Highwood Pass: Through Route to Longview; Gate to Gate to Gate; Kananaskis (North Gate) to Summit; Longview to Summit; South Gate to Summit…the options are endless

Highwood Summit – June 6, 2019 Is that snow??!!

Note: As of June 3, 2021 the road surface is not as good as in past years. For the North gate to Summit route there are sections of rough pavement as well as a few herds of mountain sheep to contend with on your swift descent. Our current recommendation, is to do this route from the South gate to the Summit as the road is in better condition. On Sunday, June 12, 2021 there were cyclists reporting that it was snowing at the summit.

Through Route to Longview – Ride Statistics

Ride Difficulty Rating: Expert , also an expert level of logistics and planning required!!

Distance: 98.9 km…darn, just shy of a metric century ride

Estimated time: 5 hours based on cycling speed of 20 km/hr, but you might be quite a bit faster because there is quite a long descent on this route.

Elevation Gain: 785 m gain, 1255 m loss

Maximum Elevation: 2,206 m

Maximum Grade: 7.0 % uphill at 16.4 km (just before you reach the Highwood Summit, then 4.9 % downhill at 23 km.

Use caution as there are several Texas gates to cross over on Longview side.

Best Parking Option:

Park where Hwy 40 ends at the Kananaskis Lakes Trail (Peter Lougheed Provincial Park) turn off. As this is a through route, you will shuttle a car down to Longview and park in town. We recommend dropping a car off in Longview the night before, otherwise it will make for a long day of riding and shuffling cars.

Note: as of June 1, 2021 you will need to purchase a Kananaskis Conservation Pass in order to park here.

Gate to Gate to Gate (or Summit X 2) – Ride Statistics

Ride Difficulty Rating: Expert – this ride earns you bragging rights!

Distance: 109.7 km

Estimated time: 5 hours based on a 20 km/hr speed

Elevation Gain: 1,526 m

Maximum Elevation: 2,206 m

Grades: 7.1 % just before you reach the summit the first time, and of course 7.1% downhill just after you summit the second time.

Use caution as there are several Texas gates on the Longview side!

Points of Interest:

Highwood Pass Summit at the 16.9 km mark. If you proceed just past the summit, there are washrooms and picnic tables.

Bonus! Summit a second time on the return trip.

Amenities: There are several picnic stops along the way that have resting spots and pit toilets.

Park at either the north gate or south gate. The Ride with GPS map shows the route from the north Kananaskis gate.

Note: as of June 1, 2021 you will need to purchase a Kananaskis Conservation Pass in order to park at the north or south gate.

Kananaskis (North Gate) to Summit – Ride Statistics

Ride Difficulty Rating: Beginner

Distance: 33.9 km

Estimated time: 1.75 hours based on cycling speed of 20 km/hr, but you might be quite a bit faster because there is quick descent on this route.

Elevation Gain: 622 m

Maximum Grade: 7.1 % uphill just before you reach the summit and of course 7.1% downhill on you quick return trip.

Maximum Elevation: 2,206 m

Points of Interest/Amenities:

Highwood Pass Summit at the 16.9 km mark. If you proceed just past the summit, there are washrooms and picnic tables.

Best Parking Option:

Park where Hwy 40 ends at the Kananaskis Lakes Trail turn off. Pull well off to the side of the road.

Note: as of June 1, 2021 you will need to purchase a Kananaskis Conservation Pass in order to park here.

Longview to Summit – Ride Statistics

Ride Difficulty Rating: Expert

Distance: 162.2 km

Estimated time: 8 hours based on cycling speed of 20 km/hr, but you might be quite a bit faster because there is quite a long descent on this route. Nothing like putting in an honest 8 hour day!

Elevation Gain: 1,436 m

Maximum Grade: 5.8 % uphill at about km 76, and 5.0 % downhill at km 87

Use caution as there are several Texas gates on the Longview side!

Points of Interest:

As you depart Longview you will be treated with a long slow elevation gain through some lovely ranch country. You will be sharing the road with motor vehicle traffic until you get to the south gates at Highwood House Junction (Dec-June).

The Highwood Pass summit is your destination. Washrooms are just before you reach the summit and there are many pullouts and picnic stops along the way once you get past the south gates.

Best Parking Option:

Park in the town of Longview. Do not block any driveways.

Recommendation: Stop at the gas station in Longview (Fas Gas or Esso) or at the Longview Jerky Shop and pick up some of the famous Longview Beef Jerky. Highly recommended for the long ride ahead!

