Hoodoo Hall - The Ghost - Hiking Alberta

 

Hoodoo Hall is a spectacular canyon in the Ghost River Wilderness Area.

 

Hoodoo Hall - Ghost River Wilderness Area - Alberta, Canada

 

The Ghost Region is north of the TransCanada Highway and Kananaskis Country and, close to the east border of Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

The day begins with a drive about 13 KM (8.4 miles) west of Cochrane, Alberta on Highway 1A to a right turn (north) onto Forestry Trunk Road 940, followed by a 26 KM drive north to a left turn onto the nondescript, private Ghost River Road constructed by TransAlta Utilities.  

The closed entrance gate makes it necessary to open the gate to allow the car through, into the field, followed by the very important closing of the gate behind to prevent roaming livestock from wandering out from the enclosure.  An additional 17 KM of exciting road later arrives at the top of a steep hill which winds down to the Ghost River

A conventional vehicle must park at the top of the hill and the hike would begin at this point, adding an additional 8 KM (5 miles) return to the route.  Descending the hill enters four-wheel drive territory which the jeep will negotiate along rough, rugged road and a significant river crossing.  A high clearance vehicle is mandatory. 

 

 Hoodoo Hall - Ghost River Wilderness Area - Alberta, Canada

 

The four-wheel drive vehicle crosses cobble, water and gravel to the signed trail-head.  The primary route from this trail-head is though Devil's Gap to Lake Minnewanka but today's objective will be an off-shoot trail through a spectacular canyon called Hoodoo Hall

The trails require careful route finding using a guide and map and good visuals along the trail provide guidance towards the canyon entrance.  There may be water crossings.  These routes between Banff National Park and the Ghost are rife with history of early trade development on trails established, first by wildlife and subsequently, by the Native People.

 

Hoodoo Hall - Ghost River Wilderness Area - Alberta, Canada

 

The hike proceeds just less than a kilometer (½ mile), past the First Ghost Lake and through obvious Hoodoo Hall prior to taking a camouflaged trail fork to the left which is obscured by trees.  Arrival at the Second Ghost Lake indicates an overshoot error and return steps will be necessary to achieve the original objective.  To arrive at the Third Ghost Lake indicates an optional and much different, but equally spectacular, hike to Lake Minnewanka.  Press on!

 

Hoodoo Hall - Ghost River Wilderness Area - Alberta, Canada

 

Entrance into the canyon leads over and around boulders and beyond to an incredible, surreal experience in a tight canyon with lofty vertical walls.

 

Hoodoo Hall - Ghost River Wilderness Area - Alberta, Canada

 

Past the Yellow Wall, the Green Angel Waterfall looms more than 50 meters (164 ft) above.  Water flow is low and the narrow canyon walls leave nowhere to go that will allow the camera to photograph the entire waterfall in a single frame so the alternative is first the top, then the bottom.  Negative ionization created by the falling water combined with the echoing sound of water against rock is hypnotic and begs for time taken to absorb and energize the senses.

 

Hoodoo Hall - Ghost River Wilderness Area - Alberta, Canada Hoodoo Hall - Ghost River Wilderness Area - Alberta, Canada

 

After an appropriate break in momentum,  the hike continues for another kilometer through the tight canyon.  As the canyon twists and turns past branches on either side, there are multiple opportunities for short scramble ascents into draws which reveal pools of sun-warmed, crystal water nestled in smooth, rock bowls created by eons of perpetual runoff.  Often the tiny streams disappear underground into the surrounding wilderness.

 

Hoodoo Hall - Ghost River Wilderness Area - Alberta, Canada Hoodoo Hall - Ghost River Wilderness Area - Alberta, Canada Hoodoo Hall - Ghost River Wilderness Area - Alberta, Canada

 

When the canyon opens up, massive walls come into view and previously constricted views transform into sky and cliff.  The hike continues through fascinating rock corridors topped by evergreen forest but the option to continue is truncated with the decision to turn around near Orient Point and enjoy the same trip in reverse where the experience is again a unique, fascinating visual and auditory treat.  The occasional spoken words are reverently whispered between rock walls which provide melodic, reverberating amplification. 

Exiting Hoodoo Hall, the setting sun creates color-charged images at the hoodoos which are highlighted by lengthening dark shadows which beg to be captured by the mind and the camera.

 

Hoodoo Hall - Ghost River Wilderness Area - Alberta, Canada Hoodoo Hall - Ghost River Wilderness Area - Alberta, Canada

 

The relaxing adventurous day seems like a week-long vacation.  The Hoodoo Hall hike requires navigation using a good topographical map and a detailed hiking guide.  A GPS may help outside the canyons but could be of limited or no value within the steep and tight canyon walls.

 

 

 

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Comments

It appears this can be done but I have not done the route personally. At Devil's Gap, you will have gone further East than necessary. The access will be south from between Ghost Lake # 2 and Ghost Lake # 1. To get to the Green Angel waterfall, you need to branch east (left) out of Hoodoo Hall. From Devil's Gap you may wish to consider a wilderness route south to Orient Point, or north and west to Phantom Crag. Reference Kananaskis Country Trail Guide by Gillean Daffern, Third Edition Volume 1 Map 2.

Looks like a great trail and would like to check it out. Do you know if we can do find this area from the Lake Minnewanka side? We had considered biking the Lake Minnewanka Trail and then locking it up and finding Hoodoo Hall via Devil's Gap by foot. Is that possible or difficult to find?

Marta, there are many I have not visited but my favourites in the area near me are Waterton Lakes National Park in the the south-west corner of Alberta, Canada and Yoho National Park between the Canadian Glacier National Park at Rogers Pass in British Columbia and Banff National Park in Alberta. Waterton and Yoho offer a wide variety of stunning and unique natural features. You can check them out online. I hope this helps a bit. Thanks for your comment.

Interested in doing a week long trip in one of the Wilderness areas. I've been to the White Goat area and it was beautiful. What do you recommend?

The Ghost is an incredible wilderness area. Many of the best features and trailheads are accessible only by 4-wheel drive. This keeps many people away. The Ghost is an incredible area for ice climbing and weather patterns this winter have been ideal to create phenomenal ice. It requires heavy artillery to get in there and sometimes even rugged transportation fails. Best to go with a guide. There is little, if anything, in the way of signs so extensive research or knowlegeable assistance is important.

Sounds like a great hike! I've done a lot of hiking in Kananskis and Banff, but only one in the Ghost River area, which I really enjoyed. I think this is largely an unexplored area by Calgarians.

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