Jura Creek Canyon - Bow Valley Corridor - Hiking Alberta

 

Jura Creek Canyon is in the Bow Valley near Exshaw, Alberta, Canada.

 

 

Jura Creek Canyon begins near the Hamlet of Exshaw on Highway 1A and is wedged between Door Jamb Mountain and Loder Peak to the East with Exshaw Mountain on the West.   The early morning drive west from Calgary, and west on Hwy 1A via the Exshaw exit, ends at parking near hydro line access just east of the entrance to the Graymont Exshaw Plant.  There are several parking options.

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Door Jamb Mountain and Loder Peak from the TransCanada Highway west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

 

The dirt road beneath the hydro lines heads west towards the rustic road heading north to the 'V' between the mountains.  A matrix of trail and road aim west, then north, and allow common sense to prevail.

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Parking near Graymont Plant on Hwy 1A west of Exshaw, Alberta, Canada

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Access path to the 'V' at Jura Creek

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada The view south to Pigeon Mountain at the Jura Creek Draw

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada View north along the stony Jura Creek bed towards Jura Creek Canyon.

 

About a kilometer (⅝ mile) later, arrival occurs at the rocky Jura Creek drainage which heads south towards a magnificent view of Pigeon Mountain on the far side of the Bow River.  Hiking crampons ease navigation over the ice leading into Jura Creek Canyon.

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Entrance to the Jura Creek Canyon

 

Canyons have a special feel to them.  There is a peace and solitude about them.  Often blocked by fast running water in summer, they become fascinating and powerfully confined journeys over ice and snow in winter.  Timing and temperature for safe and successful navigation is important.  The snow-covered ice at the bottom of Jura Creek Canyon begins to narrow immediately and within a very short distance it is easy to touch both sides in a single arm span.

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada The beginning of the ice walk into the Jura Creek Canyon in the Bow Valley Corridor east of Exshaw, Alberta, Canada

 

Giant stone slabs hang above a cascading ice fall on the Jura Creek Canyon floor near the beginning Giant stone slabs hang above a cascading ice fall on the Jura Creek Canyon floor near the beginning

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada The Jura Creek Canyon quickly narrows into tall walls polished by eons of deep water flow

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada In several places the massive stone walls of Jura Creek Canyon are close enough for less than arms length touching.

 

Occasionally, dead fall from above creates a minor obstacle but we encounter nothing on this day which significantly impedes forward progress.  A slight breeze from the south helps to push us along.  As the steep walled canyon, with sides smoothed by fast running water to heights far above our heads, twists and turns we periodically enjoy rays of sunshine.

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Ewa continues through the Jura Creek Canyon as it progressively widens

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Jura Creek Canyon twists and turns. Pools of ice are protected by overhanging rock in the corners of turns in the creek

 

The short, narrow canyon opens to a broad, sun-filled valley as the fascinating hike continues north.  The valley floor is littered with smooth, rounded boulders which have been tumbled by erratic and powerful water flow for thousands of years.

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Jura Creek Canyon gives way to a wide rocky valley with Exshaw Mountain dominating the distance in the west

 

There are many, artistic images along the valley floor which are created by wood, rock and snow, combined with sun and shadow.  Reflected sunlight is intense and serious UV and polarized eye protection is essential.

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Driftwood and stone in Jura Creek Canyon create artistic natural sculpture in wind-swept snow

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Art is everywhere. A boulder hosts several varieties of lichen with a tiny juniper bush and a rodent hole in attendance

 

Perhaps two kilometers (1¼ miles) north along the valley, a massive slanted slab comes into view above the east side of the valley.  The massive outcropping appears to be a component of 2,097 m (6,880 ft) Loder Peak and suggests this may be where its base may create the east side of the false fault which is the objective for the day.

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada A giant rock slab appears on the east side of the Jura Creek Valley

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada The impressive slab outcropping gives a hint of the location of the false fault in Jura Creek Canyon

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Jura Creek Canyon begins to narrow again as we approach the giant stone slab on the east side of the valley

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Arrival at the false fault where the two incompatible sides of the 'V' lead up to frozen pools above in the next narrow section of Jura Creek Canyon

 

The hike becomes an easy scramble past the location of the false fault with Exshaw Mountain looming above to the left, on the west side of the narrowing valley.

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Exshaw Mountain looms over Jura Creek on the west side of the false fault

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Easy scrambling over rock and ice in the false fault lead to narrow canyon hosting frozen pools near the top

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Slanted rock with intermittent patches of ice and snow require careful footsteps

 

A careful, easy scramble gains elevation over the slab to another narrow, short, twisting  section of canyon containing several small, progressive basins filled with snow and ice.  These are the tiny pools which contain water in summer.  They are reminiscent of the larger pools of water along Nihahi Creek in Kananaskis Country, Alberta

This short section of canyon leads to another valley which contains one trail-head to achieve the summit of Loder Peak but more commonly the route is used for descent.

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Frozen pools at corners in the narrow, polished rock canyon are camouflaged by deeper snow

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada The upper Jura Creek Canyon section shallows out through rock polished by eons of rapid water

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada The upper section of Jura Creek Canyon opens to a broad divided valley. Access to the summit of Loder Peak is off to the right. Another day.

