Ha Ling, Grassi Lakes and a host of other great trails off limits for 2022

Grassi Lakes PC: Canmore Runner

Yesterday saw the announcement by the Government of Alberta of both good and bad news for runners, bikers and hikers in the Bow Valley.

The good news is that the province is investing more than $4 million to upgrade the Grassi Lakes and Goat Creek day use areas “to address public safety issues and parking congestion while improving visitor experiences.” More specifically, the work will:

  • Expand and formalize the Grassi Lakes main parking lot. 
  • Refurbish portions of the Grassi Lakes trail. 
  • Formalize the Grassi Lakes overflow lot. 
  • Provide a road crossing and trail connection between the overflow and main lots. 
  • Provide separation and washroom facilities between the climber’s lot and the Smith Dorrien Trail. 
  • Expand and formalize Goat Creek main parking lot. 
  • Replace two bridges on Goat Creek trail. 

According to the Government, the work has become necessary due to the significant – 32% – increase in the number of visitors to Kananaskis Country since 2019. In 2020 and 2021, the region welcomed more than 5 million visitors annually. Grassi Lakes and Goat Creek are two popular areas in the region and the increased visitation has increased the pressure on existing facilities and the landscape. 

The downside of this otherwise good news is that Grassi Lakes (Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park), Goat Creek (Spray Valley Provincial Park) and the surrounding area will be closed while construction is ongoing. 

The closure is scheduled to begin on April 1 and is expected to last until the end of the year.

In practical terms that means the following trails will be closed:

  • Grassi Lakes Trail
  • Junkyard Trail 
  • Ha Ling Trail 
  • Miner’s Peak Trail 
  • Goat Creek Trail 
  • East End of Rundle Route 
  • Reclaimer Mountain Bike Trail 
  • Riders of Rohan Mountain Bike Trail 
  • access to High Rockies Trail from Goat Creek 

That’s whole stack of great trails. It also means that two of the four peaks in the Canmore Quad will be off limits for the rest of the year. And without wanting to rub salt in the wounds, I should mention that a third Canmore Quad peak, Lady Mac – which has been open during the winter following a long closure due to the flood mitigation work at Cougar Creek – will close again at the end of March through to the end of the year as the mitigation work resumes. That leaves Grotto which, like Marmite, you either love or hate. Last but not least, Alberta Parks is also closing the mighty Yamnuska from 31 March for at least 5 weeks due to “unfavourable conditions” and “to protect the environment and conserve the landscape”. After that time, the trails and area will be assessed weekly, so further closures could be in the offing.

It’s probably also worth mentioning, in case you were wondering, that Alberta Parks Conservation Officers will apparently enforce the Grassi Lakes/Goat Creek area closure under the Provincial Parks Act.

After reading the Grassi Lakes/Goat Creek closure notice, a bunch of questions came to mind in terms of why such an extensive closure for so long, why not rolling closures depending on where the work is taking place etc., etc., some of which are addressed in this FAQ provided by Alberta Parks.

It’s a blow to lose access to some really great trails, just as the temperatures begin to rise, the snow and ice begin to thaw, and the mind turns to thinking about summer adventures in the valley. But the work has to happen and will, on hopes, be beneficial in the long run. It’s also only temporary and we’re lucky to have no shortage of amazing alternatives. And on a more personal note, it gives me an excuse to put off the Canmore Quad attempt for another year.

Until next time, happy trails.

Four things I didn’t manage to blog about in 2017…

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Fitzy, at the Plain of Six Glaciers, Lake Louise Photo: Canmore Runner

You could be forgiven for thinking that not much happened for Canmore Runner in 2017, beyond some spectacular runs earlier in the year in Annecy and Courmayeur with Canmore running sensation Fitzy. But contrary to the saying, “if it isn’t on [insert social media here], it didn’t happen”, just because I didn’t find the time to blog about it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. And for sure, 2017 saw some beautiful runs in and around Geneva, a quick trip back to Canmore, and one cracking ultra. So, in no particular order, here are some things that I didn’t quite manage to blog about in 2017… Continue reading

Sulphur Mountain (from the Cave and Basin)

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View from Sanson’s Peak, looking towards Tunnel Mountain, the Bow River and Lake Minnewanka – on a day that was, weather-wise, nothing like the day that I ran Sulphur Mountain – Photo: Canmore Runner

