Climb your way through the historic routes of the Canadian Rockies

From the days of exploration to first ascents, the Canadian Rockies of Alberta hold a storied place in the  birth of Canada’s mountaineering community. Whether you’re looking for sport and trad rock climbing routes, bouldering, or simply want to stand on top of a mountain and take it all in, you’ll love climbing in Alberta, Canada. 

And don’t forget winter — when the days grow short and snow covers the landscape, Alberta’s mountain rivers, canyons and waterfalls give way to some of the best Ice Climbing in the world.

Get vertical

With established routes on crags and canyons in the lower valley and long multi-pitch aspects on the steep walls above, Canmore and the surrounding area has one of the highest concentrations of sport and traditional climbing routes in all of Canada. 

Further afield in Banff National Park, intermediate-advanced climbers will find all manner of classic routes, like the “back of the lake” walls located behind picture-perfect Lake Louise.

Climb sport and trad routes with photo-worthy views in every direction.
Find the perfect climb for any ability and style here in the Canadian Rockies

Spoiled for choice

It would take multiple lifetimes to climb everything here, but there’s nothing saying you can’t give it a go. With supportive locals and routes for all abilities, you wouldn’t be the first visitor to fall in love with these mountains and forget to leave. 

Difficulties range from family-friendly top-ropes to extremely technical routes like Fight Club the first 5.15 graded climb in the country. Here are a few popular options to get you started:

  • Wasootch D-Slab, 5.4-5.6 (Kananaskis)
  • Mother’s Day Buttress, 5.7 (Cascade Mountain)
  • House of Cards, 5.8-5.11b (Cougar Canyon)
  • Meathooks, 5.11a (Grassi Lakes)
  • Wicked Gravity, 5.11a (Back of the Lake)
  • Screams from the Balcony, 5.11b (Saddle Mountain)

Welcoming climbs

Alberta has plenty of beginner-intermediate areas for those who are just starting out or getting better. 

For an easy intro to Alberta climbing, try the Wasootch Slabs in Kananaskis, where you’re sure to find plenty of families and locals spending the warm summer evenings. Or, take a course with a guided outfitter like Yamnuska Mountain Adventures

Climb with a guide and experience the mountains up close and personal.
Far away shot of a rock climber of a flat mountain headwall with a mountain view.

Hit the gym

No matter your skill level, you’ll find plenty of indoor walls to challenge yourself at local facilities.

Calgary Climbing Centre has multiple locations throughout the city and their downtown location offers auto-belays for solo climbers. In Edmonton, check out Vertically Inclined — the city’s original climbing gym has been introducing people to the sport since 1996. And in the mountain town of Canmore, be sure to visit Elevation Place. In addition to a fully-equipped aquatic centre, the recreation facility features an impressive climbing wall.

Hone your skills at one of many indoor rock climbing gyms.
Tackle new heights on a Via Ferrata high above mountain valleys.

Climb the iron road

Via Ferratas, or “iron roads,” provide the experience of climbing without the technical requirements. Test your mettle in the high alpine with ladders, suspension bridges, and rope courses while you marvel at the vistas that surround you.

Mt Norquay Via Ferrata

Abraham Lake: Girth Hitch Guiding

Wide shot of a hiker at the top of a lightly snow covered mountain peak over looking the expansive mountain range view

Frequently asked questions

The mountainous areas around Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise have tons of options for sport and trad climbing.

For those looking for options further out, the Northern Rockies have great options in David Thompson Country or in Jasper National Park. 

Alberta features sport climbing routes from 5.5 to 5.14. These are mainly bolted routes on easily-accessed cliffs, the majority of which are in high-quality rock.

Many classic alpine routes are lower grade difficulties, but they require big days. Some of the limestone in the Rockies can be chossy (crumbly), making for a different, rewarding adventure for those used to granite walls. For this reason, we highly recommend hiring an ACMG-certified guide to get you safely to the summit.

Non-technical climbers can try the Via Ferrata at Mount Norquay or Abraham Lake. There are many hiking options that will get you to the summit of various mountains as well.

No permits needed, just your Park Pass for entrance into the park! If you need details about climbing routes and conditions, Visitor Services at Parks Canada is a great source of info.

If you’re new to the area or climbing in general, hiring a guide is strongly recommended.

You can find and hire a guide via the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG).

For route information, you can check out the Parks Canada site regarding information in the National Parks. Great printed resources are Sport Climbs in the Canadian Rockies by John Martin and Jon Jones, Bow Valley Sport by Derek Galloway or Bouldering in the Canadian Rockies by Marcus Norman.

The climbing season can begin as early as May when lower elevation cliffs begin to dry. Yamnuska, a popular climbing spot with multi-pitch climbs, is typically climbable from May to October.

2,440-metre (8,000-foot) peaks in the front ranges, while popular, are often locked away behind deep snow on approach routes until June.

Learn more about Alberta’s season and weather over on our Climate and Weather page. 

For sure! Alberta is home to climbing options for all abilities, including plenty of beginner and intermediate routes for sport and trad climbing.

If you’re less of a climber, but still want to see the top of some peaks, some of Alberta’s hiking routes for strong hikers might be perfect for you. Consider trails like Ha Ling Peak, near Canmore, which offers incredible mountain-top views without the need for ropes.

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