Best time to visit Alberta

Alberta Highway 40

One of the greatest and wildest drives in Canada

Best time: mid-June–November

Alberta Highway 40
Alberta Highway 40
Alberta Highway 40
Alberta Highway 40
Alberta Highway 40

Alberta Highway #40 or Kananaskis Trail is a scenic 734-km (456-mi) road through western Alberta, Canada. The road consists of segmented sections and connects Coleman in Crowsnest Pass Municipality in the south to Grande Prairie in the north. The Highwood Pass is the highest point of the highway with an elevation of 7,238 ft (2,206 m). Highway 40 is mostly paved with some gravel sections.

When does Highway 40 in Alberta open

Alberta Highway 40 is always closed for the winter from December to mid-June. The opening date is June 15. However, mind that the road can be also closed temporarily due to wildlife sightings or certain weather conditions. So check with the Kananaskis Country advisory.

Scenic views along the trail

A 100-mi (160-km) trip along Kananaskis Trail from the Trans Canada Highway to Longview will take you through a kaleidoscope of landscapes: from broad prairies to the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies. Highwood Pass, the highest paved pass in the country, provides lots of opportunities for hiking within the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Enjoy scenic views of the Misty Range with the peaks of Mount Rae, Mount Arethusa, and the Elbow Pass.

Alberta Highway 40 gravel sections

A 63-mi (102-km) gravel section of Alberta Highway 40 runs from the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass to Highway 541. Another gravel section runs for 182 mi (293 km) through the Rocky Mountains Forest. It is also called Forestry Trunk Road (Highway 734). You can get there from Calgary going west on Highway 1 to Highway 40 or Highway 1A to the junction with Forestry Trunk Road east of Ghost Lake. The scenic highway is a great way to discover Canada. Visitors will be rewarded with abundant wildlife, such as grizzly bears, elk, moose, mountain goats, and coyotes.

Hiking trails along Highway 40

Kananaskis Country offers some of the most impressive hiking trails that are also not so crowded. Rawson Lake and Sarrail Ridge Trail in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park is a great option since it's easily accessible from Highway 40 via a small detour by Highway 742. The trailhead is located on the south side of Upper Kananaskis Lake, and the route is just 4.8 miles (7.8 km) both ways. Chester Lake, located north-west of Mount Chester in Spray Valley Provincial Park, is another spectacular hiking destination in the area. Ptarmigan Cirque and Highwood Pass, just off Hwy 40, is a must-see in Kananaskis Country due to its scenic mountain views and wildflowers. The 2.2-mi (3.5-km) mountaneous route starts in the Highwood Pass. It's most lovely in the fall, with golden hues all around.

Where to stay

Along Highway 40, you can find many designated campsites with various degrees of service from none to hot water showers and electrical plugs. For those who prefer more comfy accommodation, the towns and cities are within an hour or two from the highway with plenty of hotels to choose from.

The Highway 40 road trip would take about two days to complete by car. It's also possible to ride a bike, but keep in mind that the gravel sections of the road are rather challenging. Additionally, trucks passing by are a frequent hazard.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit Alberta Highway 40?

The ideal time to discover Alberta Highway 40 and its breathtaking landscapes is from mid-June until November. During the winter months, the highway is not accessible to motorists but is available for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Careful consideration of the weather is vital before planning a trip. Show more

What are the gravel sections of Alberta Highway 40?

The two gravel sections of Alberta Highway 40 are unpaved stretches that can pose a challenge for low clearance vehicles. The first section connects the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass to Highway 541, covering 102 km. The second section, Forestry Trunk Road (Highway 734), passes through the Rocky Mountains Forest and spans 293 km. Show more

Where is Chester Lake and how to get there?

Chester Lake can be found in Spray Valley Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada, to the northwest of Mount Chester. Access to the lake involves a journey west of Calgary for approximately one hour via Trans-Canada Highway, then south on Highway 40. The last few kilometers to the trailhead are by a gravel road. This moderate hike covers eight miles (12.8 km) and takes around four hours to complete. Show more

What are the camping options near Highway 40?

Camping is available in Kananaskis Country, which Highway 40 passes through. Designated campsites with diversified services ranging from basic to hot water showers and electrical plugs are present in the park. Visitors can select from several campsite options to park their RV or set up their tent. Several hotels present in nearby towns or cities such as Banff, Calgary, or Canmore can provide alternative accommodation. Show more

What wildlife can be seen along Alberta Highway 40?

Travelling on Alberta Highway 40 provides various opportunities to encounter the region's wildlife, including grizzly bears, elk, mountain goats, moose, and coyotes. Tourists must exercise caution and maintain a safe distance from these animals. Visitors should also ensure that their garbage and food are put out of sight and smell of the wildlife to avoid attracting them. It is recommended to follow the instructions and advice of park rangers. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin