July 19, 2017

2017 was a devastating year for forest fires in my neighbouring province of British Columbia. There was over 1,300 hundred fires, more than 1.2 million hectares burned, and a state of emergency was declared.

As the prevailing winds are from the west, Alberta was engulfed in smoke for most of the hiking season. I remember being very happy heading up Windtower this day, because there was an inversion – the smoke cleared the higher we went.


From the Smith Dorian highway, hike up through the forest to the West Wind Pass. Many people will make this their destination. From here, turn right and begin traversing across to the base of Windtower. This is the most interesting part of the scramble as you climb up several small rock bands. Once past these, you come to the wide open face that is an unending field of scree to the summit.

Trail Head

From the Smith Dorian highway, pull off to the East side of the highway. If you are here on a dry day, be prepared for your vehicle to be completely encrusted in road dust by the time you get back.

TrailHead Map

There is no official parking lot for this popular trail. Pull off as far as you can, and hold your breath when a big truck goes barreling past. It is common courtesy to slow down when you pass people and bikes on this gravel road.

The trail starts on the East side of the highway. It heads straight up into the forest, and begins to gain elevation almost immediately. There are some trails near the highway that join in from the north and south. Ignore these and go straight up (east).

Wind Tower 1

The trail to the West Wind Pass is part of the Trans Canada Trail. You know you’re on the right trail when you see this sign. Stay on the forest trail until it breaks out at the Pass. 

Main Trail

The trail from the highway to West Wind Pass is very straight-forward – just keep going up. It is a bit boring, especially for kids, as the views are all behind you. This section of the trail is 2 km long.

The photos don’t do it justice, but there was a distinct layer of smoke from the forest fires that lifted the higher we got.

Wind Tower 2

Looking down onto the West Winds Pass trail. There are no views as you ascend, but it sure is impressive looking back towards Old Goat Mountain and Mount Nestor beyond.

As we approached the pass, there are several trails heading off to our right towards the base of Windtower mountain. Choose the biggest trail. It is 3 km from the turn-off to the summit of Wind Tower. If you go all the way to the Pass lookout, you must then backtrack to the turn-off. This of course adds a couple hundred meters.

Wind Tower 4

As I approached West Wind Pass (directly ahead), our objective came into view. Wind Tower definitely looks ominous from here. Good thing there is an easy way up the back.

This is the one area I had to pay attention as the trail would fade in and out. There are several small cairns along the way, and I used the eagle eyes of my daughters to ensure I didn’t miss any.

Wind Tower 5.5

Making our way around to the base of Wind Tower. The trail is great in spots, and sometimes disappears in the rubble. Look out for small cairns. The less this trail gets braided, the better for the fragile plants and the animals that need to eat them.

By far the best part of this trip is the rock bands on this section. My daughters were very happy to see these, and they brightened up what would otherwise by a bit of a drab hike.

Wind Tower 5

The rock bands are excellent fun, and break up the walk to the summit.

Once past all the fun rock walls, we faced the final part – the grand wide scree face of Wind Tower. This might sound and look like a slog, but it was actually a nice grade and quite enjoyable.

As the name suggests, it is VERY windy on Windtower. This means our legs and clothes were coated in the find dust kicked up as we moved through the scree.

At the summit, we dove behind the high semi-circle wind block that some amazing soul (THANK YOU!) built up there. My daughter bravely crawled out to the summit cairn to grab the summit register, and pull out the contents. She thought it was full of garbage, but it was really just bits of scrap paper that people used once the notebook was full.

Wind Tower 6

Thank goodness for the several rock shelters up here. We could actually enjoy our lunch huddled down behind them. Otherwise it would be a quick photos and a dash back down to the trees.

The views are stunning from up here, even on the smokey day that we had.

Wind Tower 7

Looking North – The Orphan is in the foreground, and the Three Sisters loom on the horizon.

When I hiked Wind Ridge in 2015, I remember being awed by the mountains towering above me, one of which is Windtower. It feels great being able to reverse the view, and look across at Wind Ridge!

Wind Tower 8

Looking North West – the full profile of Wind Ridge. Grotto Mountain is across the #1 highway in the background.

Wind Tower 11

Mount Lougheed is an impressive mountain from any angle, especially this one. Mount Sparrowhawk is beyond – which was my girls first summit when they were 8 years old.

I gave the girls a stern lecture about staying well back from the edge. It is straight down on three sides, and with the wind wanting to push you over, this was no time for horsing around.

Wind Tower 9

I get the willies just looking at this photo, but you can see by my shadow how far back I’m standing. I imagine the cornice build-up in the winter would be intense. Stay well back.

This doesn’t mean we didn’t have any fun though.

Wind Tower 10

My daughters playing in one of several ‘bunkers’ near the summit. I know there is a trend by some people to remove summit cairns and other man-made structures on mountain tops. I really wish people would STOP doing this. Humans are a part of the mountain environment, and a pile of rocks near a summit does absolutely zero damage to the environment where nothing grows and animals do not admire the view. If you want to pretend that you’ve visited some pristine area of the world, instead of a well-trod mountain trail, that’s on you. Just don’t ruin it for the rest of us.

Time to summit was 3 hours and 15 minutes. 970 m (3,200′) elevation gain, and about 5 km distance.

Windtower Return

We returned the way we came.

The only issue we found was making our way through the rock bands. Someone built a cairn on a lookout, where they had no doubt stopped to enjoy a lovely view. Unfortunately, this drew me further down than I wanted to be, and required a bit of work to get back onto the main trail.

Al’s Adventurers

I hope you found this trail report helpful, and you decide to give this route a try. Please join Al’s Adventures by following this blog, like this page, or you can go to my facebook page Al’s Adventurers and like my page.



Date:   July 19, 2017
Group:  Three (Alisen, and two daughters)
Distance:    10 km
Elevation:   969 m (3,200′)
Time:  5 hours 45 minutes (includes 1/2 hour lunch)

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Adventures, Hiking
3 comments on “Windtower
  1. marian7373 says:

    Hello, I like that you like nature, and I like nature trips, you are very beautiful, many kisses from Romania and much success

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