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



Mountain Peaks north of Rogers Pass summit

There has some recent debate over what is the highest point on the Trans-Canada Highway. There is currently a Google reference that is incorrect "The highest point on the Trans Canada Highway 1643 meters (5390 feet) is near the Parks Bridge by Golden, BC."

Chart of highest five points



There are five points in the running:

Scott Lake Hill

View west of Scott Lake Hill toward Mount Yamnuska
Several Calgary-Banff 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 70km 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

Continenental Divide at Kicking Horse Pass
As 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)

Lake Louise - Revelstoke itinerary


Park Bridge, Golden

Rock Cut & Runaway Lane just before the Park Bridge over Kicking Horse River
The 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 signficant stretch beween 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.

Lake Louise - Revelstoke itinerary


Rogers Pass

Magnficent Mountains around Rogers Pass
This pass is inside Glacier National Park, between Golden and Revelstoke, was often though to be the highest point of the Trans-Canada, but at 1330metres is 297 metres lower than the Kicking Horse Pass. Not surprising since the Kicking Horse Pass is on the Continental Divide, where on one side water flows toward the Atlantic, and on the other it flows toward the Pacific.

Rogers Pass Monument, celebrating the opening of th Trans-Canada Highway at this point, in 1962
The mountains around the Rogers Pass are among the highest in this stretch of the Rockies (see below), rising over a mile over the highway, and get monstrous amounts of snow at their highest elevations. As moist Pacific air climbs to get over the mountains, pushed by the prevailing westerly winds, the temperatures drops (1 degree for every 100 metres) and water vapour freezes and turns into snow flakes. Because of the amount of snow, the avalanche danger here is very high in the wintertime, and even though the highway passes under several concrete snowsheds, the highway may be closed for avalanche control and cleanup.

The mountains surround the Rogers Pass are (in clockwise-order): to the north of the pass is Mount Sifton (2827m), to the northeast of the pass is Mount Tupper (2638m), to the southeast are Mount Macdonald (2864m) and Avalanche Mountain (2852m) and behind them is glacier-covered Mount Sir Donald (3270m), to the southwest is Mount Abbott (2501m) and behind it glacier-covered Mount Bonney (3027m), to the west are Fidelity Mountain (2492m), Begheera Mountain (2755m and to the northwest are Ursus Major Mountain (2675m), Ursus Minor Mountain (2728m), and Grizzly Mountain (2739m).

Lake Louise - Revelstoke itinerary


Coquihalla Pass

View north from Coquihalla Pass
The 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 tehother contenders: Rogers Pass, Coquhalla Pass Summit, Park Bridge Hill and Scott Lake Hill.



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