It’s impossible to choose just one “Instagrammable” hike in Alberta, but Table Mountain definitely checks all of the boxes.
If you’re like me and frequently browse hiking photos of our beautiful province to add to your own hiking bucket list, you’ve undoubtedly come across the classic “Table Mountain” photo. A tiny person, captured for scale, is photographed standing at the top of a massive “tabletop” cliff, with gorgeous views beyond the cliff edge that stretch on as far as the eye can see.
Locals have known about this stunning hike for years, but it’s just recently coming out of “hidden gem” territory.
This is (of course) partly thanks to Instagram, and but it’s also due to the fact that Castle only recently received provincial park status in early 2017. With additional tourist infrastructure comes additional visitors to the park.
However, there is no shortage of beauty to immerse yourself in, with plenty of campgrounds to stay in as you explore the area.
Continue reading my guide to hiking Table Mountain in Castle Provincial Park!
Where is the Table Mountain Trailhead located?
Table Mountain is located in Castle Provincial Park, which is a 25-minute drive west of Pincher Creek in southern Alberta.
From the hamlet of Beaver Mines, you will take Highway 774 south for about 20 km. The Table Mountain trailhead is located just down the road from the Beaver Mines Lake Day Use Area, in a parking area on your right-hand side (see map). Once you park, you will see a sign for the trailhead.
Note: There are no bathrooms here, so use the outhouse in the day-use area before you depart.
Table Mountain Hiking Elevation Profile & Length
The Table Mountain hike is a moderately-trafficked, out-and-back trail that is rated as “difficult” by Alberta Parks. The best time to hike Table Mountain is between May until October. Dogs are allowed on this trail but must be kept on a leash.
Elevation Gain: 832m
Distance: 10km round-trip (to the first ridge viewpoint)
Difficulty: Trail rating systems rate this trail as Difficult, and mention it has a “scramble” section. However, don’t let that deter you. There are some short sections when you are approaching the ridge that may require you to use your hands, but I would only consider this “light” scrambling that is completely unexposed.
Time: Allow 3-5 hours to complete this hike. We were up to the ridge in just over an hour (with plenty of photo breaks), and down in perhaps an hour, but allow yourself extra time in case you want to explore the other viewpoints once you get to the top of the ridge.
What’s It Like to Hike Table Mountain?
There are three sections to this hike – the forested trail (the first 20-30 minutes or so), the rocky section that follows the creek, and then the switchback trail that works its way from the end of the creek bed up to the ridge. Once you leave the forested area you won’t have shade for the remainder of the hike, so come prepared with a hat, sunscreen, and water. (You can also fill up your water bottles at the creek.)
The hiking is steep and steady for the majority of this trail, but the views are beautiful. You’ll have plenty of spots to stop and take in the views. About 15 or so minutes into the hike, after a steep climb through the woods, there is a bench on the top of a hill overlooking your first view of the mountains. See how far you’ve come already, catch your breath, and carry on!
There are red markers along the entire trail to guide you, so be sure to keep an eye out for them to make sure you are going the right way, especially after the creek bed section. Once you reach the end of the creek bed, you’ll notice the trail splits into two. This leaves you with two options: one “trail” that goes straight up a very steep scree section, and another trail that veers to the left and takes you up a bunch of switchbacks to the top of the ridge. Stick to the left and choose the switchbacks; do NOT take the scree trail (unless you’re a glutton for punishment looking for the most difficult route up…. straight up).
Once you reach the top, follow the ridge to check out the multiple gorgeous viewpoints. You can also continue on to another ridge viewpoint if you’d like (on your right side) which is a bit of a different view. Enjoy a snack up at the top (if you can stand the wind!) before making your careful descent back down.
Table Mountain / Castle Provincial Park Weather and Conditions:
Like most areas in the Canadian Rockies, the weather at Castle Provincial Park can (and does) change extremely quickly, with sunshine one minute and rain (or even snow) the next. Come prepared and pack your backpack accordingly!
Additionally, this area is very well-known for its crazy high winds, and for good reason. Definitely be aware of this and come prepared (we had our hiking and camera gear blown over multiple times while at the top of the ridge by intense wind gusts).
Mosquitoes are also notoriously bad in the wooded areas of this park, so use that bug spray! Use sunscreen, too – the majority of this hike is completely uncovered (once you’re out of the forested areas)
Ticks in Alberta
Yes, it’s true – there are ticks in Alberta. Gross? Yup.
Ticks can be especially bad in this area in spring and early summer (usually, May to late June). However, you have a better chance of avoiding being bitten by a tick by taking a few precautions, like staying on the hiking trail, avoiding touching trees/branches and long grass, covering your head, tucking your pants into long socks, and spraying yourself with bug spray containing Deet.
I have a blog post all about ticks in Alberta and how to avoid them (and the Lyme Disease they can carry), as well as a blog post dedicated to the best tick-repellant clothing. Check them out to learn how to keep yourself tick-free on your hiking adventures!
Looking for some recommendations on hiking gear that will last? Here are a few of my recommendations:
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND:
- Osprey Packs Ariel AG 55L Backpack – Women’s
- Mammut Trion Guide 45+7L Backpack
- Deuter Aircontact Lite SL 45+10L Backpack – Women’s
- Gregory Maven 45L Backpack – Women’s
- Arc’teryx Bora AR 50L Backpack – Men’s
- The North Face Cobra 60L Backpack
- Gregory Stout 45L Backpack
- Osprey Packs Eja 48L Backpack – Women’s
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND:
- KEEN Oakridge Hiking Shoe – Women’s
- Merrell Moab FST 2 Hiking Shoe – Women’s
- Merrell Chameleon 7 Stretch Waterproof Hiking Shoe – Men’s
- KEEN Targhee ll Waterproof Hiking Shoe – Men’s
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND:
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND:
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Questions or comments about hiking in Caslte Provincial Park? Some other topics you’d like me to cover? I’d love to hear from you, just leave me a comment below!