Montane Traverse

The Montane Traverse Trail, on the east side of the Bow Valley, is another spectacular run. Starting at the Cougar Creek trailhead, it climbs steadily and steeply in parts in the first 2 kilometres. But after that, the trail stretches out into a rollercoaster of a ride along largely technical single track with tree roots, twists and turns, and the occasional rocky creek bed to navigate.

There are some (mostly short) steep climbs in places. Otherwise it just rolls along, steadily heading upwards, and offering the most incredible views towards the Three Sisters, Mount Lawrence Grassi and Rundle Mountain. The route described below is a 10km out-and-back. There is, however, the possibility to continue along the Montane Traverse and add in some loops (and climbing) towards the far end before rejoining the Montane back to Cougar Creek for a run of around 17km.

So, the Montane Traverse Trail – an out-and-back, 10km run with approximately 278m of elevation, which looks like this on Strava:

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The route begins at the Cougar Creek Trail head on Elk Run Boulevard, a short drive from the centre of town, across the Trans-Canada Highway and up Benchlands Trail. From the car park, head up Cougar Creek, keeping to the creek’s left bank. If you happen to be concerned about the sort of wildlife that might inhabit an area called Cougar Creek, fear not, Alberta Parks and Wildsmart have got you covered:

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Continue up the creek and after 600m or so, look for the path on the left into the trees and which has a really quite miniature marker for the Montane Traverse Trail:

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Assuming you’re able to spot it, you’ll soon find yourself heading up this steep climb:

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…but that is the steepest part of the run, so good to get it out of the way early on. Once at the top of the climb you are pretty much set. Just follow these trail markers…

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…for the next 4km or longer and enjoy some fantastic and varied trail that alternates between terrain like this:

IMG_5958…and this:

IMG_5965…interspersed with awesome views from creek crossings like these:

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Like I said, I tend to run this as an out-and-back 10km. However, you can always continue to the end of the Traverse, descend along the Tibits Quarry Trail, hang a left onto the Ridge Traverse and then climb up the Meander Trail to the Montane Traverse and back to Cougar Creek (shown below and available here). That would give you an additional 7km with a further 200m of elevation.

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Whether you opt for the 10km out-and-back or something longer, it’s a terrific run. You won’t be disappointed. And it should be remembered that the return along the Montane Traverse is generally downhill while the trailhead is tantalizingly close to the Iron Goat Pub and the Summit Cafe, both of which are excellent places to recharge.

Until next time, happy trails.

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