Canyon Creek Ice Cave, also known as Moose Mountain Ice Cave, is a large limestone cave near Bragg Creek that features cool ice formations during the winter and early spring.
With a large cave full of cool ice formations, Canyon Creek Ice Cave is a good bike and hike in late winter or early spring. On a bike, you can reach the trailhead within half and hour, allowing more time to explore the cave! We went on a sunny day in April with mountain bikes.
Canyon Creek Ice Cave Route Description
The first part of the road is fairly non-descript, but the scenery gets better as you approach the creek. If you’re lucky, you’ll see marmots, deer, or bighorn sheep along the way. Pass the pumping station, cross a bridge at 3.1 km, and continue to a fork in the road at 5.4 kilometres.
At the junction of Canyon Creek Road and Range Road 64A, stay left to stay on Canyon Creek Road, then look for a trailhead on the right about 100 metres past the junction. If you pass the Shell building and heli-pad, you’ve gone too far. Lock your bike to a tree and hit the trail!
From here, you can see the cave on the slope above you. Although it looks far away, it’s less than a kilometre to the cave; it’s a good climb though! You’ll gain about 125 metres of elevation in 800 metres. When you need a breather, look for fossils (that’s my excuse for moving slowly here).
Before you leave the cover of the trees, put your rock/bike helmet on. There have been some serious rockfall accidents on this slope and at the cave’s mouth. Freezing and thawing has gradually made the cave entrance larger. Basically, when water seeps into cracks in the limestone and freezes, the cracks get bigger and bigger until chunks of rock break off. You can reduce the risk by hiking quickly through this section and not hanging out right at the cave’s mouth.
Canyon Creek Ice Cave is the largest accessible cave near Calgary, about 150 metres long and 5-15 metres wide. From its lofty entrance, you get a great view of the valley and Prairie Mountain. If you haven’t put your rock/bike helmet on yet, now would be a good time. The rock near the entrance is smooth where it has been polished by many boots, and further in the cave, the cave floor is uneven and is littered with large rocks. Moving slowly and carefully is recommended so you don’t slip and fall or smash your noggin’ on the cave walls.
As you move towards the back of the cave, it gets colder and darker. In fact, the back of the cave has an ice wall that never melts! Visit in February and March when the ice formations are at their peak and you’ll spot ice pillars that stretch to the top of the cave, and weird and wonderful stalagmites.
For a unique experience, sit down and turn off your headlamps at the back of the cave. The darkness makes your hearing more acute, and you might hear the dripping of water or echoes of others’ footsteps. We tried this in Rat’s Nest Cave below Grotto Mountain and were surprised at how it affects your concept of time! (Read about our experience in this story: Go Underground with Canmore Cave Tours.)
After exploring the cave, return the way you came. The trail is a lot easier and safer than the scree slope.
While local indigenous people knew about this cave on Moose Mountain for hundreds of years, Stanley Fullerton is credited with “discovering” the cave in 1905. He was only 13 years old at the time!
Know Before You Go
There have been serious accidents including one fatality at Canyon Creek Ice Cave (why the road was closed to the public in 2000), so go at your own risk! We do NOT recommend this trail for young children, and advise staying in the main cavern unless you are an experienced caver.
The final approach to the cave is on a slide path, and there is risk of rock fall from above the cave’s mouth, so wear a rock helmet and be prepared for loose rock. Shout “Rock!” if you dislodge a rock. Also, do not hang out at the cave entrance! There is also avalanche danger if the slope has a lot of snow on it.
Inside the cave, hazards include: falling rock and ice, slips and falls on ice, bumping your head on the cave walls, and getting stuck in smaller caverns.
The cave is cool year round, so bring an extra layer if you plan on staying a while.
Canyon Creek Ice Cave Trail at a Glance
- Distance: 12.4 km round trip
- Elevation: 275 metres
- Nearest Washrooms:
- Sports stroller friendly? No
- When to go: Canyon Creek Ice Cave is accessible almost year round, but if you want to see ice formations, February and March are the best times to go. AVOID THIS TRAIL AFTER A HEAVY SNOWFALL OR IF THERE IS A LOT OF SNOW ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF MOOSE MOUNTAIN. The cave is on a slide path and has avalanche danger.
The parking for Canyon Creek Ice Cave is at Ing’s Mine, on the right side of Highway 66 when heading southwest from Bragg Creek. It’s just past Paddy’s Flats on the right-hand side. Get Google Maps directions here.
What to Bring
Cave exploration requires extra gear. For Canyon Creek Ice Cave, you should bring the following:
- Hiking boots and The Ten Essential Systems
- Rock helmet (put it on before you go on the scree slope below the cave)
- Microspikes (for inside the cave)
- Trekking poles are recommended for the descent.
- Gemtrek Waterproof Topographic Map for Bragg Creek and Sheep Valley
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Have fun exploring the cave and stay safe!