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 Mountain, a dramatic mountain nestled just minutes outside the Town of Canmore.
Ha Ling mountain’s huge 300m towering vertical cliff face makes it one of the most recognizable mountains in Canmore. I love admiring its unique shape 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 the Ha Ling trail makes it one of my favorite hikes near Canmore.
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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. It’s one of the best hikes in 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 hike enters a dense forest with lichen dancing in the wind from evergreen trees above a carpet of green moss.
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.
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 Mountain. Anyone who hiked Ha Ling 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.
At 3.7km the upgraded trail ends, and the trail is no longer officially maintained. The 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 (a great alternative to avoid the crowds),
The final 300m to the top of Ha Ling Peak involves choosing your own path through a field of scree and small boulders. There are multiple trails to top, 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 Mountain 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), the Rundle Forebay Reservoir (great for SUP and kayaking!) and the emerald-green Stinky River flowing into the Bow River.
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.
The wispy clouds we get in the morning near Canmore produces some incredible sunrises. The Ha Ling Peak is a popular place to watch the sunrise. The Ha Ling trail is also popular with trail runners, especially in the morning.
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 with most roots and rocks removed
- Safety chains have been added where appropriate
- Smooth stone steps have been added to the trail
- Footsteps have been chiseled in rocks
- Three long wooden staircases have replaced the old, steep switchbacks near the top
These trail upgrades by Alberta Parks not only make your journey to the top of Ha Ling Mountain more enjoyable, but they help control erosion and protect the endangered Whitebark Pine trees which grow on these slopes.
Ha Ling Peak Hike Stats
Distance: The round-trip distance of the Ha Ling trail is 8.0km (one-way distance of 4.0km).
Elevation Gain: 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.
Difficulty: The hike up Ha Ling mountain 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.
We rate the Ha Ling Peak trail as “difficult”.
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 Location
How to Get from Banff to the Ha Ling peak trailhead: The nearest parking lot to the Ha Ling trailhead is the Goat Creek parking lot.
The fastest way to get to the Goat Creek parking lot from Banff is to turn off the TransCanada Highway in Canmore and take the Smith-Dorrien Trail Highway (AB742). This very scenic drive should take you approximately 35 minutes. (It’s a 17-minute drive from downtown Canmore)
Along the way you’ll pass the very popular, easy family hike called Grassi Lakes. The lakes are an incredible color on a sunny day and it takes less than an hour. If you have anything left in your tank after hiking Ha Ling peak, a quick hike up to Grassi Lakes is worth it, especially on a sunny day.
Also watch for the Canmore Nordic Centre, home of the Nordic events for the 1988 Winter Olympics. As you climb the steep, winding road past the Nordic Centre, watch for groups of Bighorn Sheep which love to cling to the rocky slopes next to the highway. If you are interested Alberta wildlife, get Banff wildlife sighting tips from an excellent local wildlife photographer.
The Goat Creek parking lot is home to several other popular Kananaskis recreation options:
- The East End of Rundle trail (EEOR) is another of the best hikes in Canmore. EEOR is a local’s favorite, but it’s less polished than the Ha Ling hike. This challenging Canmore hike takes you to the south-east summit of Mount Rundle. It’s conveniently located right across the highway from Ha Ling. It’s less popular than Ha Ling, making it a good alternative if you are looking for a bit more solitude on your hike.
- The Goat Creek trail is a popular mountain biking trail which runs along the valley bottom south of Mt. Rundle. The Goat Creek trail runs all the way from Canmore to the historic Banff Springs Hotel.
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.
Once you reach the Saddle, the trail is no longer maintained and there are several scramble routes to the summit of Ha Ling, 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 your stats (distance, elevation gain, etc.).
To find the Ha Ling Peak trail map in AllTrails, simply search for “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 paper map isn’t required for hiking Ha Ling peak, but if you prefer to hike with a paper map and compass as an additional safety layer, we highly recommend Gem Trek hiking maps. They are excellent Banff and Kananaskis hiking maps and we own the entire set. They are exceptional 3D topographic maps which I love looking at for hiking inspiration.
The Ha Ling Peak trail map appears in the following maps: “Canmore and Kananaskis Village” and “Banff & Mount Assiniboine”. You can order these maps off Amazon before your trip, or you can pick one up while here as they are widely available.
