Long abandoned Tibits Quarry hangs on north-side slopes west near Canmore, Alberta.
There is an excellent map available from the Alberta Visitor Centre on the west side of Canmore. The map is called 'Canmore Pathways and Trails'. Access to the Visitor Centre is clearly marked on the TransCanada Highway and a stop is recommended to speak with knowledgeable, friendly and helpful staff who can provide documentation for a wealth of hiking opportunities.
Several less commonly known trail systems and historic locations exist within this pioneer town. Today's objective will hike easy trails above Harvie Heights in the Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park.
The parking area is obvious on Palliser Parkway and a metal trail map on a post is accompanied by the traditional trail-head sign. The hiking route is comprised of four trails in the relative configuration of a rectangle. They are the Ridge Traverse Trail, the Tibits Quarry Trail, the Montane Traverse Trail and the Meander Trail.
The combined distance is 7.2 KM (4½ miles) on easy, excellent quality trail which is predominantly flat with minor, gentle elevation on the Tibits Quarry and Meander trails.
The short 0.7 KM (0.4 mile) access leads to a left turn onto the 1.0 KM (⅝ mile) Ridge Traverse trail, on good surface, through forest with the occasional view to mountains on either side of the Bow Valley Corridor.
Wildflowers are prolific with orange lilies stealing the show. The Ridge Traverse trail travels through an old area of forest fire and skeletons of charred trees and stumps coexist with new growth forest.
Along the Ridge Traverse trail there are open areas which provide mountain views. At the trail T-junction a kilometer later, a right turn transfers to the Tibits Quarry trail, predominantly in forest with a gradual and consistent uphill grade. The single lane trail has small berms on either side which are overgrown with smaller trees, shrubbery and wildflowers, so obviously, many years ago this was a road access to Tibits Quarry.
At the old, overgrown, rundle stone quarry site there are a myriad of side trails. One short excursion to the left gains access to an open ridge with outstanding views into Banff National Park and mountains on the far side of the Bow Valley Corridor.
The Tibits Quarry trail turns right to cross the wide, dry, stony creek bed which originates from the draw between Princess Margaret Mountain and Squaw's Tit (which is really an outlier of Mount Charles Stewart).
Caution must be exercised here. The metal trail marker on the post shows the Tibits Quarry Trail turns right and becomes the Montane Traverse trail on the other side of the wide stony creek bed. There are many trail starts on the other side and the trick is to find the correct one.
This confusing situation forces me to head upstream to find a rustic and overgrown but seemingly credible trail which should be named, the Trail of Lost Souls. Although this trail is not the Montane Traverse trail the assumption is the trail may lead into Montane Traverse or, alternatively, create an exciting new and challenging adventure.
Wrong! The trail eventually leaves the ridge and plummets the wrong direction into a valley, then into a very beautiful, wetland bog which tests the sense of humor. Hopping over streams and bailing out boots is involved in this seldom-seen wilderness paradise.
The correct Montane Traverse trail must be further up the other side of the stony creek bed near Tibits Quarry, so be advised to search carefully for a very good quality trail and avoid this mistake.
Eventually the exercise pops out onto an excellent trail and hike to the left. A few minutes later arrival at a trail junction leads to discovering the Meander Trail. The impromptu route has partially bisected the 'rectangle' with an angular route from Tibits Quarry to about half way up the Meander Trail.
There is an unmarked trail at the three-way junction. There are a lot of unmarked trails but metal trail signs make the correct trail clear.
The Meander Trail is aptly named. The good path twists and turns its way upwards on a gentle grade. Some of the turns are so tight the fanny is visible without turning around.
The good quality Meander Trail does intersect with the Montane Traverse trail, confirmed by hiking a short distance of it, but resisting the urge to hike the 1.5 KM (⅞ mile) back to Tibits Quarry to discover where the trail begins on the far side of the stony creek.
Alternatively, the Meander Trail returns to the beginning of hike parking area.
The Tibits Quarry Loop is an excellent, easy hike on very good trail which is predominantly through forest with the occasional view of mountains. Off trail adventures are available. The hike is worth the time for fresh air, exercise and the wildflowers, especially those beautiful orange lilies.