Ha Ling Peak Hike in Kananaskis Country

Author: Dan Brewer

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The Ha Ling Peak hike is a popular day hike with Canmore and Banff locals. It a short, but very steep slog up the north-western slope of Ha Ling Peak, a dramatic mountain nestled just minutes outside the Town of Canmore.

Ha Ling Peak’s huge 300m towering vertical cliff face makes it one of the most recognizable mountains in Canmore. I love admiring the unique shape of Ha Ling from down below in the Bow Valley, knowing I’ve stood at the very top. The great workout and excellent rewards that go along with hiking the Ha Ling trail makes it one of my favorite hikes near Canmore.

ha ling peak elevation 2408m above sea level

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Ha Ling Trail Highlights

If you love Canadian Rocky Mountain scenery, the Ha Ling Peak trail is a very rewarding hike. It’s a difficult hike and is not for everyone, but if it’s within your physical capabilities, chances are good that you’ll love it. The Ha Ling Peak trail is one of the best hikes in Canmore.

it takes about 90 minutes to hike to the summit of Ha Ling Peak near Canmore

The first section of the Ha Ling hike crosses a channel for a hydro-electric dam. The water in the channel can be glass-smooth in the morning, providing amazing mountain reflections. Before long, the Ha Ling hike enters a dense forest with lichen dancing in the wind from evergreen trees above a carpet of green moss.

hiking ha ling peak through an evergreen forest

After 2.5km of non-stop uphill hiking, you’ll be treated to a great place to rest. Here you’ll find a short trail with safety ropes to a lookout, where you will enjoy views of Mount Rundle, Mount Lady MacDonald, Goat Creek and parts of Canmore. As amazing as these views are, they are just a small taste of what is to come further up the Ha Ling Peak trail.

you can see the EEOR hiking trail from this viewpoint on Ha Ling Peak

At 3.4km, get ready for a glute workout! You’ll encounter three sets of newly constructed wooden staircases which take you straight up the steep upper slopes of Ha Ling Peak. Anyone who hiked the Ha Ling trail prior to the trail upgrades will appreciate what an improvement this is over the steep, slippery switchbacks which used to occupy this section of trail.

the ha ling peak hike is short, but hard

At 3.7km the upgraded trail ends, and the Ha Ling trail is no longer officially maintained. The hiking trail surface becomes angled rock and loose scree – a bit a shock to the system after the wonderfully manicured hiking trail to this point.  

At 3.8km you reach “The Saddle” (see the red arrow in the image below). You are not yet at the top of Ha Ling Peak, but the Saddle is the first point where you can see over the upper ridge to see the views on the other side of the mountain. From the Saddle, you can choose to go left to the summit of Ha Ling Peak, or right to the less popular Miners Peak trail (a great alternative to avoid the crowds),

An aerial picture of the location of the the Saddle on Ha Ling Peak

The final 300m of the Ha Ling Peak hike involves choosing your own path through a field of scree and small boulders. There are multiple trails to the top of Ha Ling, so pick a line a go with it. Stop every now and then to look for main arteries, which can be a bit safer to follow.

The 360-degree views from the top of Ha Ling Peak are breathtaking. To the north you can see from Mount Lady MacDonald all the way down the Bow Valley to Exshaw. In-between, you’ll see Quarry Lake (Canmore’s favorite swimming hole) and the Rundle Forebay Reservoir (great for SUP and kayaking!).

from the top of Ha Ling, you can see Canmore, Mount Lady MacDonald and Grotto Mountain

Behind you, you’ll enjoy views spanning from Goat Creek all the way to the Spray Lakes. To your right, Miners Peak proudly juts out over Canmore, while to the left you’ll have an up-close look at the south summit of Mount Rundle, home to the East End of Rundle (EEOR) – another of our favorite difficult Canmore hikes.

beautiful Kananaskis Country, Alberta

The wispy clouds we get in the morning near Canmore produces some incredible sunrises. Not surprisingly, Ha Ling Peak is a popular sunrise hike in. The Ha Ling trail is also popular with trail runners, especially in the morning.

Read More

We like the Ha Ling Peak Trail so much, we included it in our 7 Day Banff Itinerary for Hikers.

Ha Ling Trail Upgrades

The beautiful forest will capture your attention but take a moment to notice the excellent condition of the Ha Ling hiking trail, which went through nearly $1 million in upgrades in 2019.

Upgrades to the Ha Ling trail include:

Thoughtfully located benches with amazing views.

A well-groomed hiking trail up Ha Ling Peak with most roots and rocks removed.

ha ling trail - one of the best canmore hikes

Safety chains have been added where appropriate.

Smooth stone steps have been added to the Ha Ling trail.

a sunburst through the trees while hiking Ha Ling Peak in Kananaskis Country

Footsteps have been chiseled in rocks.