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 (my favorite Kananaskis hike) and the Lost City in Colombia. We haven’t attempted hiking Ha Ling mountain with our kids yet, but given they accomplished Wind Ridge, I expect they could also do Ha Ling (with enough time and patience, of course).
Tons of super cute squirrels and chipmunks call Ha Ling Mountain 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.
Before attempting the Ha Ling 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 1km hiked towards the top of the Ha Link 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 mountain 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 proceed beyond the Saddle.
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.
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 be sure to treat yourself after this difficult hike with a drink and a great meal at one of the excellent restaurants in Canmore.
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, back-track and try a different route.
- 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.
- Kananaskis Country is bear country. We love bears and would hate for any harm to come to them or you, so please take the time to educate yourself on How to Be Bear Smart.
- Not to pile on the scary stuff, but it’s also cougar country. In 2019 a cougar attacked and killed an off-leash dog on Ha Ling peak. Sadly, the cougar was destroyed as a result of this avoidable incident. Learn more about Cougar Safety in Kananaskis Country.
- To keep the dangerous wildlife in perspective, I’ve been hiking around Banff and Kananaskis my whole life and have encountered a bear on foot only a few times. Bears are not naturally aggressive, and I never felt threatened. I’ve never seen a cougar in the wild… The key message is you never know what will happen with wildlife, so be prepared with the right gear and knowledge.
- 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 Mountain. 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.
For recommendations on what gear to bring on the Ha Ling trail to improve your safety, see below.
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 mountain, 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 visit 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.
What to Bring While Hiking Ha Ling Peak
Generally speaking, you don’t need a lot of hiking gear to enjoy hiking in Alberta. We have created a list of hiking essentials with the hiking gear and clothing you’ll need for the variable Kananaskis weather and trail conditions.
The Ha Ling trail is a difficult Kananaskis day-hike, so we would like to reinforce the importance of a few items from our hiking essentials list:
- Bear spray is a must. You cannot order bear spray by mail, but you can buy a canister at many locations in Canmore and Banff.
- Water – the Ha Ling hike is difficult, and you’ll sweat a lot. A hydration pack is an effective way to bring enough water for a difficult hike.
- Bring several layers of clothing with you. The Ha Ling trail is on the north-west side of the mountain, so it is in full shade in the mornings. The weather can be quite variable hiking in Kananaskis, no matter the season. We typically wear convertible hiking pants, T-shirts, a fleece top and rain jackets. You can expect to put on and take off layers all day.
- Even in summer, it can be cold near the top of the Ha Link 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 daybag.
- We don’t hike with trekking poles, but many people recommend them for the Ha Ling Peak hike as it helps their knees with the steep descent. If you bring trekking poles, ensure your day bag has straps which can hold your poles as you tackle the rock scrambles.
- Bring a small first aid kit designed for hiking. With the steep trail and scrambling involved, there’s a decent chance someone will slip and fall. I’ve slipped on shale several times this hiking season and have scraped my hands up pretty good each time.
Ha Ling Mountain Footwear Recommendation
If you only plan on hiking to the Ha Ling Saddle, you can probably get by with your regular walking shoes if they have good grips. The new trail is well groomed, but you’ll still need to navigate a section where the trail is smooth rock.
Chances are that if you make it to the Saddle, you’ll want to hike another 300m to the Ha Ling Peak summit. The trail is not maintained beyond the Saddle and consists of loose shale and small, sometimes loose boulders. Because of this section, we recommend you wear a good quality pair of hiking shoes at a minimum, but hiking boots are better due to the ankle support.
More Kananaskis Hiking Trails We Recommend
- Chester Lake Hike
- Karst Spring Hike
- Blackshale Suspension Bridge Hike
- 9 Best Kananaskis Hikes for Social Distancing
Banff Hiking Trails We Recommend
- 14 Easy Winter Hikes in Banff, Canmore and Kananaskis
- 9 Easy Banff Hikes
- Johnston Canyon Hike
- Tunnel Mountain Hike
- Stewart Canyon Hike
- Plain of Six Glaciers Trail
- Saddleback Pass Trail
- Sheol Valley Hike
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