Cascade Mountain

Cascade Mountain
Photo by Stéphane Brice, all rights reserved.

Cascade Mountain is a local Banff mountain and thus a popular scramble objective. Banff National Park is one of four adjoining national parks making up the central Canadian Rockies. Perhaps the most active climbing however occurs in winter on its south facing ice waterfall route which is in clear view from the TransCanada Highway. Cascade Mountain was named by James Hector and 1858 after the same cascading waterfall that is so popular to climb. It was first ascended by Steward and Wilson in 1887.

Its native name is Minihapa, which translates to "Mountain Where the Water Falls”. Whiskey Creek Meadows located below the south face of Cascade Mountain is used as an emergency air strip for small aircraft. As one of my photos reveals, the famed Banff Avenue is lined up with the mountain making it a popular photograph in many visitor albums. Despite its proximity to town, this is one of the few mountains I have actually experienced a grizzly encounter.

Getting There- The Trans-Canada Highway dissects Banff National Park east to west as you come in from Calgary. Take the second Banff town exit and turn right towards the Norquay Ski Resort. Climb the Norquay Ski area access road for 6 km until it dead ends into a parking lot on your left. There is no parking restriction for this lot.

Red Tape- You will be required to purchase a national park pass as you enter the park. This pass is good for all four national parks. If you plan many visits to Canadian National Parks within one year, you should purchase an annual pass. There are no permit requirements to climb in Banff National Park, but all camping is regulated. There is also a backcountry permit required if you plan on spending a night in the backcountry versus the town campsites. This can be obtained via the parks website which is included in the camping section below. Park headquarters are located in Banff and you will drive through the manned kiosks as you enter the park.

This is active grizzly country, therefore, you should always have bear spray on your person. We had a grizzly fatality in Canmore, June, 2005 and another 2005 attack at Lake Minnewanka not far from Cascade Mountain. A grizzly approached my vehicle when I descended Cascade Mountain to the parking area. The Norquay Ski Resort summer caretaker had advised me of his presence and it was an ironic case of being in the wilderness all day and finding a grizzly back at the parking lot. I advise checking with Parks Canada for any area and/or trail closures.

When To Climb- As with most scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. I climbed Cascade Mountain in June and the route still had considerable snow at the higher elevations. There are no published ski mountaineering routes up Cascade Mountain.

Camping- You can go on line at Banff National Park to pick your camp site and obtain your camping permit. The closest camping is back in the town site of Banff. You will also be required to obtain your backcountry permit, if you are going to use a backcountry site, which is separate, but can be obtained simultaneously.

Mountain Conditions- The National Park website has weather, wildlife reports, trail closures, etc. Outside of the parks web site, Canadian Avalanche Association is also useful, particularly for winter travel. Canadian Alpine Accident Reports is also extremely relevant. There are 24 accident reports relating specifically to climbing Cascade Mountain, surprisingly quite a few of them relate to the scrambling route, including fatalities, therefore, caution is advised.

Detailed route beta and photos for the scramble and ice climbs can be found at DowClimbing.Com

Elevation (feet): 9,836
Elevation (meters): 2,998
Continent: North America
Country: Canada
Range/Region: Canadian Rockies
Province: Alberta
Latitude: 51.2278
Longitude: -115.562
Difficulty: Scramble
Year first climbed: 1897
First successful climber(s): Steward and Wilson
Nearest major airport: Calgary Airport
Convenient Center: Banff

Thanks to Justin Mckibbin for adding this peak.

Trip Reports

There are 22 trip reports for Cascade Mountain.

