The reward to effort ratio is high on Mount Lipsett, a moderate and scenic summit in the Highwood area of Kananaskis.
Mount Lipsett, located south of Highwood Pass, boasts wildflowers in summer, larches in fall (though there are more at Pocaterra Ridge and Arethusa Cirque), and spectacular scenery all hiking season long. When you get above treeline, in 1-1.5 hours, expect to see distinctive Mist Mountain to the east, and a jagged western skyline composed of the Elk Range. While the hike is a bit long, the going is easy thanks to steady and moderate elevation gain. Allow 4-6 hours to complete the hike (our moving time was 3.75 hours).
Mount Lipsett Route Description
The trail begins at the unmarked trailhead just up the hill from the middle of the parking area. Within a hundred metres, you’ll come to a junction. Stay left for Mount Lipsett (going right will take you to Mist Mountain). Follow the 80 year old coal exploration road, skirting the mud and horse turds as best you can, and take the larger trail wherever it braids. On several occasions, the path split around an “island” of trees, then rejoined a little further down the trail.
At the 400 metre mark, it may be tempting to take the right fork to shave off some distance, but trail reports say it’s easy to get lost on the overgrown trail. Continue on the main trail, heading west for about 2 km, then veer right and start zigzagging your way up the mountain. Mount Storelk peeks through the trees giving you a taste of what’s to come.
About 5 km from the beginning, you leave the trees behind and enter vast meadows filled with wildlflowers in mid to late July. With 400 metres of elevation behind you, the next bit is more strenuous (300 metres elevation gain over 2 km) but quite moderate.
In a little over a kilometre (6.3 km from trailhead), there’s a nice viewpoint from the false summit at left. It’s a nice snack/photo spot, but can be quite windy!
For the summit, stay on the well-beaten path and continue straight. As you near the high point of the rocky outcropping, the trail narrows. Stay to the middle of the trail to avoid the drop-off on the right-hand side. On the weekend, expect to share the views with several hikers. During the week, it’s likely you’ll only see a handful of hikers.
The distinctive peak on the right, with vertical ribs and imposing cliffs, is Mist Mountain. Storm Mountain lies to the north, and the Elk Range (including Mounts Pocaterra, Odlum, and Tyrrwhit to name a few) lies to the west. From the end of the summit ridge, you can look north over Highway 40 and see how it winds through the valley. We enjoyed the views from the summit and false summit for over an hour knowing the trip back to the car was super fast. Since we didn’t have to deal with scree on the descent, we could descend quickly without staring at our feet.
I can’t wait to try this hike in July; I heard the wildflowers are incredible!! There are some larches here too, but as of October 13, 2022, all the needles have fallen off.
Mount Lipsett at a Glance
- Distance: 14 km round trip
- Elevation gain: 700 metres
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Route-finding: Be sure to stay left at the first cairn (the right fork goes to Mist Mountain)! The trail is well-defined for the most part, but there is some trail braiding in the first few kilometres. Fortunately all the braids seem to connect.
- Parking: Mount Lipsett Trailhead/Parking Area is an unmarked gravel lot 13 km south of Highwood Pass, on the north side of Hwy 40
- Nearest washrooms: Mount Lipsett Day Use (7 km north of parking area)
When to Go
July until October is typically the best time to hike Mount Lipsett provided there is no avalanche danger. Go in mid to late September to see larches on the way to the summit (between Mount Lipsett and Mist Mountain).
The Mount Lipsett Trailhead / Parking Area is located 13 kilometres south of Highwood Pass on Highway 40. If traveling south, look for the unmarked parking lot on the left (north) side of the highway. Get Google Maps directions here.
Know Before You Go
A Kananaskis Conservation Pass is required to park in Kananaskis. Purchase your pass online from the Government of Alberta.
Note that this section of Highway 40 (Peter Lougheed Provincial Park to Highwood House) is closed from December 1-June 14 each year.
Be bear aware! There was a bear attack on this trail in September 2021, and a fatal bear attack near here in 2015. Learn how to stay safe in bear country with our Bear Safety Tips for Hikers and keep your dog on a leash (It’s a ticketable offense to have dogs offleash in provincial parks).
Like many Kananaskis Peaks named for WW1 Generals and battleships (Mount Indefatigable is named for the HMS Indefatigable, Chester Lake and Mount Chester are named for the HMS Chester), Mount Lipsett is named after Major General Louis James Lipsett of the 3rd Canadian Division (Source).
What to Bring
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You should also carry The Ten Essentials including: water, extra food, extra clothes, a headlamp, a GPS/compass and topographic map of the area, bug spray (this one contains 20% icaridin and will repel ticks), sunscreen (this one is safe for babies), and bear spray. Carry bear spray in a Frontiersman Bear Spray Holster (attaches to your backpack or belt), or Scat Belt.
In snowy/icy conditions, traction devices such as Kahtoola Microspikes (Available from Amazon, MEC, and Valhalla Pure Outfitters), or Hillsound Trail Crampons (Available at Valhalla Pure Outfitters and Sport Chek) are recommended. See our Fall Hiking Gear Guide for recommended clothing and gear.