A scenic snowshoe loop from Kananaskis Village in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.
The turn off Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40) in Kananaskis Country, just a short distance north from the well-equipped Kananaskis Emergency Services Centre, is the same for Nakiska Ski Resort and Kananaskis Village. Within a few meters, the views from the bridge over Kananaskis River warrant a pause for photographs.
A short distance further, a turn left passes the entrance to Ribbon Creek Hostel and continues on a winding, uphill, paved road called Centennial Drive, to Kananaskis Village. There is a magnificent view of Mount Allan along the way with Coal Mine Scar visible near the bottom of my photo. Centennial Drive also passes the entrance to the Helicopter Landing Pad.
At Kananaskis Village (Elevation 1,524 m - 5,000 ft), there is a right turn at Terrace Drive which loops around the edge of Kananaskis Village to parking near Mount Kidd Manor. The best parking spot is as far to the right as possible in the second lot. It is worth the time to visit Woody's Pub, the skating rink (pond in the summer), and other amenities at Village Centre. Snowshoes can be rented here at Kananaskis Outfitters. They have a good supply of the essentials and guided tours are available.
The trail-head is marked by a blue pole with the standard red-orange, diamond-shaped snowshoe trail marker and the trail veers left, next to cross-country ski tracks, which skirt the edge of the sports field.
Trail marking, on this day, is challenging. On arrival at the trail junction of Terrace Trail and Village Rim Trail, there is no help. The Village Loops Snowshoe Trail is to the left of the Terrace Trail and descends into forest. There is one trail marker but I need to search for it. Once underway, the trail is well-trodden and well-defined.
Markers seem infrequent and there are many subsidiary routes. Views of surrounding mountains, past Kananaskis River, are outstanding as the snowshoe trail tracks the top of the ridge. Offshoot trails lead to viewpoints where impressive photo opportunities unfold. It is not intuitively obvious where the real Village Loops Snowshoe Trail continues. Diamond-shaped markers are replaced with tape. A key winter trails sign is missing on this day. The post is empty.
The south loop of Kananaskis Village Loops Snowshoe Trail dips, twists and rises through a mixture of deciduous and evergreen forest in a clockwise direction.
The south loop turns north onto relatively straight trail with mild ascent until it mercifully arrives near a junction with the Kovach Trail ski track at Terrace Trail. Here, there is a clear trail sign to indicate the north loop begins on the other side of the ski track.
The route is initially marked with red flags and the occasional, sporadic diamond-shaped marker. Prior traffic defines the route and elevation gain increases more dramatically until the next intersection at the picnic table, familiar from the hike to the Mount Kidd Abandoned Fire Lookout. Along this route there are excellent views of Mount Kidd, looming above open, wind-swept, fields of snow. An obvious and marked sharp right turn near the picnic table at the junction of ski routes on Aspen Trail and Kovach Trail leads to the final leg of the Village Loops Trail. Crossing ski tracks here would lead to a completely different adventure.
The final leg of the Village Loops Snowshoe Trail offers the occasional great mountain view but is predominantly through forest. There are some places of significant descent that might be uncomfortable for beginners and might not be suitable for some low end recreational snowshoes.
Arrival at well-groomed ski track signifies being close to the end of the trail. Trail etiquette requires stepping carefully over ski tracks without disturbing them. The final, short, stretch of trail is well-marked with red-orange diamonds on blue posts. It delivers me to within a few feet of where my car is parked.
Where the Sawmill Loop Snowshoe Trail exceeded my expectations, the Village Loops Snowshoe Trail did not. I am certain trail marking will be improved. It is a total distance of 2.5 km (1⅝ mile) trail if there are no route finding deviations. I believe the posted 40 m (131 ft) elevation specification refers to the net difference between the trailead and the highest elevation. There is considerable undulation on the trail which would increase the gross elevation gain.
This snowshoe is worthwhile. There are amazing views along Kananaskis Valley and Delta Lodge at Kananaskis amenities present a bonus for those who need to rent snowshoes at the site, or may wish to enjoy a meal or beverage at the end of the snowshoe.