choose to stay in one of the lodge rooms or in one of the lodge’s cabins.
If you stay at the lodge all of your meals are included. In the summer you will get guided hiking tours and in the winter guided ski touring is included, plus the lodge will provide all of the necessary safety gear for your winter adventure.
The lodge sits at the opposite end of the lake to Mount Assiniboine and you can enjoy sensational views from right out in front of the lodge across the water and up to the unique mountain peak. All of this remote luxury does come at a price 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 done directly through Assiniboine Lodge and you can find more information on the lodge here.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Mt Assiniboine is during the summer months, between June and September. As it is at such a high elevation, the nights often dip below freezing, even in the middle of the summer. While the days may be sunny and warm, the temperatures drop quickly overnight which can make for a long night if you are camping.
Winter touring is popular here as well but you will want to stay in the lodge during the winter months. Even in the summer, Mount Assiniboine weather can be unpredictable so it is good to be prepared for all scenarios and a wide range of temperatures.
The end of September is another popular time to visit as it is larch season, which means many of the trees turn vibrant shades of yellow and orange in the space of a few weeks. You’ll get some incredible colours if you visit at this time of year although temperatures will already be dropping.
Hiking Mount Assiniboine
When you arrive and see the peak of Assiniboine mountain from the edge of Lake Magog you may think this is the highlight of your time here. While this is one amazing view there are so many other areas to explore and the good news is there is an even better viewpoint in the park.
Niblet Hike / Nublet Hike/ Nub Peak Hike
If you have done even a little bit of research or looked through some photos of the park you will most likely have seen some epic Assiniboine pictures taken from one of these viewpoints. The view from these viewpoints is probably the best view in the whole of British Columbia and one of the best views we have ever seen. This may sound like a slight exaggeration but we feel like the photos speak for themselves and when you experience it with your own eyes, you’ll see exactly what we’re talking about.
Nub Peak is the highest point you can reach to get this view and it is an elevation gain of around 600 metres from Lake Magog to the peak. Alternatively, you can stop at the two lower viewpoints which offer views that are extremely similar and require less effort. The Niblet is the first plateau you reach and the middle peak is the Nublet.
The trail to reach these viewpoints is beautiful. You walk through the forest from Lake Magog before passing right along the shores of Sunburst Lake and Cerulean Lake (more on these below), before you start to climb a series of switchbacks up to the viewpoints. As you climb you will start to get glimpses of the incredible view along the trail but the full picture doesn’t reveal itself until you reach the Niblet.
At the Niblet you’ll get jaw-dropping views over Sunburst and Cerulean Lakes, Sunburst Peak, and of course, Mount Assiniboine. It is like nothing we have ever seen before and I think this spot, where you see nothing but endless mountains around you, lets you truly appreciate that you are deep in the backcountry.
If you want to climb even higher and see all of this from a slightly different vantage point then you can continue up to the Nublet and then to Nub Peak. The climb isn’t too difficult but if you hiked in, it may seem like a lot to go all the way to the peak.
We think the best views are from the Niblet so as long as you make it that far you’ll be ok. If you do climb up to the Nublet and Nub Peak you will get better views of Elizabeth Lake and Wedgewood Lake in the distance.
While the views here are amazing, you are standing on a totally exposed ridgeline. We stayed for sunset on our first night and on a windy evening, we were absolutely freezing by the time we left. Make sure you bring an insulated down jacket (our favourite is the Patagonia Down Sweater. You can read our full review here) even if it is warm and sunny when you head out.
Lake Magog Hike
The walk along the shores of Lake Magog is one that you will probably end up doing multiple times, especially if you are staying in the campground. There are trails that run parallel to the lake or you can go right down to the lake and walk along the edge of the water. The lake is full of crystal clear glacial water and stretches all the way to the base of Mount Assiniboine.
The 2km trail from the lodge to the campground is epic and we think the best views are from right out front of Assiniboine Lodge. From here you get an uninterrupted look right down the length of the lake to the peak. If you are lucky enough to be staying in the lodge then you’ll see an awful lot of this view, but if you are camping it is worth taking a walk to this end of the lake.
