With the hundreds of trails, scrambles, backpacking loops, and day hikes in the Canadian Rockies, it can sometimes be hard to pick the right trail for a group’s skill set and goals. For those interested in a two- to three-day backpacking loop with jaw-dropping views and a strenuous semi-technical ridge walk without any needed technical gear, Northover Ridge is the trip you’ve been waiting for. Located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in the heart of Kananaskis Country, Northover Ridge offers a host of side trip options to extend the base loop into three or four days given the extra time.
Beginning at Upper Kananaskis Lake, hike the loop in a clockwise direction to allow for a stay at Aster Lake and hit the ridge early in the morning before any summer weather builds into a surprise afternoon thunderstorm. On the way to Aster Lake, you can hike around Upper Kananaskis Lake either above or below, depending on whether you want to shorten the trip or see different sights by hiking below the lake on the way out and above the lake on the way back. Pass by hidden lake and begin the climb to Aster Lake. While climbing the canyon toward Aster, keep an eye out for fossils, as there are several exposed rock walls with easily visible shells and other interesting fossils. Visitors who camp at Aster Lake will enjoy amazing views, and the area has a vault toilet.
To begin the ridge route, traverse around either side of Aster Lake and cross the marshy area that feeds the lake. Find the low point in the opposite ridge and start climbing toward it. There is no official trail until you start working your way around Mount Northover, but the route-finding will be easy once you find it. Continue around the western flank of Mount Northover until you reach the steep climb to gain the ridge. Take a moment to take in the phenomenal views before beginning the ridge walk.
The ridge itself begins wide, and a snow field and Northover Glacier sit to your right just below the crest of the ridge. The ridge eventually narrows, so make sure you have trekking poles and take the proper precautions. People have died on this route in bad weather, so only attempt the technical portion if the weather is good and the conditions are right. Once the ridge ends, make your way down the scree slope to your right and follow the valley toward Three Isle Lake. This makes an excellent place to camp; you'll have another vault toilet and more great views in case you don’t want the trip to end just yet.
After passing Three Isle Lake there are still over 7 miles of hiking to go, so you’re not done yet. There will be a handful of great views and stairs to help with the descents. Follow Three Isle Creek back to Upper Kananaskis Lake; the trail will pop in and out of the forest and yield fantastic views above the main lake before going back into the forest, crossing the dam, and entering the parking lot to finish out the trip.