Distance: 8 km
Elevation gain: 925 mView mapDownload GPS track
We've decided to call this hike Prairie Mountain 2.0 given it's remarkable similarity to Prairie Mountain. The similarities? Both ascents are south-facing and snow free very early in the season, both are unrelentingly steep and dusty, and both are quite crowded. The key differences? Mt. Lady MacDonald is ~200 m higher, overlooks Canmore, and is surrounded by more spectacular mountains. It's also incredibly noisy - trains, helicopters, and cars are heard all the way to the top.
The trail starts in Canmore in a parking lot on the right hand side of Elk Run Boulevard immediately after it crosses Cougar Creek. The trail follows Cougar Creek upstream, initially on pavement, for about 800 m. Stay right at the first of two signed forks, then turn left onto the second fork, checking the map at the fork to be sure you are heading up Mt. Lady MacDonald. From here the trail is obvious and well maintained. While there are many branching trails, all are obviously minor and most are purposely blocked. The only spot that poses minor navigational difficulties is a rock field about 2/3 of the way up. Here, simply watch for muddied rocks polished by the heavy foot traffic in the area. Anytime you're not sure if you're on the trail, backtrack to the known trail and try again.
The trail is steep the entire way and for most people ends at a partially completed and abandoned teahouse, complete with helicopter landing pad. Both are getting old, so be careful if you choose to explore them, but they do make great places to have lunch. From here an obvious trail through scree proceeds to the summit of Mt. Lady MacDonald. We didn't head up as we're not the greatest scramblers, but anyone with scrambling experience likely wouldn't have a problem.