Bow Valley Provincial Park
July 1, 2012
After running the Canmore Canada Day Fun Run (8km race) that morning and hiking up Lady Macdonald the day before, we (Jenn and Shawn) decided to do a short little hike up Grotto Canyon to see what was around there. It's one of those short hikes that we've looked at on the map but always wanted to do something longer. Taking into account the state of our legs, we decided that this short jaunt with minimal elevation was a good idea.
The trail starts at the Grotto Creek Day Use Area, which has a fairly large parking lot. Grotto Canyon is very popular for its climbing routes, so we weren't surprised to see a large number of cars on the long weekend. The trail begins on an old road, crosses a dry streambed, and then passes by the Baymag mines processing facility. Upon reaching Grotto Creek, the trail turns sharply to the right and climbs up the right bank. Up to this point, the trail isn't very exciting and you can hear the highway traffic across the Bow Valley.
After ascending briefly, the trail drops down into the creek bed. We didn't realize this, and followed a flagged route up a small ridge just east of the creek. It must be a climber's downroute or something, because it kept going up and up... After about 200m up, we turned around and backtracked to the creek, and just walked up the creek bed. Periodically there's bits of trail, but you just basically walk up the creek bed, jumping over Grotto Creek when necessary. About 3km along, you reach a nice little waterfall when the canyon splits open.
We sat and had a quick bite to eat, took the obligatory photos at the waterfall, and continued along the trail. Most of the water in Grotto Creek seems to come from the waterfall, so past that point there was very little water and everything was very dry. We continued on about another 1 km until we reached a big hoodoo-like formation that had a little cave on the side. I scrambled up to the cave but didn't venture inside, as the 'path' was fairly sketchy and quite exposed, and I didn't feel like pushing it at that time. At that point, we turned around and made our way back through the canyon to the trailhead.
This is a good little trip to do if you have a couple hours and want to venture into Grotto Canyon. We're not climbers, but it looked like it would be a neat place to explore if we were. We passed a number of climbers on our hike, and noticed a lot of anchors in the canyon walls.
Trip Length: 7.5 km
Cumulative Ascent/Descent: ~400m (but if you take the right trail its probably more like 150m!