Grotto Canyon Path in Winter

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The Grotto Canyon Path, simply outdoors of Canmore, is changing into more and more common in winter and for good purpose. It’s straightforward and numerous enjoyable – plus it’s a kind of uncommon hikes that’s good for all ages. Accessibility is superb with the trailhead about an hour’s drive from Calgary. The draw back is that parking on winter weekends tends to be at a premium until you go to early or late within the day.

On the Grotto Canyon Path, you may anticipate to be wowed by spectacular canyons, frozen waterfalls, an icy creek mattress and historical pictographs. You may even catch ice climbers scaling the frozen falls, or children sliding down what seems to be like a river of ice. You want a few hours to do that path justice. 

This submit consists of some affiliate hyperlinks. For those who make a purchase order through considered one of these hyperlinks, I’ll obtain a small fee at no additional price to you. 

Near the end of the Grotto Canyon trail with the icefalls in view
Close to the tip of the Grotto Canyon path with the icefalls in view

Discovering the Grotto Canyon Path

The Grotto Canyon Path is tremendous straightforward to seek out. Merely drive Freeway 1A from both east or west and search for signage alongside the freeway. From the intersection of Benchlands Path and the Trans-Canada Freeway in Canmore, it’s a 12-minute, 12.8-kilometre drive. From downtown Calgary, it’s a about an hour’s drive through the Trans-Canada Freeway, Freeway 1X and Freeway 1A. The parking is beside Grotto Canyon Pond.

Word that it’s unlawful to park on the freeway, and you may be ticketed. I like to recommend parking as near the freeway as doable when you’re visiting at a busy time. That manner you received’t be caught behind an extended line of vehicles if you’re prepared to go away.

Do you have to get to the car parking zone, and the crowds are nuts, flip round and go east about 5 minutes and do the Jura Creek hike as an alternative. 

Earlier than you go: All the time examine the path report simply in case there are any closures.


Grotto Canyon hike particulars

Distance: Roughly 4.2 km return

Elevation acquire: 115 metres (some websites report greater numbers however there’s nowhere close to 260 metres of elevation acquire which is recurrently reported.)

Score: Simple

Time wanted: 2 – 2.5 hours so you could have time for stops.

Finest time to do it: Wait till early January when there have been laborious freezes and the waterfalls are bigger. The later you go in winter, the higher the Grotto Canyon ice stroll shall be.

Canines: Allowed on a leash.

Washrooms: There are outhouses on the trailhead.

Don’t neglect: Microspikes are a necessity if you wish to forestall a fall. Purchase high quality. They shouldn’t be capable to slip off simply. You probably have children, they need to even have a pair, though they don’t have as far to fall. Take a look at these ones.

Map: Gem Trek Canmore and Kananaskis

Excursions: Though the Grotto Canyon ice stroll is straightforward to do by yourself, a tour will present a choose up from Banff, ice cleats, a mountain climbing pole, scorching chocolate, and knowledgeable information so that you received’t miss the pictographs.

Wanted: You’ll need a Kananaskis Conservation Move to park your automobile with out getting ticketed. The realm alongside the Grotto Canyon Path is in Bow Valley and as such meet Alberta Park’s necessities for passes. Buy one on-line right here, both for a day or a yr.

Meals after the hike: I extremely suggest heading to Valbella, Communitea, Rocky Mountain Bagel Firm or Harvest Café.

Grotto Canyon Path description

The start of the Grotto Canyon Path isn’t essentially the most stunning – and its noisy. Thankfully, you may knock off the 0.8 kilometres in about 10 -12 minutes. The primary a part of the path is beneath a powerline beside the Baymag magnesium oxide plant. 

From there you head into the woods for a brief part earlier than popping out to a large space with a pleasant view in the direction of Canmore. Then the enjoyable begins and the noise from the Baymag plant disappears. Relying on if you go to, you’ll alternate between strolling on packed snow or ice (until its lately simply snowed). The couple of occasions I’ve finished it have been a minimum of 90% ice.

As you head alongside the Grotto Canyon path, the canyon partitions enhance in dimension. It’s very stunning and an exquisite method to spend a part of a winter’s day. Very quickly you’ll attain the ice falls – the place you’ll have to attend in line to get a shot! To their proper, you’ll additionally see a river of ice that was a surreal color of blue in 2022. Comply with it up – in case you are effectively geared up with microspikes that chew into the ice, to succeed in one other icefall. Maybe you’ll catch some ice climbers in motion right here. 

The descent on the slim path again to the ice falls may be difficult. Some individuals have been on their rears for brief part however getting soaked due to a skinny layer of water on prime. There’s a rocky path that you need to use to the aspect of this river of ice.

