Cool off on a southern Alberta creek walk this summer!
If you have hiking sandals, water shoes, or old runners you don’t mind getting wet, a creek walk with shallow creek crossings is tons of fun on a hot day! Be prepared to get wet (pack some extra clothes) and use trekking poles to help keep your balance. Here are a few of our favorite creek walks in Southern Alberta:
Grotto Canyon, Exshaw
Grotto Canyon is a scenic canyon walk near Canmore that features pictographs and waterfalls. Going further upstream takes you to a small cave! Water is typically very shallow by summer. 3.8 km round trip, 100 m elevation gain.
Jura Creek, Exshaw
Jura Creek is a curvy slot canyon that offers lots of splashy fun. Scramble over rocks and logs and reach out and touch the canyon walls on either side of you (it’s that narrow in a few spots!). Do this one later in the season as it has some pretty deep plunge pools! 3 km round trip to the end of the slot canyon, or 7 km round trip to head up into the valley.
Heart Creek, Lac des Arcs
Heart Creek Trail is a family favorite with 9 bridges and a waterfall. There’s a popular rock climbing area along the trail as well! If time allows, hike to nearby Heart Creek Bunker after (same trailhead but the trail starts on the other side of the parking lot). 4 km round trip.
Cat Creek Falls, South Kananaskis
Cat Creek Falls is super short and has minimal elevation gain, so even little kids can do it! In spring, you can bike past the winter gate without cars for a cool bike & hike adventure. 2.6 km round trip, 50 m elevation gain.
Allstones Creek, David Thompson Country
Allstones Creek starts near beautiful Abraham Lake and ends at a small waterfall with a shallow plunge pool. It’s the perfect place to cool off on a smoking hot day. Most of the trail is in the shade too! Just beware there is one deep pool to climb around. 4.8 km round trip, 75 m elevation gain.
Allison Creek Falls, Crowsnest Pass
Allison Creek Falls begins at Chinook Lake and ends at a lovely cascading waterfall. While you can expect to get your feet wet most of the summer, the water is usually ankle deep or less from late July onwards. 2.6 km round trip, 50 metres elevation gain.
Red Rock Canyon, Waterton
The Red Rock Canyon Loop is a scenic paved trail along the canyon that is only 700 metres long. From mid-summer, when water levels are lower, you can wade through parts of the canyon and get a closer look at the red argillite rock that gives the canyon its name. Use caution as the rocks can be quite slippery.
Staying Safe on Creek Walks
- Some of these trails are unofficial, unmarked trails. Read route descriptions carefully (links to stories are in the descriptions above) and carry a map.
- Wet rocks can be slippery, so take care and move slowly to reduce the risk of slips and falls. It might help to use trekking poles to keep your balance.
- Check water levels and avoid creek crossings when creeks are flowing high and fast. These trails are usually safe in summer, but conditions can change quickly depending on the snowpack and weather.
- Avoid slot canyons when there is rain in the forecast. Water levels can rise rapidly.
- Not all creeks are suitable for walking in. Walking in trout spawning streams can kick up silt/dirt and suffocate fish eggs. Keep dogs out of spawning streams too.
Know Before You Go
A Kananaskis Conservation Pass is required to park in Kananaskis. Purchase your pass online at https://www.alberta.ca/kananaskis-conservation-pass.aspx.
A Parks Canada Discovery Pass / daily admission fee is required to stop in the National Parks.
What to Bring
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You should also carry The Ten Essentials including: water, extra food, extra clothes, a headlamp, a GPS/compass and map of the area, bug spray (this one contains 20% icaridin and will repel ticks), sunscreen (this mineral one is safe for babies), and bear spray. Carry bear spray in a Frontiersman Bear Spray Holster (attaches to your backpack or belt) or Scat Belt.