This is the second trail running route post. It’s a variation on the previous one described in Hello Highline, a speedy, undulating and relatively short 6.5km round trip starting and ending at Quarry Lake, just outside of town. The Powerline-Loki-Highline Whammy also starts and ends in Quarry Lake. However, it covers an altogether more challenging 18.5km with 600m plus of elevation.
Update – September 2021 – No access to the Highline from Three Sisters Village
Regrettably, as of September 2021, Three Sisters Mountain Village Ltd are not allowing access across their land from Hubman Landing to the Highline Trail (as described in this post). The Highline Trail remains open and can be run as an out-and-back between the East Connector (at the east end of Wilson Way) and Three Sisters. It just can’t be accessed, or exited, via Hubman Landing. Canmore and Area Mountain Biking Association (CAMBA) are actively working on a solution with TSMV and Alberta Parks to restore access to the Highline. This post will be updated accordingly.
The route and elevation looks like this on Garmin Connect:
On the bright side, it has a more gentle beginning than Hello Highline. The first five kilometres along the Powerline and Loki Trails and on to Three Sisters Village are relatively gentle. After that, it all becomes a little more challenging with a roughly (and at times rough) 2km climb up through the trees and the lower portion of the Highline.
But it’s well worth it because before long you’ll be tearing along that fabulous root and rock ridden roller coaster of a trail, until you hit the Riders of Rohan that is, which, if you’re like me, is where things grind to a halt followed by a crawl. But the crawling doesn’t last forever and it’s not long before you’re screaming downhill, pausing only to take in the sheer majesty of Grassi Lakes, before continuing down to and around the hydro-electric plant and back to the Powerline for a gently rolling but mostly descending trot back to Quarry Lake.
So, what does it look like? As with Hello Highline, the run begins at Quarry Lake. When I ran this recently I was stopped in my tracks by this scene at Quarry Lake – a morning of snow followed by an afternoon of blue skies:
From the Quarry Lake parking, head up the trail to the left of the off leash dog park which takes you up towards the lower slopes of Mount Lawrence Grassi and the great Powerline Trail, distinguishable by the fact that it has a large, buzzing, powerline running along it:
And don’t forget to look behind you as the view you’re leaving behind isn’t too shabby:
Rather than continuing up the Highline’s West Connector (which is just by the telegraph pole on the right, below), you turn left and follow the Powerline Trail:
From here it’s a gentle five kilometres, first along the Powerline, crossing over Peaks Drive and continuing along the Loki Trail which begins around 700m after crossing Peaks Drive. The turn off is on the left, a few metres past a chain link fence and gate that cut across the Powerline trail:
Loki Trail is rolling single track through the trees and very easy going on the legs on account of the soft, albeit rooty ground. Follow the trail until you reach Three Sisters Creek and head out of the trees and into the open:
Cross the bridge over the creek and follow the path up along the left side of the creek which takes you around a large clump of trees and onto another well defined trail to the left and along to Hubman Landing where you should find this gate:
Let the climbing begin! It’s relatively gentle at first, slightly meandering and then follows the Three Sisters Creek. Eventually you’ll come to a bridge over the creek which is worth stopping on because the views up and down the creek are jaw dropping:
But as spectacular as the views are, they also mark a turning point and the trail gets quite a bit steeper and more twisty for the next kilometre:
And now the fun really starts. This marks the beginning of around 6km of twists, turns, quick dips and short, fast uphills. Along the way, you’ll come across the junction for the East Connector, where you should keep left:
…while also being careful to take a left here at the West Connector (unless you intend to drop down to the Powerline):
…the Bow Valley and the Fairholm Range:
..until you come to this junction with the Riders of Rohan trail:
Rather than continuing down here and back to the Powerline, either along the Highline (on the left) or the Riders of Rohan (on the right), you can take the more immediate left turn that’s just behind you and begin what soon becomes the arduous slog up this section of the Riders of Rohan:
You’re at the junction that’s circled in black. Continue straight up the Riders of Rohan and you’ll eventually come to Whitemans Pond from where you can descend back to Quarry Lake along Spray Lakes Road. Take the right turn, on the other hand, and it’s the beginning of the end, in a good way that is, as it’s almost all downhill from here. Take that path and you’ll quickly descend to the truly beautiful Grassi Lakes:
And then continue on from the lakes, down Upper Grassi Lakes Trail which is a reasonably gentle, wide but nonetheless speedy 1.6km descent to the Grassi Lakes trailhead and car park. There is an alternative – the Grassi Lakes Trail – that’s shown on the trail map above but is currently closed due to ice. Once at the Grassi Lakes car park, hang an immediate right and head along this service road:
And then continue along here until you come to the Highline’s West Connector where you take the path to the left and head back down to Quarry Lake where you can finally take a load off. And if it’s summer, maybe give the muscles in your legs and feet some time to cool down in the waters of Quarry Lake.
Just as Hello Highline makes for a great tempo run, the Powerline-Highline Whammy is great for that all important weekly long run, especially as I start to build my fitness and turn my attention to my racing plans for this year, on which more in the next post. Until then, happy trails.