Mount Tyrwhitt is the perfect Canadian Rockies scramble for a shorter day in the mountains and is complete with a stunning golden larch approach in the fall, a short scree slog (because would it really be the Rockies without one?), a natural arch formation, some hands-on scrambling and spectacular summit views.
Trail Name: Mount Tyrwhitt
Trailhead: Highwood Pass Day Use Area. To reach the parking lot, take the Highway 40 exit off the Trans Canada Highway, 45 km east of Canmore. Follow the highway for approximately 105 km through Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and past Kananaskis Lakes to Highwood Pass (which is the highest paved road in Canada).
Trail type: Out-and-back
Distance: 9.5 km (6 miles), 650 m (2,132 feet) of elevation gain
Duration: 5-6 hours
Directions: Follow the Highwood Meadows trail for a short distance before branching off on a narrower trail through mature trees towards Pocaterra Cirque. Not long after, you’ll be greeted by an amphitheatre overlooking a sea of golden larches with Pocaterra Ridge looming ahead.
The gently rolling, larch-lined trail descends into a meadow and past a shallow lake before gaining elevation and transitioning to a trail on the scree slopes leading up to the Grizzly Col (cover image).
From Grizzly Col, the remainder of the hike is a steep, hands-on scramble with loose rock-fall and exposure. The arch is about two-thirds of the way up the mountain and provides a unique viewpoint before continuing up the summit.
The summit is located along the Continental Divide, the border between AB and BC, and boasts views of the connecting ridge to Mount Pocaterra, Elk Lakes and the Elk Range. Be sure to leave your legacy behind in the summit registry at the top!
Recommended Oboz: Because of the steep, scramble section on this trail I chose my beloved Bridger Mid Waterproof boots for their sturdy ankle support. The tough tread and nubuck leather also provided the traction and stability I needed for navigating the exposed slopes and withstanding the scree beating. My feet also stayed dry through the muddy meadow and drainage crossing thanks to the Bridger’s B-DRY waterproofing!
Best time to Go: To truly experience the golden larch approach, you will want to time your hike during the few weeks in the fall when the larches have turned from green to gold and before they shed their needles for the winter. Be sure to make it to the trailhead early to beat the crowds! Note: Highwood Pass is closed annually from December – June 15th.
What to Pack: A helmet, hiking poles and bear spray are HIGHLY recommended (we made the mistake of not bringing helmets). This hike is in bear country.
Level of Difficulty: Moderate scramble. Turn back at Grizzly Col for an easier hike or for a difficult scramble, traverse the summit ridge to Mount Pocaterra.
Trail Highlights: The golden larches, the natural arch formation and breathtaking summit views. Need I say more?! Also, if you stop and listen by the lake, you may be able to hear the pika’s high-pitched shrills and if you’re lucky you might spot them darting in and out of the talus.
Refuel: If you are heading into Canmore, check out the Grizzly Paw Pub & Brewery for a delicious burger and home-brewed beer. Or – if you’re like me – you typically have to drive several hours home from the mountains; therefore, a good old PB&J should sustain you on your drive home.
Caitlin McKenzie is an Environmental Manager and avid hiker located in northern BC who spends her weekends travelling to the Canadian Rockies to satisfy her mountain fix. Follow along with her adventures on Instagram @mountainbait.