Arethusa Cirque is an unofficial trail located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. The trail, located near Highwood Pass, has become more defined with the increase in hikers seeking out the stunning cirque that sits below Little Arethusa.

Arethusa Cirque
Photo Credit Karen Ashraff

Closed: December 1st-June 14th
Difficulty: Challenging
Distance: 5 km (3.1 mi) loop
Elevation: 274 m (898 ft)
Hike Highlights: Mountain Views, Cirque, Pond, Creek, Larch Trees
Facilities: None
Optional Gear: Carrier
TrailRider Rating: Challenging

Insider Tip

The unofficial trail can be challenging to find at times since there are a few intersecting trails. Luckily the trail has become more defined over the years. In the fall, the larch tree’s needles change colours and are absolutely stunning.

If you want to hunt for hikes with Larch trees in the fall check out these 6 beautiful larch hikes.

For over 45 hikes within the Banff, Canmore, Kananaskis and Calgary area, purchase the eBook or paperback book “Hikes for Families: A Guide to the Canadian Rockies”.

Hiking book for families

Arethusa Cirque, Alberta

Arethusa Cirque

Getting There

From the Trans Canada Highway AB-1 W take the 118 exit and turn onto Kananaskis Trail Highway AB-40 S towards Kananaskis. Drive down Kananaskis Trail Highway AB-40 S. The trailhead is roughly 1.3 km south of the Highwood Pass parking lot. Park on the left side of the road. The Parking is unmarked, and it is not uncommon to park in the small meadow on the side of Kananaskis Trail Highway AB-40 S.


From the meadow parking lot head towards the trees. There is one well used and clearly defined trail. There is also a small hiking sign at the trailhead. There is no outhouse.

Trail Experience

Arethusa Cirque Trail is an unofficial trail which means that no one maintains the trail. After travelling through the clear trail in the trees, you will come to a pond and a creek. Follow the trail along the creek to a set of small boulders.

Walk over the boulders and continue on.

There may also be a narrow creek crossing depending on the time of the year you are hiking the family friendly trail.

Arethusa Cirque
Photo Credit Karen Ashraff

Follow the trail as it continuously climbs towards the cirque. A cirque is a bowl-shaped depression in the side of a mountain formed by glaciers.

There is an obvious trail up and around that is a little steeper. This offers amazing views of the valley and eventually loops back down.

There are multiple trails within the area so be aware of your location and take note of landmarks.

Fortunately, due to the geography of the area, you can usually see the cirque and the general direction of the trail. Loop around before reaching the trail that heads back to the meadow parking lot.

Nearby Attractions

After your hike, head to the Peter Lougheed Discovery Centre to explore the interactive exhibit to learn about animals and plants in the area. Ptarmigan Cirque is another beautiful but challenging hike for families in the area. Highwood Meadows offers beautiful views and is an easy interpretive trail.

Want more hikes like this one?

PRE-ORDER the paperback book Hikes for Families: A Guide to the Canadian Rockies here.

Purchase (Ebook) Hikes for Families: A Guide to the Canadian Rockies here.

Hiking book for families

Karen Ashraff Off Road Discovery
Contributed by Karen Ashraff –
Arethusa Cirque
Arethusa Cirque, Kananaskis
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2 thoughts on “Arethusa Cirque, Alberta”

  1. Hello:

    I read your explanation on Arethusa cirque. Thank you. I only want to know names of peaks I viewed from the cirque. Maybe you know them well (with their photos). Thanks.

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