South Gate to Summit – Ride Statistics

This is our preferred route!!!!

Ride Difficulty Rating: Intermediate

Distance: 75.8 km

Estimated time: 3.5 hours based on cycling speed of 20 km/hr, but you might be quite a bit faster because there is quite a long descent on this route.

Maximum Elevation: 2,206 m

Grades: Uphill 5.8 % at 32.8 km, 5.0% downhill at 43.7 km

Use caution as there are several Texas gates!

Points of Interest:

On your ascent you will be surrounded by beautiful mountain views. The summit is your destination.

Best Parking Option:

Drive to Longview, turn west on to Hwy 541. Proceed to the south gates which is at the Highwood House Junction. Park at the south gates. Pull off the road.

Amenities: there are no washrooms at the parking spot, but within the first 10 minutes or so of the route there are pit toilets at the first picnic spot that you will encounter.

Note: as of June 1, 2021 you will need to purchase a Kananaskis Conservation Pass in order to park here.

What to expect from this ride

Hwy 40 from the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park to Highwood House Junction is closed to motor vehicle traffic from Dec 1 – June 14th most years. This creates perfect early season road cycling opportunities along one of the most beautiful roads in Alberta. Highwood Pass is the highest paved pass in Canada..so a unique opportunity to get to this elevation on a road bike in Canada.

For updated details on Hwy 40 road closure, refer to the Annual Road Closure – Kananaskis.

First thing to mention on this epic ride is that you should remember that you are in the Rocky Mountains which means the possibility for rapidly changing weather conditions as you gain elevation. We did this ride on a beautiful, hot spring day in 2018. At the summit there was a strong cold wind. Without additional clothing to layer on for the descent made for a very uncomfortable ride…frozen hands and feet are not fun on a road bike. Although this makes a great early season ride because of the road closure until June, it also means that you may encounter snow on the road which might prevent you from reaching the summit. Don’t be disappointed, and come back a week later and conditions will have changed. Remember this is a closed road in the winter so is not plowed.

The second thing of importance is that this ride is along a paved mountain road. So the shoulder surface is different than the road surface. Because most cyclist ride here when the road is closed, you will ride on the road which is a rough, chip seal surface. This is fine on the ascent, but we find on the long descent this can make for quite a bit of handle bar vibration. As of June 3, 2021 we also noticed that the shoulder has become very rough.

A third item are the many Texas gates on the Longview side on these routes. We suggest dismounting and walking across, but have seen many a cyclist just ride across as though they are not even there.

Through Route: This ride takes a commitment to either shuttle cars from Kananaskis and Longview or two cycling groups, one that starts at Kananaskis and one that starts from Longview. Meet up in the middle and exchange car keys!!!

Anyone who has done the Highwood Pass has their preferred route and direction. Karen and I prefer coming at the pass from the Longview side, as we prefer a longer climb, slightly gentler grades and fewer cyclists. You will be cycling more in the sunshine from the south gate than from the Kananaskis gate approach. The Longview to Summit, South Gate to Summit out and back rides are the ones to try if you prefer to approach from the south…or if you live in south Calgary.

The North Gate (Kananaskis) to Summit ride is an out and back that we have seen all levels of cyclist..from small children, to e-bike riders to the most experienced road cyclist. The beauty of this ride is that there is room for everyone when the road is closed. Just take your time and you will make it to the summit. We have noticed that the pavement surface on this route is not as good as coming from the south as of June, 2021. Hopefully the province will use some of the funds they are collecting from the Kananaskis Pass to improve this road.

New in 2021 is the need to purchase a Kananaskis Conservation Pass in order to park at the North and South gates.

We have not done this ride when Hwy 40 is open to traffic but some cyclists we met on our recent trip up indicated that they would not recommend cycling this route when it is open to traffic as the condition of the shoulders is poor. Having said that, if you are an experienced cyclist there are many cyclists that do this route after the road is open. You will likely need to pull into the traffic land on the descent. Ride safe and see our safety tips.

Highwood Pass coming up from the south gate….May 27, 2017. We had to turn back a few km’s shy of the summit on this day but it just gave us incentive to come back and try again a week later. Are those rumble strips in the shoulder?
From the south gate: There are often wildlife viewings on the Highwood Pass routes.
From the north gate; you can see many cyclists prefer this route.

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