Sulphur Mountain, 2,451m elevation and, it turns out, a total treat. I hadn’t expected it to be thus. This was never on my ever-burgeoning list of “must-do runs”, partly because of its status as one of Banff’s major tourist attractions. Every summer, thousands of tourists take the 8-minute gondola ride to Sanson’s Peak, or hike there from the Upper Hot Springs along a series of switchbacks that wind their way up beneath the gondola. Of course, there has to be a reason why it’s so popular and it might just be the “breathtaking vistas in every direction” and the “stunning bird’s-eye view of six incredible mountain ranges”. As luck would have it, you can still enjoy those same vistas while mostly avoiding the masses en route by taking an alternative and challenging 8km trail to Sanson’s Peak that begins at the Cave and Basin historic site. Continue reading

Lady Mac – Part Two – the Summit

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Lady Mac (centre), as viewed from the Highline Trail – Photo: Canmore Runner

It had to be done. I’ve climbed Lady Mac several times since my first, chilly and icy ascent in January that I wrote about here. For time or weather-related reasons, i’d only ever managed to make it to the helipad, a still challenging 8km out-and-back with close to 1,000m of elevation. Then, one July morning, I found myself with enough time (and fantastic weather) to make it to the summit. And it was spectacular. I also came to appreciate that those responsible weren’t messing around when they named the last few hundred metres to the summit “Knife-Edge Ridge”. Continue reading

Grotto grind.

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Grotto Mountain (right), Lady Mac (left) – Photo: Canmore Runner

“Friends don’t let friends run Grotto”. It was good to be told this (Simon and Emily), two days after Ms. Canmore Runner and I had ground our way up and down Grotto Mountain. While knowing this in advance wouldn’t have stopped us, forewarned is forearmed and we might have been better prepared for the 10km (with 1,429m of elevation) slog that lay ahead and that really put the Canmore Quad into perspective. As I stood on the summit of Grotto, I thought to myself: “Seriously? You do this and then run up Lady Mac, Ha Ling and East End of Rundle?” My hope of one day achieving this feat was starting to feel as shaky as my legs. And we still had the descent to contend with. Forty-five quad crushing minutes, two falls, a bloodied wrist and shin later, I was starting to think that the “Triple Crown” of Lady Mac, Ha Ling and East End of Rundle would still be a significant – and more enjoyable – achievement. Continue reading

Ha Ling

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Mount Lawrence Grassi from the Bow River. The peak of Ha Ling on the far right – Photo: Canmore Runner

Located at the northwestern end of Mount Lawrence Grassi, Ha Ling looms large over Canmore, along with its fellow Canmore Quad peaks of Lady Mac, East End of Rundle and Grotto. At an altitude of 2,407m, it’s the lowest of the Quad summits and with a distance of 3km from trailhead to peak makes for a relatively speedy if technical climb along some switchbacking rocky and root strewn singletrack that eventually gives way to scree followed by a short scramble over rock to the summit. Once there, the views are stunning. Continue reading

An overdue salute to the trail builders

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Ms. Canmore Runner enjoying the superbly built High Rockies Trail – Photo: Canmore Runner

I’ve been remiss. I’ve spent almost two years enjoying spectacular trails in and around Canmore and Kananaskis. And i’ve spent close to 18 months writing about those trails on this blog. But have I once spared a thought – or a word or two – for those that volunteer their time and effort to actually build and maintain these trails? Nope. Time to right that wrong as I wouldn’t be having all this fun and adventure without the vision, dedication and hard work of the trail builders.  Continue reading

Heart Mountain Loop

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Looking north-east towards Mount Fable and Mount Yamnuska from Heart Mountain. Photo: Canmore Runner

Heart Mountain Loop. A steep, unrelenting, hands on scramble, followed by an undulating and spectacular ridge run as you gradually make your way up to and beyond the summit of Heart Mountain. And then a steep, technical, rocky descent that eventually gives way to an equally steep but more forgiving single track through the trees that gradually flattens out as you head back to the trail head. It’s only around 10.4km but that comes with more than 1,000m of elevation. It’s quite the workout. Continue reading

Yamnuska Loop

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Taking in the view en route to the summit. Photo: Kimberley Al

Thank you Yamnuska. It was epic. It’s only about a 10km loop but you pack of lot into those 10km: a challenging but largely run-able climb that gains around 994m in elevation; easy-going forest trails that deliver you to the exposed and more technical backside of the mountain before reaching the summit with its breathtaking panoramic views. From there, a scorching, scree-skiing descent leads you around the frontside of the mountain and back into the trees before returning to the trailhead. It’s a blast. Continue reading