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What is the Highest Point on the Trans-Canada Highway?

There has been some recent debate over what is the highest point on the Trans-Canada Highway.  This is often the result of local tour guides and shuttle drivers making comments that are taken out of context by tourists, who then post their misunderstanding on their travel blog as if it was “fact”.

Chart of highest five points

Highest Point of TCH #1 in Canada is Kicking Horse Pass

Highest Point of TCH #1 in Canada is Kicking Horse Pass

There are five points in the running:

Scott Lake Hill

View west of Scott Lake Hill toward Mount YamnuskaSeveral CalgaryBanff shuttles and limousines have been touting this as the highest point (wrongly) for years. This hill is about 37 km west of city limits (and 70 km east of Banff), and is the high point before the highway descends westbound into the Bow River valley lands of the Stoney First Nation. This hill rises 1240 (or 1244m by some) above sea level. There is a rest stop on the westbound side, where you can stop and take a picture of the sign, and the view from this point. Scott Lake Hill is correctly the highest point east of the Rockies

Check out this point on the Calgary-Lake Louise segment itinerary

Kicking Horse Pass

Continental Divide at Kicking Horse PassAs the Trans-Canada (and coincidentally & originally, the Canadian Pacific Railroad) climb up the eastern slope of the Rockies, they follow the Bow River to Lake Louise, and then the highway turns sharply west. When you pass the “Welcome to Beautiful BC” sign, you are already in British Columbia. Those going eastbound will pass the “Welcome to Sunny Alberta” sign a few hundred metres to the east. This pass is 1627m, and there is a National Historic Site monument at the border marking the high point.

The drop eastbound to the town of Lake Louise is gentle, falling only about 80 metres (to 1547m), and 240 metres to Banff (1387 metres). However, the drop westbound to the town of Field is a steep 380 metres (to 1247 metres), and to Golden, in the Columbia River valley is 827 metres (to 800 metres). Keep in mind, that the towns to the west of this pass are much, much closer to the Pacific Ocean than Lake Louise is to the Atlantic Ocean. The highway’s route west follows the original path of the CPR, which turned out to be too steep for safe railroads, and necessitated the construction of the Spiral Tunnels.

Directly north of the high point is Mount Bosworth (2509m) and to the south is Mount Whyte (2899m). To the southwest of the pass are Cathedral Mountain (3128m) and Mount Stephen (3131m), and to the northwest of the pass are Mount Ogden (2672m), Mount Field (32627m), and Mount Burgess (2540m). To the west of the Kicking Horse Pass is the mountain recreation community of Golden.

Lake Louise – Revelstoke itinerary

Yoho Park Bridge, Golden

Rock Cut & Runaway Lane just before the Park Bridge over Kicking Horse River
The Yoho Park Bridge is an amazing structure, built recently as part of the BC Ministry of Highway’s process of “twinning” the Trans-Canada from Kamloops to the Alberta border, and improves a significant stretch between Golden and Field, which lies in beautiful Yoho National Park. This section of the highway takes traffic down the hill from the high point, through an immense rock cut, across the beautiful curved 405 metre long Park Bridge high above the Kicking Horse River, before a steep descent to the Kicking Horse Visitor Centre, where travelers can stop and look at the view up the river, followed by another bridge over the Kicking Horse River and the CPR train tracks before the last few miles into Golden.
Rock Cut & Runaway Lane just before the Park Bridge over Kicking Horse River
The high point at Park Bridge (at 1137 metres) is east of the Truck Rest Stop, where westbound trucks are required to check their brakes, and in winter to put chains on tires. There is an eastbound truck rest stop, where those trucks can remove chains, and travelers in cars can stop and look back at the bridge. There is a Runaway Truck Lane on the right side for trucks experiencing a brake failure on the way down, just before the massive rock cut.

The rock cut is 90 metres from the top down to the road surface, and interestingly, the bridge is 90 metres above the Kicking Horse River, supported by massive concrete pillars.

Travellers will have a great view from either the Kicking Horse Rest Stop  just west of the Yoho Bridge (best accessed by westbound travellers) with views uphill to the bridge and rock cut, or from the Truck unchaining station just past the rock cut (only accessible by eastbound travellers) which has views down to the Kicking Horse River toward the bridge.

Lake Louise – Revelstoke itinerary

 

Rogers Pass

Snowsheds along the Trans-Canada Highway

The pass (in the middle of  Glacier National Park) is named for Major A.B. Rogers, the Engineer-in-Chief for the Canadian Pacific Railroad, who discovered the pass through the mountains that now bears his name. When the railway was built, it has numerous “snow sheds” to protect the track from known avalanche hazards. The railway also built the elegant Glacier House hotel atop the pass. In 1916, the new Connaught Tunnel took trains underneath the pass, increasing both the speed and safety of trains. Unfortunately, it isolated the Glacier House hotel. In the 1990s the CPR double-tracked the railway with a second (and less steep sloped) Connaught Tunnel which enables trains in both directions to travel swiftly below Rogers Pass regardless of weather.

In the 1960s, the construction of the Trans-Canada Highway used much of the original railbed, and built new concrete-reinforced snowsheds to protect the highway. In the wintertime, though, the highway may often be closed either for avalanches, or for preventative shelling, where a special brigade of the Canadian military shoots howitzers with special shells to start small avalanches before snow accumulates to cause larger, more dangerous ones.

The two dozen mountain peaks around Rogers Pass rise to elevations of up to two kilometres above the level of the highway (Mount Sir Donald to the South rises to 3284m (10,774 ft), and Mount Bonney to the Northwest rises to 3100 metres (10,200 feet),  and many have year-round glaciers from years of accumulated winter snowfalls. To the west of Glacier National Park is Mount Revelstoke National Park and the city of Revelstoke

Revelstoke -Lake Louise itinerary

Rockies-Rogers Pass-Visitor Centre-sliver
Rockies-Rogers Pass-Visitor Centre-sliver

Coquihalla Pass

View north from Coquihalla PassThe Coquihalla Highway was built in the 1980s to speed traffic from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland into the Interior of BC, heading north-east from Hope to bypass the already-congested Trans Canada #1 along the Fraser River, to created a fast, twinned route to Kamloops. To minimize disruption of the high-value ranching industry in the area, the highways was routed along the eastern slope overlooking the valley, and provides travelers many magnificent views along the way.

Because of the elevation and the winter snowfalls the highway passes through the Great Bear Snowshed (980 m) only 42 km north of Hope, as is climbs to the Coquihalla Pass, which marks the dividing point between the Coquihalla River valley to the south and Boston Bar Creek valley to the north. Drivers northbound hit the summit of Coquihalla Pass (1244 m) at 50 km (southbound travelers at 154 km), and is roughly at the location of the former toll plaza.

Hope – Kamloops (Coquihalla) itinerary

So, what is the highest point of the Trans-Canada Highway?

The Kicking Horse Pass is the highest point, at 1627 metres above sea level, and is higher than all the other contenders: Rogers Pass, Coquihalla Pass Summit, Park Bridge Hill and Scott Lake Hill.



Trans-Canada Highway Website Features:

Trans-Canada Highway High Point High Point

Trans-Canada Highway Mountains Pass
Mountain Pass

Crowsnest  Highway (#3) Highest Points

See the highest points along the Crowsnest (southern) route of the Trans-Canada.