With a width of four km, Elk Pass is unusually broad, to the point that it is divided into two passes, East Elk Pass and West Elk Pass. The lower of the two, and the route followed by the hiking trail, is the western one.
Some have suggested that this was the route taken by John Palliser in 1858 rather than North Kananaskis Pass.
Regarding the naming of the pass, Part I (1917) of the Interprovincial Boundary Survey Report reads as follows: "It would seem likely that such a broad and obvious route as the Elk River Valley, across the continental divide to Kananaskis Lakes and northward to the Bow River Valley, must have been well known to the Indian tribes and to the fur traders of early days, but the pass does not seem to have received any special name. Even as late as Dr. Dawson's report of his 1884 explorations, when he crossed it, no name had been given and no name for it appears upon his 1886 map, or upon any of the later map publications. It divides the headwaters of the Elk and Kananaskis Rivers and, seeing that there is another pass known as Kananaskis Pass, your Commissioners have in this report referred to it as Elk Pass."