I am an avid hiker with a focus on easy to moderate trails in natural settings. I occasionally do harder trails.
Ha Ling Trail in Canmore, Alberta
After residing in Canmore for six months prior to COVID, I decided to hike the famous Ha Ling Trail to Ha Ling's Peak in the summer of 2020. This was a personal journey for me. I knew of the trail for decades but was not fit enough for it for most of my adult life. In my mid-forties, I felt like I had to push myself to get to the peak before I got much older.
When I used the trail, it was free. But, located in Kananaskis Country, there was a political development that affected this trail in 2021.
The Alberta government instituted user fees for the park, a whopping $15 per day per vehicle. User fees are always double-edged: it's annoying to reach into your pocketbook but a user fee will cut down on traffic. That could make your day in Kananaskis more enjoyable.
Getting to Ha Ling's Trail
The trailhead for Ha Ling's Trail, which may appear on Google Maps as "Ha Ling's Peak Trailhead," is located on Highway 742. Drive past the turn for Grassi Lakes and you will come to a parking lot on your right after a couple of minutes. Park there and the trailhead for Ha Ling's Trail will be across the highway. Don't be surprised if you come across unpaved sections of roadway. Maybe they should use the user fees to fix this?
Ha Ling's Peak Trailhead on Google Maps
Ha Ling's Trail Specifications
The trail to "Ha Ling Peak" is rated as "hard" on AllTrails.com. They call it "a 7.2 kilometer heavily trafficked out and back trail." While that is not a long trail, what makes it difficult is that on your way up to the top of the peak, there will rarely be a step that isn't uphill.
The first part of the trail, which leads to the Mount Rundle viewpoint (see the video), was tough but it could be called a moderate trail to that point. After that, the elevation is very steep. In fact, this is the toughest trail that I have hiked.
There were a lot of bugs on this trail, mainly gross-looking flies or horseflies. I remember at one point, where I had to tread carefully when a fly started to buzz in my face. I took my mind off of my footing to deal with the fly and almost slipped a little, which could have been disastrous. I think that most people would benefit from bug spray on this trail.
I saw a sign that said that bicyclists were not allowed on the trail. That made it a pro-hiker trail for sure. It is a more enjoyable hiking experience when you don't have to step aside for cyclists.
I was not in fantastic shape when I took this trail but have since improved my fitness. In fact, on my way down someone actually asked me if I was injured since I started to stride in an awkward manner. In July of 2020, it took me a full six hours to complete the out and back trail. I think that I would do it in 4.5 hours if I was to try it now.
The Mount Rundle Viewpoint
The Saddle and the Peak
An inner drive to get to the peak was something that pushed me onward. It was important to have this drive because there were a couple of rewarding viewpoints en-route to the top. It would have been easy to say "good enough" and turn around at either of those viewpoints.
Firstly, there was the amazing viewpoint of Rundle Mountain as shown in the video. The trail only got steeper after this viewpoint, one that served as a rest area. Soon afterward, I came across lots of stairs, either wooden ones or stepping stones. These seemed to be fairly modern additions to the trail as of July 2020.
Prior to getting to the peak, there was an area called the saddle. This described an area in a mountain range where this is a dip between two mountain peaks. When you get to the saddle, you do get an expansive view overlooking Canmore and the mountains to the north. At this point, you could really throw in the towel for trail hiking as it certainly feels like you got what you came for.
The last half hour or so to get to the peak was quite the test. The trail is not properly maintained for this final segment but you are just following in the footsteps of others. Also, the peak really does feel like you are on the edge of the world. Be extremely careful if you get to the peak as the area can be windy. Also, be sure not to throw rocks over the edge: there are warnings of mountain climbers and hikers in the area.
Video of the Saddle Area at the End of Ha Ling's Trail
Finals Thoughts on Getting to Ha Ling's Peak
I've hiked thousands of trails in my life but this is only the second trail I've taken right to the top of a mountain. The other mountain-top trail I did was The Chief near Squamish, BC.
When I did that trail in the 1990s, I was just 19 years old. At the age of 43 and with questionable fitness, the Ha Ling's Trail required tons of push as it was a steep trail. Almost every step you take is upwards and the trail wrecked my quadriceps.
I would advise dog owners to be careful if taking this trail. I did not see any freshwater sources during the trail. Perhaps there would be some during the spring or fall. But in the summer, you may have to carry a lot of water for you and your dog. Given the length and steepness of the trail, the extra weight will make it less enjoyable.
But I would recommend this trail. It was an interesting and scenic area. The trail was clear, I didn't brush against leaves or bushes too much, and the final viewpoint was amazing. This is my second favorite trail out of the ones that I have personally completed.
The Final Steps to the Top of Ha Ling's Peak
All Trails Page for the Ha Ling Trail
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.