Vintage Photos of Mountain Passes Across Alberta

According to National Geographic, a pass can be defined as, “a gap, or break, in high, rugged terrain such as a mountain ridge.” Typically, passes are formed when a glacier or flowing water erode the terrain between areas of high relief. Mountain ranges across the world over have presented imposing challenges to exploration and travel, meaning passes have been utilized throughout history as the easiest route through difficult, steep terrain. Although “easy” is a relative term when you consider the challenges faced by the Canadian Pacific Railway as they attempted to navigate Kicking Horse Pass and Rogers Pass in their quest to reach the west coast. What follows is a collection of historical photographs featuring some prominent mountain passes from across Alberta. Some of these passes featured below have been used for centuries as different Indigenous groups navigated the landscape. Many of these passes can be found along the Continental Divide, which is also the modern day border between British Columbia and Alberta.

Mountain Passes
North-West Mounted Police camp on trail to summit of Laurier Pass, Alberta, 1905
Mountain Passes
George W. Pocaterra’s camp on Kananaskis Pass, Alberta, 1911
Mountain Passes
Pack horses outfit on Cataract Pass, Alberta, 1916
Mountain Passes
View of South Kootenay Pass, Waterton Park, Alberta, 1883-1884
Mountain Passes
Carl Rungius, wildlife artist, sketching bear, Jonas Pass, Alberta, 1910
Mountain Passes
Louise Rungius at Boulder Pass, Rocky Mountains, n.d.
Mountain Passes
Camp at Bow Pass, Rocky Mountains, Alberta, 1893-1897
Spray Lake on trail to White Man Pass, Alberta, 1902
D.B. Dowling’s pack horse team crossing Pipestone Pass Summit, Alberta, 1907
Pack horses and trail riders on Deception Pass, Banff National Park, Alberta, 1920s
Pack outfit, Highwood Pass area, Alberta, 1911
Yellowhead Pass, Athabasca valley, Alberta, 1913
Vermilion Pass, Alberta, 1930s
The Committee’s Punch Bowl, summit of Athabasca Pass, Alberta, 1930s
Men and pack-horses in camp, Howse Pass, Alberta, 1902
Summit of Kicking Horse Pass near Canadian Pacific Railway line, Alberta/British Columbia, 1880s
Lee’s Lake, Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, 1890-1894
The climbers’ hut on top of Abbot Pass on the continental divide between Alberta and British Columbia, 1921-1937
Looking towards Simpson Pass, on the continental divide between Alberta and British Columbia, 1921-1937

For related posts, please view the following collections of historical photos: Abbot Pass, Rogers Pass, Mountain Climbing, and The Alpine Club of Canada. If you’re interested in learning more about some mountain-specific careers, check out these profiles from my Wild Jobs series: Mountaineering Guide, Park Warden, and Hiking Outfitter.

Palliser Pass [and lake], Alberta, 1920s

The photos above were collected from the Glenbow Archives. If you’re interested, additional information can be found for each photograph on the Glenbow website by searching the identification number that is printed on the photo. There is also the option to purchase a high resolution copy. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from across Alberta. We’d love to know what you think on social media.

About Tyler Dixon 217 Articles
Tyler is originally from Saskatchewan, and yes he cheers for the Roughriders, but don’t hold that against him as Calgary has been his home for the past eight years. He is a teacher working at a wilderness- based treatment program for youth working to overcome addiction. Tyler is also a volunteer with the GOT Parks initiative, which aims at reconnecting Canada’s youth with our national, provincial, and territorial parks. During his time away from work, Tyler enjoys outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and snowboarding, team sports, travelling, photography, spending time with good friends, and being at home with his wife and German Shepherd, Rome.