Three long wooden staircases have replaced the old, steep switchbacks near the top of Ha Ling.

the new steps on the ha ling peak hike

These trail upgrades by Alberta Parks not only make your journey to the top of Ha Ling Peak more enjoyable, but they help control erosion and protect the endangered Whitebark Pine trees which grow on these slopes.

Ha Ling Peak is one of the many great hikes near banff national park

Ha Ling Peak Hike Stats

How Long is the Ha Ling Peak Trail?

The round-trip distance of the Ha Ling trail is 8.0km (one-way distance of 4.0km).

How Steep is the Ha Ling hike?

The total elevation gain you’ll encounter along the Ha Ling Peak hike is 801m (for an average of 200m elevation gain per 1km). The trail starts at 1,660m above sea level and the Ha Ling Peak elevation at the summit is 2,408m.

How Hard is the Ha Ling Peak hike?

The hike up Ha Ling Peak starts uphill and it never lets up. It’s a short, but very steep hike but the trail is in amazing condition.

The Ha Ling trail is mostly well-groomed with no big rocks or tree roots to contend with. Once you reach the end of the maintained trail at “The Saddle”, it becomes a challenging rock scramble, with loose rocks and small boulders all the way to the Ha Ling summit. There is no rock climbing on this route though.

the Ha Ling Peak hike is one of the best things to do in canmore, alberta

We rate the Ha Ling Peak trail as “difficult”.

Ha Ling Peak Hike Duration

It should take a typical adult about 3 hours to hike the full round-trip distance of the Ha Ling hike.

Ha Ling Trail Directions

Despite its status as one of the best hikes near Canmore, the Ha Ling Peak hike does not have its own parking lot. The nearest parking lot to the Ha Ling trailhead is the Goat Creek parking lot.  

It’s an 80 minute drive from central Calgary to the Ha Ling Peak hike. Or, it’s about half the time to drive from Banff to Ha Ling.

Ha Ling Peak – Canmore & Kananaskis Hiking Maps

The newly upgraded Ha Ling hiking trail is well-marked and incredibly easy to follow. Between the abundant signage and the crowds, it would take real effort to get lost while hiking Ha Ling Peak.

check the ha ling peak trail report before going

Once you reach the Saddle, the trail is no longer maintained and there are several scramble routes to the summit of Ha Ling Peak, but you are so close to the top that it’s impossible to get lost if you simply keep going up.

We used the AllTrails app while hiking to the Ha Ling Peak summit, but to be honest, we didn’t need it for navigation purposes. We use AllTrails for all our hiking and biking in the Canadian Rockies and around the world. In addition to helping stay on the trails, we like the ability to track our hiking stats (distance, elevation gain, etc.).

mountain bikes are not allowed on ha ling peak trail

To find the Ha Ling Peak trail map in AllTrails, simply click here for the “Ha Ling Trail to Ha Ling Peak”. You are close enough to Canmore that you should get intermittent cell service while hiking Ha Ling Peak, but just to be safe, be sure to download your hiking maps prior to leaving.

A recent App of the Year winner, AllTrails is also one of the best apps for visiting Banff! Enjoy map downloads and many more premium features with a 7-day free trial of AllTrails+!

Hiking Ha Ling Peak Trail with Kids

Our kids have grown up in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and at age 5 & 7 are very capable little hikers. Highlights of their resume include Wind Ridge (one of our favorite Kananaskis hikes) and the Lost City in Colombia.

We haven’t attempted hiking Ha Ling Peak with our kids yet, but given they accomplished Wind Ridge, I expect they could also do the Ha Ling hike (with enough time and patience, of course).

Tons of super cute squirrels and chipmunks call Ha Ling Peak home. They are experts at looking cute, yet desperately starving in hopes of getting a human food reward. Please do the right thing and not feed them – a fed animal is a dead animal.

Please don't feed the wildlife on the Ha Ling Peak trail

Before attempting the Ha Ling Peak hike with kids, we recommend:

Looking at the Ha Ling hike stats above and making sure your kids are capable of such physical exertion. You’ll be gaining 200m of elevation for every 1 km hiked towards the top of the Ha Ling Peak hiking trail. This is a steady 20% incline – it’s not easy…

Even more important than their physical capability, assess your kids listening & obedience levels. The final push towards the summit of Ha Ling Peak is a tricky rock scramble, and once at the summit, a fall down the cliff would be fatal. Kids who do not listen and cannot follow directions to the letter should not hike beyond the Saddle.

We rate the Ha ling Peak Trail difficulty as "difficult"

Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break

Another nice benefit of the recent Ha Ling trail upgrades was the addition of many benches along the trail. These benches are all strategically placed to enjoy scenic views of Mount Rundle, the Spray Valley and beyond.

