Vimy Peak (7805 ft / 2379 m) is located on the east side of Waterton Lakes National Park in the Canadian province of Alberta. Vimy is easy to identify as there are no mountains in front of it but only prairie. Just before entering the fee section of Waterton Lakes National Park, as one looks south, following the prairie to the mountains, Vimy stands out as the rocky mountain with bands of both red and white colors.
Vimy Peak sits at the north west end of Vimy Ridge. The ridge stretches for 1.8 miles (3 km) from the peak, and at its south east end it is slightly higher than the peak being 8202 ft (2500 m).
Vimys neighbors are Sofa Mountain to the west, Boswell Mountain to the south, the Waterton Lakes to the east, and the prairie to the north.
HistoryIn the past this mountain was known as both Sheep Mountain and Goat Mountain. In 1917 it was officially named in remembrance of the victory the Canadian Army enjoyed at Vimy Ridge in France during the First World War. Learn more about this WWI victory at cbc.com. Being such a proud moment in Canadian history it seems fitting that such a prominently located mountain reflex the name.
Vimy Peak is located in Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada. This Park is situated 270 km (162 miles) south of Calgary, Alberta, 43 km (27 miles) west of Cardston , Alberta , and about 80 km (48 miles) from the St. Mary entrance to Glacier National Park, Montana. When driving to Waterton Lakes National Park it can only be accessed from its eastern side.
From Calgary take Highway 2 south to Fort Macleod, then west on Highway 3 to Pincher Creek, then south again on Highway 6. The drive requires about three hours.
From Cardston take Highway 5 west, through the village of Mountain View. The drive is less than 45 minutes.
From Glacier National Park, Montana, take the Chief Mountain International Highway (closed in the winter). From the St. Mary entrance of GNP it is approximately a 1 hour drive. In the winter take Montana Highway 89 to Alberta Highway 2 to Cardston, then Highway 5 to Waterton.
Click here for a map.
Finding the trailhead
There are several different places to start this hike from. The most common is to begin at the Wishbone cycle trail along the Chief Mountain International Highway. When driving to the Park on Highway 5 watch for the Chief Mountain International Highway on the left just after you enter the park but before you arrive at the Park entrance booth. The trailhead is located less than 3/10 of a mile (0.5 km) along Chief Mountain International highway, and is clearly marked with a green sign, on the right (south) side of the road, indicating the Wishbone Cycle Trail. Walk (or bike) this trail for approximately 4 miles (6.5 km) where you will encounter the Vimy trail which is a steep trail up a valley and onto the mountain. Another 2.8 miles (4.8 km), from the junction, will get you to the peak.
Another idea is to drive into Waterton Town Site and canoe across the Middle Waterton Lake, then bushwhack to the Vimy trail mentioned above.
Still another idea is to catch a boat ride across the Upper Waterton Lake to the Crypt landing, then route find up the ridge, and from the ridge stroll to the peak.
Wishbone Trail RouteFor directions to the wishbone trailhead see Finding the trailhead in the Getting There section above.
Follow the relatively flat wishbone cycle trail south from Maskinonge lake parking lot for approximately 4 miles (6.5 km). The author suggests you use your mountain bike to cover this section of the trip, which is mostly a wide old fire road that takes you through aspen trees and grassland. You must cross the Belly river about 1/3 of the way into wishbone cycle trail; at times this river can 3 or 4 feet deep and quite swift. Grizzly bears are frequent in this less traveled section of the park, so be sure to use caution and make noise.
After 4 miles (6.5 km) you will notice a junction in the trail. The Vimy trail is the one on the left (east), and it is not open to bikes. If you are biking, leave your bike here. The Vimy trail will enter a valley, at times following a creek, and eventually it will lead you to the red rock of the mountain from which point you can scramble up to the peak. The bulk of the 3,608 ft (1100 m) elevation gain of this hike is done on the Vimy trail (not the Wishbone Trail).
The rewards of this approximately 7 mile (11+ km) each way hike are amazing views of where the prairies meet the mountains, and breathtaking views of Upper, Middle and Lower Waterton lakes as well as the company of the neighboring peaks (all about 8,000 ft above sea level).
CampingCamping is not allowed on Vimy, however there is an official park designated wilderness campsite along the wishbone trail, know as the Wishbone backcountry campsite. You should contact the park to make reservations for wilderness campsites.
Additionally Parks Canada operates four campgrounds in Waterton Lakes National Park. Click here for details.
The cycling trail, mentioned above, ends at the Wishbone backcountry campsite.
WeatherThe summers in the Waterton Lakes area are brief with some hot spells (high 35*C/94*F). Winters are long and relatively mild (high 10*C/50*F), with occasional warm spells caused by Chinook winds. This area is often one of Alberta 's warmest places in the winter, despite ample snow and temperatures that can occasionally drop as low as -40*C/-40*F.
Wind is a noticeable element of this area’s climate, and shouldn’t be ignored. Gusts of over 100 km/hr (60 mph) are common, but thankful they occur mostly in the fall and winter rather than the summer. Note that gusts of over 150 km/hr (90 mph) have frequently been recorded in the area.
This area receives Alberta 's highest average annual precipitation of 107 cm (42 inches) per year.
Red TapeOne must pay an entrance fee in order to get into Waterton Lakes Park. However, if you use the wishbone trail to access Vimy Peak, you will not need to enter the fee section of the park. As of October 11, 2007 the Canadian dollar daily rates were $6.90 per adult or $17.30 for a family/group. Click here for the most up to date rates.
Also note the park has no gas or groceries available in winter.
When traveling to Vimy from Glacier National Park in the US state of Montana one must be aware of the Canada Ports of Entry operating schedules. Chief Mountain port of entry is open seasonally from May through September; and Carway/Peigan port of entry is open year round from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.