Once you see the views from the top of Smutwood Peak, there’s no way you can pass up an opportunity to hike up. However, I was so enamored with the one view from the top that I didn’t realize how stunning the other 290 degrees was!
Overall, this is one of my favorite hikes I’ve ever done and one of the best hikes in Kananaskis Country. The company was fun, the views gorgeous, and the adrenaline rush of hiking down in the dark through grizzly country brought us all together.
What you need to know for summiting Smutwood Peak
Whether you’re going for photography, a good workout, or just want to take in incredible views, this Smutwood Peak hike is for you! You’ll also realize there aren’t many photos other than from the top.
We were moving so quickly that there wasn’t time to pull out my camera from my bag for most of the hike. Also, it was so cold that I didn’t want to stop moving.
Smutwood Peak Hike Details:
- Distance: 12 miles
- Elevation Gain: 3,100 feet
- Difficulty Level: Strenuous
- Beauty Level: Out of this world
- Estimated Time: 6 hours
- Trailhead Location
Places to stay before and after the hike
The two best places to stay when you’re summiting Smutwood Peak are Banff and Canmore. Banff gets all the fame, but Canmore is closer and is a really cute town.
Just down the road from the Smutwood Peak trailhead, Canmore is a great little mountain town, as you’ll see when you drive through. I think Canmore is more simple than Banff, and will only have budget and mid-level stays.
About as famous of a town as it gets in Canada, Banff is wonderful and has all the amenities you will ever want. Plus, if you’re looking for luxury stays, it has you covered. While it’s a further drive, you are in the middle of Kananaskis Country and Lake Louise/Icefield Parkway.
What to Expect Going up the Smutwood Peak Hike
Hiking Break down
The hike is broken up into two parts. The first part is a pleasant three-mile stroll through trees and a meadow. Then, a brutal ~3,000-foot, three-mile ascent to the top of the peak. The latter was difficult as temperatures dropped and the sun went behind the surrounding mountains.
Plus, we were hiking up in a combination of snow, ice, and loose rocks. Not a great combination. After the first ascent into the bowl, you’ll traverse the side of the mountain on your left and begin to see Smutwood Peak.
I can only speak to hiking it in the snow, but it wasn’t bad at all with microspikes. I remember one narrow stretch with a slightly worse-than-gentle slope going into the lake a few hundred feet below. Besides that, once you get past that traverse, you head up and then around a false peak.
You’ll now have .75 of a mile left, which includes wrapping around and then up the spine to the top. But, again, I found it to be pretty good conditions with the chance of loose rocks.
The ridgeline up to Mount Smutwood is where the views turn to 10/10, and you’ll realize this is one of the best hikes in Kananaskis.
Be Bear Aware
You’re hiking in an active bear area that does see the hike closed due to bear activity. When you attempt the Smutwood Peak hike, make sure to carry bear spray and hike with others to ensure you don’t encounter a bear 1:1.
Taking the smallest of steps to be bear safe will ensure you not only feel more comfortable as you hike Smutwood Peak, but you mak it out alive.
Photos from our Smutwood Peak Hike
What Gear to Bring for hiking Smutwood Peak
- Sturdy hiking boots
- Hiking Poles
- Bear Spray
- At least a group of three people
- Medium-sized backpack
- 2L of water and a filter
- Change of clothes at the top (depending on the season)
- Light jacket/Heavy jacket (Depending on season)
- Microspikes (depending on the season)
- Gloves and Beanie
Best time to hike Smutwood Peak
Again, I only did the Smutwood Peak hike in early October after a snowfall. But obviously, summer is the best, and then fall, followed by spring and winter. I read that winter isn’t great due to avalanche issues.
It’s also going to be extremely cold, which isn’t ideal. Also, while it’s a nicely groomed dirt road, remember it’s probably not taken care of well during the snowy months.
Final thoughts for Smutwood Peak
The Smutwood Peak hike should only be attempted if you are in decent to excellent shape. While the first bit was easy, the final ascent kicked my butt. (I do think I was having some weird altitude issues.) There are plenty of water sources on the way up, but once you begin the traverse perpendicular to the upper lake, you won’t have water until the descent.
Keep in mind you’re in grizzly bear territory. Be loud, have your bear spray out, and stay together in a group. If you stay aware and alert, you will also consider this as one of the best hikes in Kananaskis Country.
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
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