Hiking Guide to Mount Rundle’s Summit

When I arrived in Banff, in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Rundle fascinated me. In part because of its height and its unique shape, it is splendid! I was attracted to it and intimidated by it at the same time. I promised myself that before I left, I would climb it and reach its peak. And I kept my promise. Mount Rundle’s summit is a spectacular hike!

About Mount Rundle

Mount Rundle sits between the towns of Canmore and Banff in Alberta, Canada. It is so wide that you can reach one of the peaks via the EEOR (east end of Rundle) trail from Canmore or the main summit trail from Banff on the west side. The mountain spreads for 12 kilometres between the two towns, counting 18 summit points. It is one of the most recognizable mountains in Banff. It stands at an altitude of 2949 meters.

The mountain is popular and is among the most frequented by rocky mountain climbers. No matter which summit you decide to reach, whether from the east side in Canmore or from the west in Banff, it is imperative that you plan accordingly as this will be a challenging hike. Check out my Essential Hiking Gear for a list of the complete gear I have with me on a hike such as this.

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Hiking Guide to Mount Rundle Summit in Banff Alberta

Hike Mount Rundle on the EEOR Trail

  • distance: 5 kilometres
  • elevation gain: 870 meters
  • altitude: 2590 meters
  • estimated time: 4 hours

The East End of Rundle Trail is completely east of the mountain in Canmore. The trailhead is just past Whitemans Pond on Three Sisters Highway, which turns into the Smith Dorrien Trail. A vehicle park pass can be purchased on the Alberta website. If the parking is full, the alternative would be to park at the Ha Ling trailhead parking.

The trail wanders through a forested area for a while. As you get higher, you leave the trees behind to walk on a rocky trail. The views are spectacular throughout the climb.

The scramble near the top will be the most challenging but also the most rewarding.  The descent by the same route will also be challenging. Appropriate footwear and hiking poles are highly recommended. I find hiking poles help you from slipping on the rocky, steep slope.

Hike Mount Rundle on the Main Summit Trail

  • distance: 11 kilometres
  • elevation gain: 1600 meters
  • altitude: 2950 meters
  • estimated time: 9 hours

In his book Scrambles in the Rockies, Alan Kane describes the scramble as moderately easy.

Trail Access

You can park at the Bow Falls day-use area, which offers a magnificent view of the falls. From the parking lot, you cross the bridge and follow the trail along the Fairmont Banff Spring Golf Course.

On the Trail

The trail eventually plunges into the forest, and you leave the golfers behind. The first hour is on a gently sloping path. After a few kilometres, you will arrive at the first of several switchbacks that go up the mountain’s side.

Following the twelve switchbacks (and yes, there were twelve, I counted!), the trail flattens a bit to give your legs a rest. You quickly reach the wooded gullies that you have to cross. The second gully called the Central Gully, is the end of the maintained path and the start of the climb.

trail wanders in the forest
Trail in forest
Central Gully on the way to Mount Rundle's main summit
Central Gully
Climbing on Mount Rundle towards main summit
End of maintained trail and start of climb

The Scramble

The trail climbs steeply on the other side of this gully, still under the shelter of trees. With big strides and, I suggest, a few breaks, you will continue the climb up until you reach the treeline. Here, the trees give way to rocks, and the ground is almost bare of vegetation.

The climb continues on the Dragon’s Back. This part of the trail is a narrow ridge between two gullies, the Central Gully on the left and another one to the right.

Drangon's Back near the main summit of Mount Rundle

Although the Dragon’s Back is a few feet wide, the cliffs on either side force hikers to be extra careful, and the path narrows as you get closer to the top. The ground is covered with loose scree, which makes the steep slope slippery.

Make sure to turn around once in a while and admire the surrounding mountains from the Dragon’s Back.

Once past the Dragon’s Back comes the scrambling to the summit ridge. The trail follows the ridge for about a hundred meters to reach the main summit.

From above, you can see Mount Temple, Castle Mountain and the tip of Assiniboine Mountain, as well as Banff on one side and Canmore on the other. The Bow Valley is visible at the foot of this magnificent mountain. Sitting on a rock near its cliffs, the view is spectacular!

View of the valley and the town of Canmore from the main summit of Mount Rundle
View of the opposite mountain range and the valley from the Dragon's Back

For more details about summiting Mount Rundle, consult the Scrambler’s Guide. You can also print it or get a copy at the Banff visitor center to bring along with you on the trail. I referred to it more than once while climbing this magnificent mountain.

FAQ about the Hike to Mount Rundle’s Main Summit

How long is the hike up Rundle?

The hike to the main summit is 11 kilometres return.

Is Mount Rundle a hard hike?

The trail to the summit is long and challenging. Hikers need to be physically fit and have the appropriate hiking gear to be safe on the trail to the summit.

Can you climb Mount Rundle?

The summit can be reached through a hiking trail and a scramble. Appropriate hiking gear is necessary, but there is no need for climbing gear.

How long does it take to hike EEOR?

It takes approximately 4 hours to hike the East End of Rundle.

More Adventures in the Canadian Rockies

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.” -John Muir

On top of Mount Rundle
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