Hello Highline

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It’s no secret, especially if you follow me on twitter — @canmorerunner — that the Highline Trail ranks top among my favourite runs in Canmore. It wasn’t always the case. It was good three months before I ventured up the Highline, once i’d got a handle of my not entirely irrational fear of bears which was accentuated by the fact that I tend to run alone. But once i’d got up there, I was hooked.

This is the first of a series of posts on specific trail running routes. My aim is to build up an online resource for trail running in and around Canmore. As such, any helpful and constructive comments – more detail, less detail, less photos, better photos, it’s simply fabulous as it is – would be very welcome.

So, back to the Highline. The Highline has a little of everything. It has a longish (approximately 2km) steady climb to begin, followed by a rollercoaster of a ride along single track, skipping over roots and rocks, dodging trees and branches, while looking out for the occasional, wonderful, views of the valley below and of Mount Lawrence Grassi and Ha Ling above. All this is followed by a speedy, twisty, technical descent down to the Powerline trail.

You can make it a relatively quick 6.5km loop that you can squeeze into an extended lunch break, starting and ending at Quarry Lake and heading up and down the east and west “connectors”. Or you could opt for something longer, heading east towards Three Sisters Creek and Hubman Landing and back to Quarry Lake for a more challenging 12km. You could also head west towards the Riders of Rohan intersection from where you can drop back down to the Powerline, or continue onwards and upwards to beautiful Grassi Lakes, and then down and around the reservoir and eventually rejoining the Powerline Trail for a solid 10k. Or you could run it in its entirety, east to west or vice versa.

This post covers the first of these variations – the 6.5km loop beginning at Quarry Lake which, courtesy of my Garmin, looks something like this:

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And has a profile like this:

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Quarry Lake is a really stunning and, therefore, very popular spot, especially with dog walkers as it has a large off-leash area. It’s about 5 minutes drive from the centre of Canmore on Spray Lakes Road, heading towards the Canmore Nordic Centre. It’s well worth a visit even if you’re not planning to run.

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Quarry Lake, marked with the star.

The trail head is by the car park and fairly difficult to miss, unless you’re distracted by the stunning views of Mount Lawrence Grassi and Ha Ling peak … and fear not, while the Highline is high, it’s not as high as Ha Ling and runs mostly through the trees.

IMG_0050From the trail head, follow that line of boulders up into the trees. It skirts the edge of the off leash dog park so don’t be surprised if you have some four legged company for a time. This trail brings you up to the Powerline Trail. Pause, take in the views east and west, and then look across the trail for the sign for the Highline and the “West Connector”:

IMG_0052Head up into the trees, hang a right here:

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As the sign says, keep an eye out for mountain bikers. It’s an understandably popular trail for them too.

And then it’s really all uphill from here for the next 2km. After 1.5km or so you’ll come to this intersection:

IMG_0058Go right to head to head towards the Riders of Rohan and Grassi Lakes, and keep left to head east towards the East Connector and Three Sisters Creek. If you do the latter, after a few hundred meters more you’ll come across this:

IMG_0059…after which, not much further to go before things start to even out, at least relative to what you’ve just climbed. From hereon, it’s a rollercoaster ride along narrow, technical single track for which there is really no description other than awesome fun, though you might want to pause at the occasional openings in the trees to enjoy this:

IMG_0060 …this…

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…and this…

IMG_0064 …interspersed with lots of this:

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..and this…

IMG_0065Eventually, you’ll start to descend towards this intersection with the East Connector:

IMG_0069Here you can take the path upwards towards Three Sisters Creek. Alternatively, you can continue down the East Connector and enjoy some great, long straits, perfect for building up speed:

IMG_0071After some minutes following the blue trail markers, you’ll pop come out onto the Powerline Trail. Hang a left and head in the direction of the East End of Rundle:

IMG_0075After a few hundred meters you’ll cross Peaks Drive and continue along the Powerline Trail, looking out for the right turn down to Quarry Lake:

IMG_0077And from here you can loop around the lake, return to the parking where you can marvel at the massive amount of fun you’ve just had, with some 263m of elevation gain, all packed into 6.5km. It makes for a great tempo run.

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