Travel Diary 7: Grotto Canyon Hike

Well, long time no speak. Not gonna lie, trying to get down this installment recounting my trip was a hassle and a half. We got stuck in wicked traffic leaving Canmore and were on the highway to Banff for a full hour and a half. We could’ve walked faster and there are only so many games of eye spy you can play in unmoving traffic – no matter how pretty the setting.

But I digress, we at least had the benefit of stretching our legs on a hike before we left Canmore, checking out the Grotto Canyon trail. It’s one you can do year-round, with some incredible ice formations and falls in the winter if you’re lucky, but I for one didn’t feel like falling on my butt more than I had to. I was never that much of a skater! And this hike, while pretty easy with a very gradual, low incline (for the most part) is super rocky in areas which can have you twisting your ankle if you’re not careful – this is definitely not a hike for a pair of Sketchers or if you have mobility issues. 

You start at a trailhead off highway 1A, heading onto a gravel access road where you pass an industrial power plant which is the worst part of this hike. It’s loud, ugly, and totally removes your immersion from being in the wilderness. But you pass it quickly and in less than 20 minutes you reach a creek and enter the canyon. 

This is one of the main draws of the hike, as you stay at the bottom of the canyon the walls get higher the further upstream you are. It’s a popular rock-climbing area and a few people were on lines above us – but watch for loose rocks if you have the same experience! Lack of awareness is a quick ticket to a knock on the head.

Also, something easy to miss as you get to the narrowest point of the canyon are pictographs, not quite sure when they’ve been dated back to but it’s a good reminder not to touch them!

From there we went round a bend and entered the area where that ice waterfall I mentioned can form in the winter. I know a lot of people choose to use this as their stopping point but we kept going up the canyon to find the inukshuk garden and then to the…well, I don’t really want to call it a cave because it’s more of a depression into the hill face. Climbing up to it is not a recommendation I would make for anyone not wearing good hiking boots and even then it’s a scramble for sure and hard to find traction. It could very easily become a Three Stooges performance…not that I’m speaking from experience.

But! We made it out and back with our legs stretched and no bruises to hit the road only to get stuck in that delightful traffic. We’ve settled into our campsite just outside Banff with plans for a one pot casserole dinner. Tomorrow we’ll begin our first full day at the spa.

I know this diary has been pretty hike heavy, but now it’s time to get my muscles turned to goo. 

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