Kicking Horse Pass

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Kicking Horse Pass
Kicking Horse Pass.gif
1887 painting
Elevation1,627 m (5,338 ft)
Traversed byTrans-Canada Highway; Canadian Pacific Railway
LocationBanff National Park, Alberta / Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada
RangeCanadian Rockies
Coordinates51°27′10″N 116°17′00″W / 51.45278°N 116.28333°W / 51.45278; -116.28333Coordinates: 51°27′10″N 116°17′00″W / 51.45278°N 116.28333°W / 51.45278; -116.28333
Official nameKicking Horse Pass National Historic Site of Canada
Kicking Horse Pass is located in British Columbia
Kicking Horse Pass
Kicking Horse Pass in British Columbia

Kicking Horse Pass (el. 1627 m, 5339 ft) is a high mountain pass across the Continental Divide of the Americas of the Canadian Rockies on the Alberta/British Columbia border, and lying within Yoho and Banff national parks. A National Historic Site of Canada, the pass is of historical significance because the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was constructed between Lake Louise, Alberta and Field, British Columbia using this route in 1884, in preference to the originally planned route through the more northerly Yellowhead Pass.[1]

The pass was first explored by Europeans in 1858 by the Palliser Expedition led by Captain John Palliser. The pass and the adjacent Kicking Horse River were given their names after James Hector, a naturalist, geologist, and surgeon who was a member of the expedition, was kicked by his horse while exploring the region.[2][3]:136

The original route of the CPR between the summit of the pass near Wapta Lake and Field was known as "The Big Hill"; with a ruling gradient of 4.5 percent (1 in 23), it was the steepest stretch of main-line railroad in North America.

Due to frequent accidents and expensive helper engines associated with railroading in the pass, the CPR opened a pair of Spiral Tunnels in 1909 that replaced the direct route. Although these tunnels add several kilometres to the route, the ruling grade was reduced to a more manageable 2.2 percent (1 in 46). Accidents still occur, as was seen when a major train derailment in 2019 claimed the lives of three Canadian Pacific Railway employees.[4]

The Trans-Canada Highway was constructed through the pass in 1962 following essentially the original CPR route. It reaches its highest point at Kicking Horse Pass with an elevation of 1,643 metres (5,390 ft).[5]

The Golden Triangle cycling route passes through Kicking Horse Pass.[6]

Divide Creek, a creek that forks onto both sides of the Continental Divide, is located at Kicking Horse Pass.

Dave Broadfoot played The Honourable Member for Kicking Horse Pass in the CBC Television satirical series Royal Canadian Air Farce and in his personal standup routines.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kicking Horse Pass. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  2. ^ Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall, Canadian Geographic, Jan/Feb 2008, p. 24
  3. ^ Akrigg, G.P.V.; Akrigg, Helen B. (1986), British Columbia Place Names (3rd, 1997 ed.), Vancouver: UBC Press, ISBN 0-7748-0636-2
  4. ^ News, CBC (6 February 2019). "Fatal train derailment: A closer look at what happened that tragic day". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  5. ^ B.C. Trans-Canada Highway
  6. ^ "Bicycling the Golden Triangle". Canada Trails. Retrieved 29 December 2017.

External links[edit]