Access to the Visitor Centre is clearly marked on the TransCanada Highway. It is worth a stop to speak with knowledgeable, friendly and helpful staff and to collect documentation from a wealth of possibilities. I have discovered several trail systems and historic locations I did not know existed within this pioneer town. My objective today is to hike easy trails above Harvie Heights in the Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park. The parking area is obvious on the Palliser Parkway and a metal trail map on a post is accompanied by the traditional trailhead sign. The route I will take 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 (4.5 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 (0.625 mile) Ridge Traverse trail, on good surface, through forest with the occasional view to mountains on either side of Bow Valley. 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 kilometre later, a right turn transfers me 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 it is obvious that 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 the mountains on the other side of the Bow Valley.
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 stony creek bed. There are many trail starts on the other side. This confusing situation forces me to head upstream until I find a credible trail which should be named, the Trail of Lost Souls. It is rustic and overgrown. I know it is not the Montane Traverse trail but I make an assumption this primitive trail will lead me there. Wrong! The trail eventually leaves the ridge and plummets the wrong direction into a valley, then into a very beautiful, wetland bog which tests my mettle. Hopping over streams is involved.
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 my mistake. Eventually I pop out onto an excellent trail and hike to the left. A few minutes later I arrive at a trail junction and discover I am on the Meander Trail. I have 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. I should mention 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 I can see my fanny without turning my head. I do intersect with the Montane Traverse trail and hike a short distance of it but resist the urge to hike the 1.5 KM (0.9 miles) back to Tibits Quarry to discover where the trail begins on the far side of the stony creek. Instead I drop back down the Meander Trail to my car. It is an excellent easy hike on very good trail which is predominantly through forest with the occasional view of mountains. It is worth the time for fresh air, exercise and the wildflowers, especially those beautiful orange lilies. Trust me.