  • Log #15318 - by Andrew Simpson on Nov 05, 20043.00 stars
    Climbed Cascade and Rundle during 3 month stay in Banff during summer 2000. Found Cascade a bit easier than Rundle - less scree to slip on. Met a tri-athlete from Calgary on the ascent and climbed to...
  • Log #15320 - by shaun connor on Oct 28, 20043.00 stars
    ski the south face of cascade in the winter of 1999 with 2 mates from banff.6 hours climbing the shutes for a great ski down
  • Log #15321 - by Alexis Newell on Sep 23, 20043.00 stars
    This was a family affair, but just above treeline I looked back and had lost my dad and sister, so only my mother and I made it up. The view from the top was spectacular! The hardest part, besides...
  • Log #15322 - by E. B. on Sep 14, 20043.00 stars
    Capped this icon with a friend. Started early (7:00 am). Including breaks (at the amphitheater, below the false summit, and at the true summit) to take on food, fluids and to enjoy the scenery --...
  • Log #15323 - by James Bruce on Sep 06, 20043.00 stars
    An awesome view at the summit makes the long trek up well worth it. Sticking to the ridge up to the first peak is an easier hike. We however were led off route by a well travelled trail and had to...
  • Log #15324 - by Mark Imbach on Aug 16, 20043.00 stars
    Left Calgary Friday afternoon with no thoughts of climbing the mountain but then decided that night to do so Saturday. However I had my little dog,Shitsu/Bejoing, me and couldn't leave him in the car...
  • Log #15325 - by Marc Gagnon on Aug 12, 20043.00 stars
    It was the first mountain I've never climb before and you can't imagine what you can see on the top! I was sit on the highest rock and I was like a god... It's beautiful! But a long ride, 11 hours...
  • Log #15326 - by Marie Pier Desilets on Aug 11, 20043.00 stars
    The ascension was easier then I tought but we took 5,5 hours so I could say we took our time. On the way down we got lost after the false summit. We went down for one hour before we realizes we were...
  • Log #15327 - by Catherine Raymond on Aug 09, 20043.00 stars
    Great great hike although a little bit longer than expected. Fog in the morning was gone by the afternoon. Met 7 other hikers on that day, 5 of them and us made it to the summit.
  • Log #15328 - by Rene Boisselle on Nov 29, 20033.00 stars
    Did this new route with the late J.P. Cadot. This was a very nice and enjoyable rock climb. Start between the two proeminent buttress seeing from Banff, get to the ridge, follow it to the last steep...
  • Log #15329 - by Ron Muckosy on Nov 24, 20033.00 stars
    The climb is very long but well worth the effort. From the summit you have an amazing view of Banff and beyond to the prairies. But my problem was enjoying it for too long, as I finally began my...
  • Log #15330 - by Craig W on Nov 09, 20033.00 stars
    Great views of downtown Banff from the summit. The hike up to the Ampitheatre is a slog and so is the first part of the ridge. But it is a cool peak.
  • Log #15331 - by Bill Sutton on Aug 31, 20033.00 stars
    Very smokey on this day. We are glad to have done such a landmark peak around the Banff area but would not recommend this one for the amount of effort required.
  • Log #15332 - by Tim L. Helmer on Jan 06, 20033.00 stars
    The second attempt was successful, but about half way up I experienced some dizziness and a heart palpitation. This was my first adrenalin rush of the season, and not the last. I sat down, drank...
  • Log #15333 - by Craig Knelsen on Feb 19, 20023.00 stars
    Originally hiked to the Cascade ampitheatre on August 3, 1993. It would be 1994 before I would start scrambling. On August 1, 1997 the morning was warm and sunny. By the time I skirted around the...
  • Log #15334 - by Bruce Dunbar on Feb 15, 20023.00 stars
    Cascade mountain ranks up there as one of my favorites. Once above the initial long walk through the forest it is an interesting scramble the rest of the way up rewarded by a great view of Lake...
  • Log #15335 - by Van Belliveau on Feb 02, 20023.00 stars
    Great day, lots of people enroute to summit
  • Log #15336 - by Geoff Ruttan on Feb 01, 20023.00 stars
    Cascade is a mountain of varying degrees of satisfaction that I'm sure people will disagree on. The scramble starts off with a 7 km hike threw the trees up into Cascade Amphitheatre then up onto a...
  • Log #15337 - by Justin Mckibbin on Sep 21, 20003.00 stars
    We climbed Cascade Mountain early in the year, there was heaps of snow and it was even considered impassable. When we got to the false summit the snow level increased to almost 2 metres. The views...
  • Log #19085 - by Dow Williams on Feb 14, 20063.00 stars
    Took my time and went in from Norquay with wife, dog and horse. We followed the trails to the Cascade Amphitheater (5500'-7000'). We had a picnic amongst the remains of a devoured goat. They...
  • Log #21450 - by Gyula Péch on Sep 29, 20083.00 stars
    Rt #1 is a hike most of the way to a short scramble just under the summit. #4 requires a short climb in snow filled gully under the final tower, and easy grade climb up through the exit rocks. Rt #3...
  • Log #21421 - by Gary on Sep 07, 20083.00 stars
    Straight-foward hike to treeline; easy to find the ascent trail leaving the Cascade Amphitheatre trail. Got diverted a bit too far to the right on ascent to First Peak due to errant cairns; best...