Mount Arethusa is part of the Misty Range located in the Highwood Pass region of Kananaskis Provincial Park which encompasses over 4,000 square kilometers of foothills and mountains bordering Banff National Park in the central Canadian Rockies. Mount Arethusa was officially named in 1917 after a WWI battleship, common naming for this region of Kananaskis. Mount Arethusa shares the Misty Range with Storm Mountain and Mount Rae, and sits directly east of the Elk Range consisting of Mount Pocaterra and Mount Tyrwhitt. The connecting ridge from Arethusa to Mount Rae has been unofficially named King Ridge.
The only published route up Mount Arethusa is the difficult scramble via the southeast ridge. I consider the published notes on this scramble to be grossly inadequate (read- I had to make two trips) and therefore will not reference the guide book on this page. As with all mountains in the Highwood Pass region, you get a 7000’+ start. In my opinion, this Highwood Pass area serves up the most scenic and accessible high alpine foliage in all of the Canadian Rockies.
Take the Kananaskis Trail (Highway 40) exit off of the Trans-Canada Highway between Calgary and Canmore. Drive approximately 45 minutes to Highwood Pass. Continue past the Highwood Pass Day Parking area for over one km and carefully pull off the road to the left onto a grassy unmarked vehicle path that leads back north to Arethusa’s active drainage (high creek-waterfalls). This is not an official trail head. You will start on animal trails. 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.
There are no permit requirements to enter, climb and/or park in Kananaskis Provincial Park. This is active grizzly country however. Take bear spray. As of July, 2005, we have current trail closures in this area of Kananaskis due to a mountain lion (protecting its kill) and grizzly with cubs (bluff charge). Therefore it is prudent to check recent notices posted on the bulletin board outside of park headquarters which you drive by on Highway 40 (Kananaskis Trail). 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 Arethusa in July and the ascent route was free of snow, but the alternate descent route was still chocked full of snow and ice. There are no published backcountry ski routes on Mount Arethusa, nor would I suspect this to be a mountain worth skiing, but the Arethusa Cirque might be and nearby Mount Rae’s north glacier is a backcountry ski objective.
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.
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.
""You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.""