Turtle Mountain North Summit

June 3, 2017. *Update as of May 24, 2020*

  • Region: Crowsnest Pass. Traditional Territory of the Blackfoot, Tsuu T’ina, and Ktunaxa First Nations
  • Total distance: 6 km round-trip
  • Total ascent: 824 m
  • Elevation of objective: 2105 m
  • Total time: 3h 15m
UPDATE: In the 3 years since my last visit, there have been some changes, both in how I record information in this blog and in the trail itself. So, here’s some up-to-date info.
To access the trailhead, drive to Blairmore on Hwy 3 and turn into the town at the 20 ave bridge (the first access point if you’re coming from the east). Follow 20 Ave around a bend then turn left on 133 St. Follow this to the T-intersection with 15 Ave and turn left again. Follow 15 Ave as it turns right, then left and watch for a dirt road departing from the right which is marked with a sign for the Turtle Mountain trailhead. A short distance along this road is a clearing with ample parking space. Ask Google Maps to drop a pin here and it’ll mark the dirt road: 49.602534, -114.430675
It looks like some effort has been put into maintaining the trail since I was last here. The summit register on the north summit has been removed at some point in the last 3 years. There’s just a little bit of re-bar sticking up at the North Summit, nothing else.
I hadn’t done this hike before, so I went with the info in the 3rd (newest) edition of Kane’s Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies. His description is a little out of date, since it mentions power lines at the parking area and descending to the trailhead. There are currently no power lines there, which was briefly confusing. I knew I had the right trailhead, though, because of the painted yellow rocks marking the start. The route is pretty easy to follow, since there’s an evident trail most of the way, and frequent orange ribbons tied on to trees to mark the way. I’ll put the pics below that show the way down to the trailhead.
The weather was excellent – sunny with a few clouds, temperatures in the 20s. There was wind, which seemed to pick up through the day. For most of the hike, though, it was a non-issue.
Getting to the north summit doesn’t involve too much actual scrambling, but traversing to the south (true) summit does. I went part of the way across the saddle between the summits, where there is plenty of scrambling to be found. I was by myself, though, and it was getting more windy by that time so I concluded my hike at that point.
This is a great hike/scramble in terms of immediate rewards. You park at the base of the mountain and immediately have pleasant views of Crowsnest Mountain and the Seven Sisters. As you ascend, the big peaks along the continental divide come into view. Once you reach the top of the ridge, you get awe-inspiring views of the famous Frank Slide rock field.
Click on the pictures in the gallery to access the full sized images in a new tab.
north summit overview
Route overview – up is south
From the parking area, follow the tire-tracks and descend to the bottom of the hill. The tracks start to go back up towards a fence, and there’s a trail that departs diagonally, that’s the one you want.
In short order, you’ll see a trail with yellow-painted rocks starting to ascend.
Early on, there’s plenty of terrain like this. Steep, but not a challenging scramble by any means.
Within a few minutes, you get views like this. Mount Tecumseh on the left, then some more distant peaks I don’t know, then Deadman Pass Peak, then the distinctive Crossness Mountain and Seven Sisters.
There are lots of cues to keep you on course. Some nice people have fixed frequent trail markers to trees.
Once you gain the ridge, you have ascended to the point that you can see beyond the hills in the foreground and the bigger peaks of the continental divide come into view.
One you’re on the ridge, you can see route to the north summit.
Shortly before the summit, you start to get glimpses over the ridge. This is the view looking south across Turtle Mountain’s east face, the origin of the massive Frank Slide.
This is just below the north summit, looking towards the south summit.
Believe it or not, you can see Chief Mountain from up here – it’s the narrow peak far in the distance.
There’s a nice register at the north summit. The south (true) summit is on the right.
Summit panorama looking east. One night in 1903, all that rock in the debris field fell from up here and destroyed the town of Frank.
Summit panorama looking west.
Me on the northern summit.
The way to the true summit. I went part way across before calling it a day.


9 thoughts on “Turtle Mountain North Summit

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