Mount Lipsett Hike in Kananaskis

Mount Lipsett is a mountain named for Major General Louis James Lipsett, who commanded the 3rd Canadian Division during WWI. It is located south of Highwood Pass, off Highway 40. The mountain is an outlier of Mist Mountain – one you’ll see up close on the Mount Lipsett hike. It’s one of many unofficial hikes in Kananaskis Country – but don’t let that deter you. You’ll be rewarded with lovely views starting about 75 minutes into the hike, great swaths of wildflowers in summer and some good fall colours, including larches come September. The mountain is accessed by a good trail and an old coal exploration road.

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Mount Lipsett hike summary

  • The Mount Lipsett hike is at its best when the summer wildflowers are out or when the fall colours make an appearance. You’ll see fall colours both along the trail and when you look out to ribbons of yellow on the other peaks in the area. 
  • Allow 4 – 6 hours to do the 12 km round trip hike. Note that the trail is accessed off Highway 40 – and this section of the highway is open from June 15 – December 1st only.
  • Elevation gain is 687 metres or 2253 feet.
  • Mount Lipsett is not one of Alberta’s famous larch hikes, but you’ll certainly see some on the hike in late September and early October.
  • Don’t forget to purchase a Kananaskis Conservation Pass or you could end up with a $180 fine.
There are some fantastic sections of wildflowers on the Mt. Lipsett hike
There are some fantastic sections of wildflowers on the Mt. Lipsett hike

Mount Lipsett hike details

Distance: 12.0 km round trip

Elevation gain: 687 metres or 2254 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Time needed: 4 – 6 hours

Location: Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park, southeast of Highwood Pass off Highway 40

Dogs allowed: Yes, on a leash but bring lots of water on a summer’s day

Map needed: Gem Trek Highwood & Cataract Creek

Don’t forget: Bear spray (the area is known for its grizzlies) and the 10 hiking essentials

Before you go: Check the weather forecast as the summit is exposed.

Finding the trailhead

The Mount Lipsett hike is not signed on Highway 40 but there is an obvious parking lot.

From the Trans-Canada Highway drive 67 km to reach Highwood Pass. Reset your odometer here – and not at the parking lot. Drive 13 km and turn north or left into a large but unpaved parking lot. You will pass the Mt. Lipsett Day Use Area on the way to the parking lot.

The other option is to get to Longview and then drive 43 km on Highway 541 to Highwood Junction – where three highways intersect (40, 541 and 940). Take Highway 40 for 24.8 km and turn north or right into the parking lot. You know you’re getting close to the parking lot when you drive over a signed bridge at Mist Creek at the 21.2 km mark. 

Mount Lipsett hike description

From the parking lot, look for the trail heading northeast up a short slope. Walk into the forest and you’ll see a sign about bear encounters – the only signage you’ll see on the trail. There isn’t even anything to suggest you are on the Mount Lipsett hike as it’s an unofficial trail. Also note that you’ll have to carry your dog’s poop to a trailhead with a garbage can at the end of your hike. For some reason, Alberta Parks doesn’t see fit to put one in the parking lot. Also, there are no outhouses.

Head into the forest on an old road that narrows to a single track in short order. It’s wet in the woods so count on walking through some mud all summer long. When you reach a cairned junction go left (right heads to a scramble route up Mist Mountain though there is a less technical route via a different trailhead). My friend Mandy and I found the trail to be braided in places, so we just stuck to the one that felt the most used. The steep trail generally heads in a northwest direction. 

When you start to leave the forest behind (the first time), the views open to showcase wildflowers with a gorgeous mountain backdrop. Continue up this section of trail, following it as it makes a hard right. Stay on the trail/overgrown road as it climbs, though don’t get your hopes up for a quick summit. There is a false summit on route but what you can enjoy are big in-your-face mountain views of Mist Mountain off to your right. Once you get through the final stands of trees, you’ll be able to see Mount Lipsett at the far right, behind a smaller summit.

Continue hiking up to open meadows below the summit of Mount Lipsett. The final approach to Mount Lipsett is via an easy ridge climb – at least in my books. In no time you’re on top. Once there you can look for photo opportunities, Instagram glory, or just sit back and enjoy your lunch with a view of massive Mist Mountain, or a panoramic vista looking north along highway 40.

Get an early start in summer as the descent is largely in the sun and it will bake you. That way you might avoid some of the biting insects that make an appearance too. In fall, pack layers of clothing as Mount Lipsett enjoys a reputation for being cool and windy.

In summer, I would recommend leaving some cold drinks in a cooler for your return. Or stop in for ice cream at the Fortress Gas Plus at Fortress Junction.

There is no trail signage at the trailhead - simply a warning about bears
There is no trail signage at the trailhead – simply a warning about bears
On the wooded, sometimes muddy section of trail
On the wooded, sometimes muddy section of trail
Enjoying a delightful section of hiking about an hour into the hike
Enjoying a delightful section of hiking about an hour into the hike
My friend Mandy taking in the view
My friend Mandy taking in the view
Almost at a prominent switchback
Almost at a prominent switchback
Enjoying a section of wildflowers with mountain views off to the right - not pictured
Enjoying a section of wildflowers with views of Mist Mountain off to the right – not pictured
Above treeline with Mount Lipsett in behind the nearest mountain
Above treeline with Mount Lipsett in behind the nearest mountain
It's a hazy day in the mountains, especially looking south
It’s a hazy day in the mountains, especially looking south
An easy grade on the final approach to the summit of Mt. Lipsett
An easy grade on the final approach to the summit of Mt. Lipsett
Looking north up Highway 40 from the summit
Looking north up Highway 40 from the summit
A group enjoying lunch on the Mt. Lipsett summit
A group enjoying lunch on the Mount Lipsett summit
Pretty wildflowers along the trail near the switchback
Pretty wildflowers along the trail near the major switchback on the Mount Lipsett hike
Our dog surveying the route down
Our dog surveying the route down – or perhaps she is listening for marmots
There is no signage, washrooms or even a garbage can at the parking lot for Mt. Lipsett
There is no signage, washrooms or even a garbage can at the parking lot for Mount Lipsett so be sure to pack out what you pack in

More hikes in the general area you might enjoy

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The 12 km Mount Lipsett hike in Alberta's Kananaskis Country offers great views & colours in fall

 

Karen J. Simmons

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