Grotto Canyon - Hike

A great family friendly adventure that's only a hop and skip from Calgary, suitable for even a rainy day! Make your way into the canyon discovering the wonders of nature at your feet as well as a little bit of historical art!

Round trip:  4 km to 7km
Hiking Time: 2-3 hrs
Elevation Gain: 100m - 235m
FitBit: approx 9,000 steps and 58 flights of stairs

Marked: Yes
Facilities: Yes
How to get there: From Calgary drive west on HWY 1 take the Highway 1A exit for Canmore, at the stop sign go left/east onto Bow Valley Trail (Hwy 1A). Reset your odometer to 0. When you get to 9.8km turn left into the Grotto Pond picnic area parking lot. The trail is marked with a sign on the west side of the lot.,+AB/Grotto+Canyon,+Grotto+Mountain+Pond,+Bighorn+No.+8,+AB/@51.063625,-115.2492391,13.5z/data=!4m19!4m18!1m10!1m1!1s0x537170039f843fd5:0x266d3bb1b652b63a!2m2!1d-114.0708459!2d51.0486151!3m4!1m2!1d-115.0779314!2d51.0698535!3s0x5370dc1ca8719a83:0x7b2b81ca1f492b88!1m5!1m1!1s0x5370db5ace555555:0x744cdb1c2cf70ae2!2m2!1d-115.2026247!2d51.0659424!3e0
From Calgary - click for directions on Google Maps
Grotto Canyon Trail


The initial trail is easy going and whenever it appears to fork just look for the directional signs. You'll hear the hum of the Baymag plant to your left, but once into the canyon that noise will fade. Pass through a small turnoff parking lot (another option, but with no facilities) and at about 1km come to a small ridge with a bench and a nice view of the Bow Valley.

From here you can see the mouth of the canyon slightly below, that's where you want to go. (Ignore the hiker sign that indicates a path ascending into the trees!) Then just follow beside the creek, it's very shallow and there are plenty of narrow places to traverse when you are required to skip over it. Just be careful of your footing on any wet rocks.

There are several unique factors about this canyon trail. The first is that it is a popular place for climbers. We only spotted one pair, but it's fascinating to watch and try to comprehend how they can climb a surface that appears basically flat with few hand/footholds. So neat! Even if you don't see any climbers look for the bolts drilled into the rock.

The other drawing feature of this canyon is the 1000 year old native paintings on one of the canyon walls. You would likely miss it if you aren't aware. It's about 40 min from the trailhead on a rock that juts out from the left. Basically at eye level they are now a faint red. You'll see a few warriors, a canoe, buffalo and more! It's fascinating :) (Please don't touch the art, the oils on our fingers make it disintegrate faster.)

Just a few minutes past the rock art you'll come to the spot where to to the right in the distance is the slim waterfall that feeds the creek. If you are satisfied with the progress you've made you might choose to turn around here, but the path through the canyon continues to the left for those who desire to see more.

A little ways further the canyon opens up wide and the creek bed is now dry. The terrain is slightly rougher with larger rocks and boulders, but you'll get a nice view of some mountain peaks in front of you and as you continue, behind as well. You'll also pass some hoodoos. Once at approx 3km, 1.5hrs from your start, the views lessen and so there is no real reason to continue. Once satisfied with your progress return the way you came.


-You aren't going to get spectacular mountain views on this one so if your day turns out to be a drizzly one, don't pack it in, just grab your raincoats and umbrellas and get going!

Happy Hiking!