The benches are nice, but the best spots to stop for lunch on the Ha Ling Peak trail are the Saddle and the summit. Both locations enjoy amazing views of the Bow Valley from Banff National Park all the way to Exshaw.

enjoy panoramic views of Canmore and the Bow Valley from the top of Ha Ling Peak

Everyone loves stopping at the Ha Ling summit, but it can get very crowded up there, so taking a break at the Saddle is a good alternative.

The Ha Ling trail is very close to Canmore, so you could reward yourself after this difficult hike with an ice cream in Canmore or a great meal at one of Canmore’s best lunch restaurants.

Ha Ling Hiking Safety

The newly restored hiking trail to the Ha Ling Saddle should be reasonably safe for those with proper hiking footwear. The short rock scramble from the Saddle to the Ha Ling Peak gets a little more difficult and perhaps scary for some.

Take careful steps through the scree and always ask yourself what will happen if you slip on the next step. If it’s not safe, backtrack and try a different route.

Ha Ling formerly had a derogatory name, but was renamed to honor the man who first climbed it

Once at the summit of Ha Ling Peak beware the potential for a 300+ meter fall down the dramatic cliff on the north side of the mountain (see below). There are no safety rails preventing a fall.

There have been multiple Ha Ling Peak deaths from a variety of activities: rock climbing, wingsuits and even hiking. I have witnessed people teetering on the edge of the Ha Ling Peak cliff doing the King Dancer yoga pose for an Instagram shot. Please don’t – we don’t need any more fatalities.

The drop from the Ha Ling Peak summit would be fatal

Watch for “Avalanche Zone” signs while hiking Ha Ling Peak – stopping in these areas is not recommended.

When scrambling to the summit, keep a safe distance from each other as rocks may come loose and fall on those hiking below.

Resist the urge to throw rocks over the edge of the summit of Ha Ling Peak. The 300m straight vertical cliff is popular with mountain climbers and thrown rocks are a significant danger to them.

We recommend checking the latest Ha Ling trail report for trail conditions and possible closures before you head out.

we recommend good hiking boots for hiking Ha Ling trail

Wildlife Safety

When hiking in Kananaskis Country, you are responsible for your own safety. Before hitting the hiking trails we highly recommend you read our 9 Essential Kananaskis Hiking Tips for information about bear safety, trail conditions, wildlife warnings and possible closures.

Ha Ling Hike Logistics

On-leash dogs are allowed on the Ha Ling trail.

Mountain biking is not allowed.

There are several washrooms in Goat Creek parking lot. There are no toilets on the Ha Ling trail and the trail is quite popular making it harder to duck into the trees to water the flowers. It’s best if everyone goes before they begin.

There are no drinking water facilities on Ha Ling Peak, so fill your hydration packs before you leave.

With many popular hikes and mountain biking routes, the Goat Creek area is very popular and the parking lot fills up early in the day. To avoid a full parking lot, try to hike Ha Ling Peak early in the day on a weekday if possible.

Being so close to Canmore, you should have cell service for most of the hike, but never count on it for your safety.

It gets cold above the treeline on Ha Ling Peak

What to Bring While Hiking Ha Ling Peak

The Ha Ling Peak Trail is a challenging Kananaskis day-hike, so you need to be properly prepared for a day of safe hiking in the mountains. Before hitting the trail, please take the time to review our recommended Kananaskis hiking gear.

there are many great hikes near canmore alberta

Even in summer, it can be cold near the top of the Ha Ling Peak hike. While hiking EEOR in June (the adjacent mountain with a similar elevation profile) it actually snowed on us as we arrived at the top!

We wish we’d have brought gloves as the wind was very cold at the summit and our hands got quite numb, making the descent scramble more dangerous than it needed to be. It never hurts to throw a pair of gloves into the bottom of your hiking day bag.

the Smith Dorrien highway as seen from Ha Ling Peak

Read More

As you can see, it can be challenging to dress properly for hiking in the Canadian Rockies. We have lots of advice in our guide on what to wear hiking in Banff.

Additional Challenging Kananaskis Hikes

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Here's an ultimate guide to hiking Ha Ling Peak in Canmore Alberta. This is one hike you don't want to miss, but before you go make sure to read everything you need to know about hiking to Ha Ling Peak here. We cover it all from hiking in the Canadian Rocky Mountains to hiking gear.
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Dan Brewer, a life-long Alberta resident, calls Canmore home along with his wife and two kids. He is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada, where he gets to share his passion for the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Dan, along with his family, love being outdoors doing one of the many activities they enjoy in the mountains: hiking, mountain biking, paddleboarding, skiing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

When he's not in Canmore enjoying one of his favourite local hikes, you can find him hoping on a plane to explore a new country with his family or working on one of their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.