While you’ve had your fill, retrace your steps. Then come again and see how totally different the Grotto Canyon path seems to be in summer season.

You'll find signage where you need it
You’ll discover signage the place you want it
Enjoy this view towards Canmore before entering Grotto Canyon; there is a bench here too
Get pleasure from this view in the direction of Canmore earlier than getting into Grotto Canyon; there’s a bench right here too
Once you reach Grotto Canyon there is the option to take a high water route - useful in spring and summer
When you attain Grotto Canyon there’s the choice to take a excessive water route – helpful in spring and summer season
Grotto Canyon ice walk
Enjoyable part on the Grotto Canyon path
Quite the river of ice this year; there were ice climbers on these frozen falls
Fairly the river of ice this yr; there have been ice climbers on these frozen falls once we arrived
We did take our dog and she had no problem on the ice
We did take our canine and he or she had no drawback on the ice
The icefalls were far bluer this year than last
The icefalls have been far bluer this yr than final
Walking out on the Grotto Canyon trail
Strolling out on the Grotto Canyon path
Dwarfed by the canyon walls in places
Dwarfed by the canyon partitions in locations
It would have been fun to skate a few small sections
It might have been enjoyable to skate just a few small sections – a great heat as much as enter the Crashed Ice contest
Back out to the open area and the noise from Baymag
Again out to the open space and the noise from Baymag

On the lookout for an extended hike?

From the icefalls there’s an apparent path to the left (when you’re them straight on) by way of one other canyon that continues for at most just a few extra kilometres. Stroll by way of the canyon for about 5 minutes to succeed in a wide-open space. That is effectively value doing as its very fairly. From there you may hike alongside a stream mattress, passing a big hoodoo with a cave – that I wouldn’t suggest visiting. Keep in mind, it’s all the time tougher to come back down a steep slope than it’s to go up. 

From the hoodoo, we as soon as walked for maybe one other 15 – 20 minutes. It doesn’t get any extra attention-grabbing – and actually in brief order you’re into the bushes. Most individuals flip again lengthy earlier than this level. In reality,most individuals flip round on the first set of icefalls – however on the very least hike up the quick canyon simply previous them.

From the icefalls go left through a shorter canyon to an open area
From the icefalls go left by way of a shorter canyon to an open space
Reach an open area
Attain an open space
There's a cave some people check out but it's a steep climb up and a difficult descent
There’s a cave some individuals take a look at nevertheless it’s a steep climb up and a tough descent
Looking through the side canyon to the icefall
Trying by way of the aspect canyon to the icefall
A different perspective when you;;re out of the side canyon
A special perspective if you’re out of the aspect canyon

Grotto Canyon Pictographs

It took three tries mountain climbing the Grotto Canyon path to seek out the well-known pictographs. They’re straightforward to overlook, partially as a result of they’re fairly pale. For those who’ve arrived on the icefalls, you’ve missed them.

The pictographs are positioned close to the tip of Grotto Canyon earlier than the falls. As you’re heading up the canyon there’s one final flip to the left earlier than the icefalls. They’re on the slim pinch level at eye degree. 

The pictographs are thought thus far again to someplace between 500 and 1300 years in the past. There are a number of outstanding photographs and plenty of which can be pale. The clearest one proven under is of a person with a two-horned head holding a workers. Apparently close to the bottom of the outcrop (which I failed to note) there’s “a grouping of three figures with triangular our bodies and a few kind of headdress.

Most figures can’t be noticed by the bare eye. In accordance with the Mountain Nature Podcast “over the centuries, a skinny, translucent veneer of calcite has slowly been overlaying the face making them tougher to identify, and the straightforward actuality of time has additionally degraded a few of the photographs.

In accordance with researchers, these pictographs don’t resemble different rock artwork within the area. They’ve been traced to the Hopi individuals who lived within the 4 Corners area of the US (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah). One picture – the fluteplayer (often called Kokopelli), resembles pictographs discovered solely in Hopi Nation. 

Animal fats and ochre, presumably sourced from the Paint Pots in Kootenay Nationwide Park, is the primary ingredient to the pictographs. For a really detailed clarification take a look at the article entitled Grotto Canyon Pictographs and Life with Much less Snow.

Pictographs in Grotto Canyon
Pictographs in Grotto Canyon
If you're heading back to the parking lot you'll find the pictographs on the right and around teh corner from this photo
For those who’re heading again to the car parking zone you’ll discover the pictographs on the fitting and across the nook from this picture

Extra enjoyable winter hikes you may take pleasure in

Click on on the picture to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The fun and easy Grotto Canyon Ice Walk near Canmore


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