The hike to Piper Pass in August is one of the premier hikes in the rockies and definitely one of our favourites. It's not a difficult hike in terms of elevation gain (619m done mostly in 2 steep bursts) but it is a long one. Using the traditional route, the hike is close to 25km and can take up to 9 hours. Our guide book describes a shorter approach which cuts off about 5km and makes a big difference to the feet after a long day. The down side is that as is usual with short cuts in the mountains, it involves some route finding as well as some bush whacking. The hike starts with a steep climb to Elbow Lake (headwaters of the Elbow River) and follows the river through a broad valley. If you continued on the trail, you'd end up at the Little Elbow trails near Bragg Creek. We turned off the trail, rock hopped across the Elbow River, cut cross country through a pine forest, rock hopped Piper Creek and then intersected with the main Piper Pass trail (sounds a lot easier than it really was!). Soon after, we came out of the forest into sub-alpine meadows filled with an incredible display of most of the wildflowers that are typically found in the rockies. We had timed our hike well and we were there at the peak of the flower bloom, it was spectacular. After stopping to smell the flowers (and eat lunch), we continued up the trail to the alpine. Lots of flowers there as well but of the small, hardy variety. As we entered the alpine we encountered the only other people we'd seen on the hike, 2 people who were on their way down from the pass. More good timing, they had the pass to themselves and then it was our turn! As we started up the last section of the trail, we passed a herd of about 20 Big Horn Sheep scattered around the upper end of the valley. We likely kept them amused as they watched us struggle up the last steep section through loose shale, a real grunt! But the view from the top is spectacular and well worth the effort. We hung around and enjoyed the view before heading back down the trail in the beautiful late afternoon light. The creek and river crossings were a bit more interesting on the way back as the water levels had risen with the daytime temperatures. But we made it across both with dry feet and arrived back at the car after close to 8 hours on the trail. Just in time to hit the deck of the Iron Goat in Canmore for a Hogaarten, dinner and a view of the nearly full moon over the Three Sisters!