Burstall Pass
Date hiked
July 27, 2002
Total distance hiked
15 km
Elevation gain
475 m
Maximum elevation
2375 m
Topo map
Spray Lakes Reservoir 82 J/14

Burstall Pass may well be the finest trail in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. It’s certainly popular; I counted 31 cars in the lot at the end of the day. The trailhead is along the Smith-Dorrien Trail (Secondary Road 742), about 20 km northwest of the Kananaskis Lakes and just a little further down the road from Black Prince Cirque.

The trail itself, like others along that road, begins with an old logging road that runs more or less level through light forest for about three kilometres before crossing the flats below Robertson Glacier. Here there are braided channels that must be forded. We were able to hop a few on the way in, but two required us to switch to our river footwear; on the return, we simply walked across the flats in that footwear so that we didn’t have to worry about getting our boots wet. The water was, of course, ice-cold.

Past the flats, the trail climbs steeply for a kilometre through heavy forest to a beautiful open meadow in a hanging valley, where the ascent levels out. The final kilometre is a steep climb around a bluff and to the right — not where I expected the pass to be. Burstall Pass itself is behind the bluff, and the views in all directions are expansive. Through the pass, Mount Assiniboine, only 20 km away; to the south, Mount Sir Douglas; to the east, Mount Birdwood and an eagle’s-eye view of the valley of Burstall Creek.

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