Grotto Canyon Trail – Banff National Park

My hike in Grotto Canyon (Bow Valley) was the first step into the Canadian Rockies and the first of my trip with Loz, my housemate from back in the UK. This her first trip to north of the boarder and therefore her first experience in the great Canadian wilderness.

Located only 12k south east of Canmore, we parked the car in the wrong place and head into the wrong direction. Loz’ obvious better sense of direction than mine made us turn back to confirm her early suspicions.

Looking great as always!

Finally on the right track (which was in the opposite direction) we get onto the topic of bears very quickly. This was of grave concern for Loz. We had read the warnings on one of the hiking sites to be careful but it was the standard messaging about going out into the wilderness. Don’t go alone. Be loud. Carry bear spray. We had all these covered.

There were two of us, Loz is Australian and I had my bear spray so I didn’t see what the problem was. After going through this with her she was slightly happier. We have a 1k walk through the forest before getting to the river bed.

The walls of the river rose pretty quickly

It was an easy hike but it was a rather curious one. The hike takes us along the bare river bed, meandering up the creek and side of the mountain. From this point on it was really hard to get lost. All we needed to do was follow the river which was easy enough. Easy on the legs, it left us all with all the energy catch-up and take in the surrounding forest and mountains. Loz and I had lived together for 3 years back in London so although I had only been away for less than 2 months it was great to focus on catching-up on all things in our world.

As we were gaining ground the river bed slowly started to narrow. As it did so, the walls of the river which we only had to step down to get in, were rising far above our heads. It was strange because it happened so quickly and it was quite easy to feel vulnerable and even claustrophobic. I had imagery of Hollywood films where the baddy would be watching us from far above.

We could hear a waterfall, which was feeding what remained of the river this time of year. There was a slight stream to the right and there she was, a beautiful little waterfall.

The small waterfall

As we turned the corner our chat stopped. No, not a bear. But there were 100’s if not 1,000’s of cairns. A cairn is simply a man made pile of rocks. You may recognise them from the logo of the Vancouver Winter Olympics. It was an incredible sight. The cairns continued as we went around the corner. We obviously couldn’t just walk by, we stopped to make our own!

OK, OK, I didn’t build this one

We slowly made our way up, still fascinated by how many of these there were, and how intricate they were too. Finally they started to thin out but our attention was instantly grabbed by a little critter. A cute little chipmunk. I had seen a few of these already since being here but they never get old, and they certainly don’t get less cute. After a few photo’s we pull ourselves away and continue up further.

But we managed this one! What a beaut

As we go the rocks turn into boulders and we have to scramble more than walk. This is now making it more of an adventure. I like a walk but there’s nothing like getting your hands dirty though is there? After about 10 minutes of this, we take a bit of a breather. The weather was slowly turning and it was just getting a little bit darker. Considering these two factors we think about turning around and making our way back.We decide to head on until the next corner before making U turn and go back the way we came.

Sit still Loz!

One of the key things I’ve noticed on every single hike I’ve done is my attention to detail isn’t always great when hiking. It’s not that I don’t have the ability, it’s more that I’m usually distracted by talking or keeping a safe footing – generally the task at and, rather than the directions. This usually occurs on the way back, when the route looks a little different! Today was the same. We missed the turning back into the woods that would take us back to the car. We walk back and see some other people walking in the wood. Seeing them meant that we were close and we soon enough found the path back up. As it turns out the mouth of the river leads us back to another part of the path anyway so it wouldn’t have mattered if we continued on the way back.

I couldn’t get away with not posting a picture of this little guy

Back in the car Loz admitted that although she would have been scared, she was hoping to come across a bear – just out of curiosity. We were satisfied with our first hike on our first day in the Rockies. A nice gentle one to break us in.Whilst sitting in the car  We then went off in search of food!

  • More information on the trail can be found HERE

Cheers, Scott

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