Mount Ward is a somewhat inconspicuous mountain located just north of the Crowsnest Pass in southwestern Alberta. It is part of the High Rock Range, which marks both the Continental Divide and the Alberta/British Columbia border. It lies to the west of Allison Creek Valley and just south of Racehorse Pass. The scramble up Mount Ward is a continuation of the hike up to Window Mountain Lake, which is a beautiful destination in itself. Although Mount Ward is often overlooked as an outing in the Crowsnest Pass area, it has the appeal of being a short, easy day for those looking to bag a summit and also having great views of the more popular objectives of Crowsnest Mountain, the Seven Sisters, and Window Mountain (complete with a view of the window). For those looking for more excitement, a ridge traverse to Allison Peak can be done from Mount Ward. While Mount Ward is simply an easy scramble up scree, Allison Peak is a difficult scramble deserving of more respect.
Mount Ward was named in 1917 after Captain Arthur Clitheroe Ward, who traveled with and served as the secretary for the British Boundary Commission. The British Boundary Commission’s mandate was to establish the exact placement of the international border between Canada and the United States from Lake of the Woods, Manitoba to the Continental Divide.
The trailhead for Mount Ward lies just off of Allison Creek Road, which is accessed by the #3 highway in the Crowsnest Pass of southern Alberta. If you are coming from the west, the Allison Creek Road turnoff is 9.6km east of the Alberta/British Columbia border. Coming from the east, the Allison Creek Road turnoff is 14 km west of the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre. Once you have turned north onto Allison Creek Road set your tripmeter to zero. In Scrambles of the Canadian Rockies
, Alan Kane says the turnoff is at the 16.8 km mark. On both the drive in and the drive out, my tripmeter said 16.2km, but it could have been inaccurate. There are two other ways to know which is the correct turnoff to the left. One is that the proper turnoff is directly across the road from the 14km sign
. Secondly, once you have taken the turnoff, you will shortly come across a sign describing the fire that had occurred in the Window Mountain Valley.
This is a picture of the correct turnoff for Window Mountain Lake and Mount Ward:
Window Mountain Lake Road
The road to Window Mountain Lake and Mount Ward quickly becomes more rugged and only high clearance vehicles would be able to make it all the way to the trailhead. There are a few spots to park along the way once you have reached your vehicle’s limits.
The road is only about 3km long, so even with an additional hike to get to the trailhead, it still makes for a comfortable day out. Ignore any roads breaking off to the left. The trailhead begins at the end of the road and carries on straight ahead from there.
RouteTopo Map: Tornado Mountain 82 G/15
Ridge Walk to the Summit
The scramble up Mount Ward is an easy one and will take from 3-6 hours return, depending on both the speed of your group and where you parked. The total elevation gain is 625m (2050 ft.), of which 210m (690 ft.) is gained by the time you reach Window Mountain Lake.
Once you are off the road, the trail wastes no time in gaining elevation on its way to Window Mountain Lake. After surmounting a ridge, you will pass a small drainage pond on your left and be at the lake shortly after. Window Mountain Lake is a great destination in itself and you may see people fishing for cutthroat trout there. Mount Ward is just south of the lake.
Follow the lake around its right hand shore to get to the obvious gully which marks the beginning of the scramble up Mount Ward. (As you near the far end of the lake, avoid any animal trails leading into alder and thick brush. The trail will become more faint and will eventually lead to some nasty bushwhacking to get out into the open scree. Voice of experience speaking.) A fairly worn trail leads you up the gully once past the lake. Follow this until you reach the moraines and can see the steep scree slope which will lead you up to the saddle between Mount Ward and Allison Peak. There are some faint trails leading up the scree, however, they are not necessary. My advice would be to aim towards the middle of the saddle to avoid some of the steepness of aiming more to the left. There is nothing technical about the route, however the scree has very little give to it and seems like prime territory for spraining an ankle. Once you reach the saddle, turn left and follow the ridge to the summit. A cairn marks a subpeak just a short distance before the true summit. Once you have had your fill of the views, return the same way.
View South from the Summit
Mount Ward is not within any park boundaries. There is no red tape involved.
When to Climb
The warm chinook winds of the region may have the mountain ready earlier than other areas of the Rockies. The season may start as early as June.
Window Mountain Lake in the Fall
Camping and Lodging
The opportunities for camping in this area are too numerous to mention. Here is a link for some of the campsite possibilities in the Crowsnest Pass.
Crowsnest Pass Campgrounds
There is camping at Allison Lake and Chinook Lake. Just follow the signs on the Allison Creek Road when you turn off the number 3 highway toward the trailhead.
There also is ample accommodations to be found in the communities of the Crowsnest Pass – Bellevue, Hillcrest, Frank, Blairmore, and Coleman.
Windy conditions are virtually a constant in the Crowsnest Pass area.
Because Crowsnest Pass is not within the boundaries of any park, there is not currently a contact for trail conditions, etc. Feel free to send me a private message and I may be able to contact people I know who live in the vicinity of Crowsnest Mountain to see if they have any knowledge of the current conditions.
Standard day hike gear
Proper hiking footwear
This is not the type of mountain where you'd usually see helmets, however, it's at your own risk on any scree slope.
Road Watch in the Pass
A project giving you the opportunity to report sightings of wildlife crossing Highway 3. The goal of this project is to collect, analyze and communicate information concerning crossing locations of wildlife along the highway.
Crowsnest Pass Weather
Crowsnest Pass Campgrounds
Story of the International Boundary Survey (1872-1876) on Peakfinder