Mount Rae

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Photo of Mount Rae
Photo uploaded by Dow Williams

Mount Rae is located in the Misty Range of Kananaskis Provincial Park just south of the Opal Range on the east side of the Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40). Kananaskis encompasses over 4,000 square kilometers of foothills and mountains bordering Banff National Park in the central Canadian Rockies. Mount Rae was officially named in 1859 after Dr. John Rae who conducted major expeditions into the uncharted Canadian Artic and became the first European to survive an Arctic winter living solely off the land. His greatest accomplishment was establishing the final link (Rae Strait) in the long search for the Northwest Passage.

Mount Rae serves as the head of the main watershed to Calgary, Alberta by way of the Rae Glacier flowing into Elbow Lake, source of the Elbow River. At 10,558’, Rae is the highest mountain viewed on the front range from Calgary. In my opinion, this Highwood Pass area serves up the most scenic and accessible high alpine foliage in all of the Canadian Rockies.

The only published route to the summit of Mount Rae that I am aware of is the moderate scramble. Although there are no published alpine ski routes to the summit, skiing the Rae Glacier is a winter objective in Kananaskis. The summit affords good views of the prairies to the east and the larger Kananaskis peaks to the west. This was a smoke filled hazy day, my photos are a disaster. Hopefully somebody will add some from a better day.

Getting There

Take the Kananaskis Trail (Highway 40) exit off of the Trans-Canada Highway between Calgary and Canmore. Drive to the Highwood Pass day parking area at 7239’ (Highwood Pass Interpretive Trail). Kananaskis Trail is closed from December 1 through June 15, and I do mean with a gate. The closure is at Kings Creek (Canyon), meaning no access to any of the Highwood area mountains prior to June 15th. (except by ski)

Red Tape

There are no permit requirements to enter, climb and/or park in Kananaskis Provincial Park. This is active grizzly country however. Take bear spray. You drive by the park headquarters on the way in on Highway 40. Any recent notices will be posted on the bulletin board outside. If they are open, check in with the ranger staff, they have tons of beta and are always friendly.

When To Climb

As with most climbs in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. I climbed Mount Rae in August and the route was free of snow on ascent. There are no published backcountry ski routes on Mount Rae, but the mountain is open to skiing on the Rae Glacier.


The closest camping is a backcountry site at Elbow Lake, 1.3 km in on Big Elbow Trail back north a few kilometers off of Hwy 40. There are tons of camping options further north at Kananaskis Lakes. You cannot camp outside of the marked specific camping areas in Kananaskis. Refer to the Kananaskis Provincial Park website for more information regarding camping and/or lodging.

Mountain Conditions

The Kananaskis Provincial Park website is a very thorough park website, including trail conditions or closures, wildlife notices, weather conditions, avalanche conditions, camping permits, whitewater conditions, etc. It is an excellent source if you are going to spend any time here and comparable to any National Park website I have used. Outside of the parks web site, Canadian Avalanche Association is also useful, particularly for winter travel.

Elevation (feet): 10,558
Elevation (meters): 3,218
Continent: North America
Country: Canada
Range/Region: Canadian Rockies
Province: Alberta
Latitude: 50.6223
Longitude: -114.974
Difficulty: Scramble
Nearest major airport: Calgary
Convenient Center: Canmore, Alberta

Thanks to Craig Knelsen for adding this peak.

Trip Reports

There are 7 trip reports for Mount Rae.

  • Log #11377 - by Rob Davidson on Aug 16, 20033.00 stars
    Rae was a good scramble, but a little busy on the ridge! "To travel, to experience, to learn - that is to live." Tenzing Norgay, from Man of Everest
  • Log #11378 - by Bruce Dunbar on Feb 25, 20013.00 stars
    The great thing about this scramble is the Highwood Meadows parking area sits at over 7200 ft., which makes it relatively physically easy to attain such a high summit. Mentally however their are...
  • Log #11379 - by Bill Schnitzler on July 20, 20003.00 stars
    Even in July there is usually a sizeable patch of snow leading up to the col. We ventured onto the snow - w/o ice picks - but WARNING ! it is very steep and without ice picks, very dangerous. After...
  • Log #11380 - by Craig Knelsen on Apr 01, 20003.00 stars
    As I prepared to start my ascent, a bear warning indicated a grizzly sow with cubs was in the area. I ended up encountering this sow with two cubs on July 31 when I summitted Mt. Tyrwhitt. I followed...
  • Log #20863 - by Mark Bunnah on July 08, 20073.00 stars
    July 1, 2007. Canada Day Beautiful day for an encounter with a 10000 ft. summit. There was still a considerable amount of snow in the gully which would of made it a faster climb had I not left my...
  • Log #19332 - by Michael on Sep 27, 20063.00 stars
    The walk up from the Highwood pass parking lot to the col between Mt Rae and un-named peak is relatively easy. When reaching the col you can see the small pocket glacier that hides to the north....
  • Log #19409 - by Dow Williams on Sep 27, 20063.00 stars
    I was looking for a little exercise before spending a climbing week back in the Fryatt Valley. This was a perfect outing for such. This scramble was on the easy side of moderate. The guide book time...