For those looking for a more remote experience in the Canadian Rockies, look no further than Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. Established in 1922, the park sits nestled between Kootenay Provincial Park and Banff National Park, and Mount Assiniboine dominates the skyline. Beckoning anyone with a line of sight to see the iconic “Matterhorn of the Rockies,” there is actually no road access into the park at all! The only way to access the park is by horse, foot, skis, or helicopter, and it is worth every ounce of energy to get there in person.
This adventure builds off the Lake Magog Hike that describes in detail the route from Mount Shark to Assiniboine Pass and out via Wonder Pass. Hikers wanting a more varied hike out and who have the time and a little gas left in the tank can opt for adding Marvel Pass and another valley to the list of views.
While descending the appropriately named Wonder Pass, you have a great view of the climb and open forested Marvel Pass ahead. The low point between Marvel Peak (2,712 meters) on your left and Mount Gloria (2,888 meters) on your right is what is convincing you to tackle a few extra kilometers on the trek back to the Mount Shark parking area. The trail forks about 80% of the way down to Marvel Lake, and at that point you need to decide to turn left or press on down to the lake shore and up the other side. The ascent to Marvel Pass is steep and mostly forested, opening up into gorgeous meadows full of unnamed lakes and wildflowers. Keep an eye out for wildlife, as these alpine lakes make excellent opportunities for viewing many of the park’s ungulates.
The pass itself is unsigned, but it will be marked by a sign indicating you are leaving Banff National Park. Keep an eye out for trails to the left to find your way to the larger lakes that mark the pass itself and the way down toward Owl Lake and the Bryant Creek Trail. All around you will be surrounded by Mount Gloria, Aurora Mountain, Mount Byng, and Marvel Peak. Follow the trail down toward Owl Lake, which may be overgrown and difficult to navigate depending on the season. There will be several openings in the trees and meadows to view the surrounding mountains and the valley you are descending. Once you make your way along the western flank of Owl Lake through several large boulder fields, make sure to keep checking behind you for great views of Mount Byng (2,940 meters)
Keep descending the Owl Lake Trail toward the creek crossing to regain the Bryant Creek Trail, turn left, and keep following signs to Mount Shark. This addition is an excellent example of the trails that crisscross the various valleys and canyons in the Canadian Rockies, adding many possible varied loops and adventures. Mount Assiniboine won’t be soon forgotten, and it continues to draw back anyone who gets to see it in person.