Although Mount Wilcox is a modest peak in terms of elevation compared to many of the peaks that surround it, its convenient location, straightforward route, and spectacular summit views make it a true gem of a scramble. Mount Wilcox is predominantly climbed by its southeast ridge, a moderate scramble with mild exposure near the summit. It is possible to climb Mount Wilcox from its north ridge as well. In Scrambles of the Canadian Rockies
, Alan Kane gives Mount Wilcox the enticing endorsement of offering “possibly the best view in the entire Rockies for the energy expended.”
Summiting Mount Wilcox takes between 3 ½ to 6 hours round trip and the elevation gain is 900 meters or approximately 2950 feet.
Topo Map: 83 C/3 Columbia Icefield
See the “Getting There” section of the main page
for information on getting to the trailheads.
If you are beginning from the Icefields Centre, follow the faint trails which begin directly behind the Centre up through a fairly distinct gully in the rock band above to access the southeast ridge. The trail proceeds up the mountain just below the ridge crest on the east side (opposite the Icefields Centre).
The far more common (and scenic) approach is from the Wilcox campground. From the campground turnoff, a sign clearly marks the trailhead for the Wilcox Pass Trail. The trail leads upwards through the trees and eventually into the wide-open beauty of Wilcox Pass. Shortly after emerging from the trees, you will see Mount Wilcox in the distance. Wilcox Pass Trail is a very easy trail to follow and can be quite populated on any given day. As you near Mount Wilcox, make your way over to the mountain from the trail and up the scree slope to a fairly distinct trail which proceeds along just below the ridge crest.
Once you are on the trail below the ridge, simply follow it to the summit. It is relatively easy to follow and cairns are often seen along the way. However, there are two possible complications on the way to the summit. The first of which is if you find yourself looking down on the highway to your left and are confronted with a steep wall in front of you. If you find yourself in this situation, simply backtrack and veer around to the right of where you were. A second complication exists at around the 2750m elevation mark. There is a fork in the trail here and the one that leads to the right is not the one to take
. It leads to a steep and loose gully below the summits. Take the left fork instead. As you near the summit, stay on paths which keep you near to the ridge crest (thank you gimpilator
for this feedback about this junction in the trail). Try to detour around any snow patches that may be on the mountain. There is little in the way of exposure or hands on scrambling until you near the summit. If you are not used to exposure, the slope down the east side of the mountain can be intimidating in a few sections.
A subpeak exists just before the true summit with its summit cairn. From the subpeak, the summit looks somewhat intimidating. However, carry on and you will see that although there is a slightly exposed ridge to cross to get to the summit, it is no worse than what you have seen to get this far. Once you are across this ridge, it is a simple walk up a path to the summit.
From the time you leave the trees until you reach the summit, the views are breathtaking and make the Mount Wilcox scramble a highly enjoyable day out.
Return the same way for your descent.
Standard day hike gear
Proper hiking footwear