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.