Sunburst Lake is only a 15-minute walk from the campground and around 35 minutes from the Lodge. The lake sits right at the base of Sunburst Peak and you’ll see the peak of Mount Assiniboine towering in the background.
The walk along the edge of the lake is very pleasant and you will come across Sunburst Cabin, where Lizzie Rummel lived for many years. There is a plaque by the cabin which gives a brief overview of Lizzie Rummel, one of the early pioneers of this park.
A short walk past Sunburst Lake will take you to the larger and more impressively coloured Cerulean Lake. The green waters change from bright green to deep greens as the water gets deeper. At the junction for Nub Peak there is a wooden bench which is a cool place to stop and enjoy the scenery. This is one of the best views of Sunburst Peak, which towers over the lake and obstructs Assiniboine peak completely.
Another emerald green lake you can discover here is Elizabeth Lake which sits at the base of Nub Peak. As you climb up the Niblet you will reach a junction at the halfway point. Continue straight along this junction for around 10 minutes and you will descend down to Elizabeth Lake. We found ourselves relaxing in the sun here for a couple of hours each day as it was so peaceful.
A few people even swam in this lake when we were here although it must have been freezing as there was still snow around the edge of the lake in August. While this isn’t the most spectacular area in the provincial park we really loved it here. If you are feeling really brave there is also a ridiculously steep trail directly up to Nub Peak although it looks very sketchy.
If you are looking for a slightly longer hike but without much elevation gain, then you can head to Og Lake which is on the route from Sunshine Village to Mt Assiniboine. From Magog Lake, this is just over 14 kilometres return. There is a campground at Og Lake and the distant views back to Assiniboine peak are fantastic on a clear day.
While we recommend hiking out via Wonder Pass you can also hike to Wonder Pass as a day hike. The trail wanders through meadows and forests and you’ll pass by some more lakes and waterfalls on this trail. You can choose to go as far along this trail as you want during a day hike, but if you can make it to the viewpoint above Marvel Lake you’ll get stunning aerial views down to the blue waters below.
Things to Consider for Your Trip
Mount Assiniboine Weather
The weather here is unpredictable and even in the summer months there can be freezing temperatures and snow. Come prepared with lots of warm clothes and layers as even on the best days the nights will still be cold. If you are camping make sure you have an insulated sleeping pad and a sleeping bag rated for well below freezing. Use your reusable water bottle as a makeshift hot water bottle to keep warm at night.
Mount Assiniboine Camping & Reservations
Reservations are required during the peak season which runs from the end of June until the end of September. Lake Magog campground will be sold out for the entire summer a couple of minutes after the booking system opens. You will need to plan months in advance and know exactly when the reservations for the summer are open.
If you are camping, you also need to be aware it is a backcountry campground with very few amenities. You will need to bring all of your own gear, including a stove, cookware, meals, a water filter etc. and you need to pack out everything that you pack in with you. There are no garbages available.
You also need to ensure you bring enough food with you for your entire trip
Flying one or both ways is an awesome way to complete this trip but the flights only leave on Fridays, Sundays and Wednesdays and on long weekends flights operate on Mondays instead of Sundays. You can find more information on helicopter flights and schedules here.
Be Bear Aware
There are LOTS of bears in the provincial park and there is a very good chance you will see a bear, especially if you are hiking in or out of the park. Some trails are closed at certain points of the year due to heightened bear activity. Make sure you are bear aware and that you are always carrying bear spray in a pocket that is easily accessible.
We guarantee that hiking Mount Assiniboine will absolutely knock your socks off. This is one of the most stunning places to visit in the world and because of its remote location you won’t have to deal with huge crowds, in fact, you’ll even get some of these places all to yourself.
A Mount Assiniboine hike is an experience that any hiker and backcountry explorer will enjoy and you’ll fall in love with this breathtaking part of the world as soon as you arrive. Have you got any more questions about Mount Assiniboine? Please feel free to ask us in the comments.
Planning a trip near Mount Assiniboine? Check out some of our other guides for the area: