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North Buller Pass | Kananaskis|Smith-Dorrien/Spray Lakes Area

North Buller Pass | Kananaskis|Smith-Dorrien/Spray Lakes Area


North Buller Pass

This trail is beautiful!  The path begins at a wooden bridge directly across the road from the Buller Mountain Day Use Area.

North Buller Pass- Trail head sign

The first part of the trail ambles through a thick moss covered forest at a nice flat incline.  We were passed by three guys on mountain bikes heading out to tackle the intersecting Trans- Canada Trail.

North Buller Pass-Fairytale Forest

At about 1 Km in to the hike, we reached Buller Creek Bridge and a couple of trail markers. Directly on the other side of the bridge is where the path heads up the mountain toward North & South Buller Pass.

North Buller Pass- Buller Creek Bridge

Looking back the way we came.

(Don’t do what we did and walk along the Trans-Canada Trail for an extra  0.7  Km…only to realize we had missed the trail completely and had to back track.  As one hiker we met on the path teased “Oh yeah, map reading 101?” LOL, I know right? That is 1.4 KM I will never get back!)

North Buller Pass-Trans Canada Trail Marker

Looking up the Trans-Canada Trail. Great path for mountain bikes!

From the trail intersection at the Buller creek bridge, the trail continues on a steady, constant climb from the bottom up to the top, with a hand-full of nicely placed reprieves.  It is not relentless, just continuous!  However, if you keep going… Mother Nature just keeps giving!

North Buller Pass-Trail

This trail meanders through an old burnt area, continues to amble through fairytale forests (as one previous hiker described it), into alpine forests, past beautiful blue plunge pools with accompanying waterfalls, all surrounded by stunning mountain views. The higher you climb the more there is to marvel at!

North Buller Pass-Burned area

North Buller Pass-Waterfall

After enjoying the impressive little waterfall and its beautiful cascade pool our path continued along the mountain creek through an inviting alpine forest until coming to the fourth and final log bridge.

North Buller Pass-4th and Final Log Bridge

looking back toward the waterfall

Now we knew that this particular bridge was incredibly important thanks to reading about this hike over at .  We knew at this point we had to make a choice, North Pass or South Pass?

North Buller Pass- Marker indicating North & South

Because both Shane and I enjoy the route less travelled we opted for the North route.

North Buller Pass-4th and Final Log Bridge

We were surprised to see the path was quite well travelled and easy to follow.  Keeping Mount Buller on our right, we continued to follow the crisp mountain creek up the valley.   We stopped a few times along the path when we heard definite sounds of rushing water, and witnessed a number of smaller falls with a set of triple cascade pools.

North Buller Pass-North Buller creek 2nd waterfall

Then our path headed deeper into a section of moss laden ground and beautiful thick trees.  When I walked over the exposed roots of these big forest nuggets the ground beneath me sounded hollow, making me wonder what it looked like directly below me.

North Buller Pass-Thick trees

Eventually, we met up with the creek once again and rock hopped to the other side.  Following the creek bed we could again hear the sound of rushing water.  We climbed up a small hill and were graced with the sight of yet another beautiful mountain waterfall.

North Buller Pass 3rd waterfall on Buller Creek

Eventually as we continued up the valley the water disappeared under a large stone debris pile not to be seen again until our return.

North Buller Pass-Large scree piles

Higher and higher we climbed, flabbergasted by the stunning vistas and this valley’s extraordinary beauty.  Everywhere we looked there was something new and impressive to gander at.  Steep mountain peaks decorated with scree skirts, dotted with patches of glacial snow.

North Buller Pass-Scree with snow still poking out of it

Naturally formed caves with paths leading up to them that looked like the perfect home for a Mountain Lion. Even the dominating rock pinnacles that spiraled above the scree fields seemed to loom over our heads like silent sentinels guarding their pristine valley.

North Buller Pass-Towering rock formations

North Buller Pass-Towering rock formations

In a distant scree field we caught sight of something brown and fuzzy sunning itself on a rock.  We set off to investigate.  It turned out to be a Hoary Marmot with his lovely wife enjoying the sunny afternoon and listening to their busy Pika neighbors squeak about approaching danger.

North Buller Pass Hoary Marmot

This rodent hunting actually worked out in our favor as it brought us right to the base of the pass, where we stopped for a quick lunch before making the big push to the top of the hog’s back.

At this point I was starting to worry I wouldn’t make it to the top.  It’s was dang steep! All I could invasion as we began our painfully slow assent was …”Round is a shape! And I am the perfect jelly-donut kind of shape that could trip and fall, only to roll to my doom at the bottom of a scree field!”

North Buller Pass-Climbing up to the top

With much coaching and encouraging words from Shane I finally hit the top!!  To my surprise as I made the last 10 feet scramble to the top I came face to face with two other hikers.  The boys had just poked their heads over the edge to see what their descent down the North Pass was going to look like. (They had caught me cursing like a sailor! *Blush*.)

North Buller Pass-Climbing up to the top

Halfway up looking down at the path we just climbed!

We chatted briefly about where they had just come from and what lovely things we would see if we choose to continue over the pass.  Then they wish us good luck on our journey, and I was forced to watch in horror as they bailed over the steep bank I had just climbed!  All I could see was the boys running and scree surfing through the dust!  Somehow they both made it down unharmed! They waved and then made quick work of valley bottom. (crazy boys!)

Shane and I spent some time soaking in the amazing views on the other side, as well as the grandeur of the valley we had just walked through. It had taken us 4 ½ hours to hike the 7.2 Km (one way) to the summit of North Buller Pass. That is when we decided we would return home the way we had come and save the loop hike to South Buller Pass for another time. (Maybe, when we are faster walkers!)

North Buller Pass-View of the North valley

The hardest part of my decent was down from the hog’s back.  I know the boys had just shown me it could be done at top speed but I decided a slow and steady approach would be better for me.  Basically I slide down the hill on my butt, like a toddler learning to do stairs.

North Buller Pass-Going down

However, after that, our walk in the woods was very relaxing and enjoyable.  We continued to enjoy the scenery in reverse and were surprised that the trail sustained the same steady flow it had on the way up.  (This time downwards.) Not relentless just steady!

North Buller Pass- following the creek home

It was such a rewarding hike, full of everything you wish for in a mountain.  We are definitely making plans to do the South Buller Pass sometime in our future!

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View of Moraine lakes deep blue colour from the rock pile

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