 

The return hike is via the way taken in, making the total hike 7.2 KM (4½ miles) with an elevation gain of 262 m (860 ft).

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada The view across the pools of Upper Jura Creek Canyon on the return to the valley

 

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada. Complex layers of shale on the Exshaw Mountain side have been a source of ancient fossils at the false fault in Jura Creek Canyon

 

A single section of running water, probably influenced by a source of nearby warmer spring water, is the only place along the entire length of Jura Creek with crystal-clear, open water.  One of the two, tiny pools is partially covered with ice and their uniqueness and isolation justify a couple of photographs.  A short distance further, Jura Creek Canyon narrows again for the last time on this hike.

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada A short section of running water in Jura Creek Canyon

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Ice covered Jura Creek just prior to entering the narrow canyon section on the return hike

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Entering the lower narrow section of Jura Creek Canyon

 

The reverse trip through the initial section of Jura Creek Canyon presents a refreshing breeze blowing towards us.  The narrow and steep canyon walls provide a different perspective in the opposite direction.  The canyon is a mecca of optical illusion where large boulders which appear to be cubic, are not in a world of angles, shadow, and light.

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada The return hike through the narrow section of Jura Creek Canyon

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Polished walls near the end of the ice walk give evidence of deep and fast running water which would make this section of the canyon inaccessible for major parts of the year

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Optical angles and illusions change the shapes of rocks which have tumbled into the canyon from above.

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada The perfectly chiselled appearance of this massive cube is deceiving.

 

Just prior to exit from the canyon,  cascading ice falls begs to be enjoyed.  Inner children grasp the opportunity to slide down the short spans of slick ice.  In summer, the ice fall will be a beautiful white waterfall.

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Inner children are released on the slick, thick ice of the cascading ice fall near the end of the canyon and the ice walk in Jura Creek Canyon

 

Jura Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada A spectacular view of Pigeon Mountain at the end of the beginning of our hike through Jura Creek Canyon in the Bow Valley Corridor

 

An interesting summer loop hike, with a host of fascinating features and phenomenal views, would include Jura Creek Canyon combined with the summit and south ridge of Loder Peak and Door Jamb Mountain

It may be prophetic that Summit Stones and Adventure Musings by DSD publishes "Always Gazing Towards Canyons...." on the day prior to this hike. 

 

 

 

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Comments

Thanks for your comment, Leigh. In the Exshaw area, Jura Canyon may be far different after the flood but still a good possibility. Nearby Grotto Canyon is short but a perennial favorite and it is good to hike past Grotto Falls into the valley as far as you choose. Cougar Creek in Canmore may be worth checking out. My favorite is the Maligne Canyon ice walk in Jasper. As far as crampons are concerned, I would pass on Yak Traks and Microspikes and get a good pair of 6 or 8 point instep crampons attached with sturdy straps around a high boot. They will serve you well for many years in a wide variety of wilderness terrain. Ice climbing crampons are not intended for ice walks. They are expensive and would be overkill as well as vulnerable to breaking. Hope that helps.

Still haven't done one of your suggested icewalks but remember reading posts last year so goggled and found a few more from you. I have not explored the Exshaw area at all but plan to get my husband some crampons so we can.

Thank you for your comment and valuable information, Rachel. Until this contact from you, I was unaware of your website. Since then, I have spent some time reviewing the contents of your site and have been impressed with the depth and presentation of information. A picture is worth.... I shall use your journals for my own planning purposes. Another site I regularly use for reference, which I believe also has a high level of honesty and integrity, and which you and other readers may benefit from, is 'Making Waves'.

I highly recommend the loop you propose. Hike up the Door Jamb / Loder Peak, which is a spectacularly fun ridgewalk on great rock, then descend an easy gully and return through the enjoyable canyon. I've hiked through Jura Canyon a few times, and find it much more attractive in summer than in winter. Generally through, it's fine to walk through the canyon in summer. Spring runoff can put the water level too high, but by late June, most years, you can walk it fine using the carefully-placed logs. In Summer it is very do-able. Even at highest water, you don't *need* to detour if you don't mind getting your feet a little wet. The canyon only seriously fills up during a flash flood. The upper canyon does have a couple of pools that are too deep to navigate, but that requires only a short detour, and it's actually neat because you can walk right above them, unlike the substantial detour to avoid the lower canyon. Enjoy the trip this summer!

You are right, Charlie. It was an excellent day to hike and, no argument from me, returning by the same route is always a unique experience and sometimes a more rewarding experience than the way in. Particulary true if there is extra time to investigate little side routes and new found features. The large rock 'cube' we 'discovered' on the way out is no more than an ordinary, unassuming boulder seemingly unworthy of a second look coming in from the opposite direction. It is not a cube at all. Only at a precise angle and distance does it appear that way. An optical illusion. Such is the way of the mountains.

Looks like a very nice day to hike. Its crazy how different a trail can look by just turning around :)

Jura Creek Canyon is an excellent hiking experience in winter when the canyon floor is ice and accessible using crampons. In summer, rushing water requires a trail detour around and above the most dramatic part of the narrow, twisting canyon. When you visit in the winter, Helen, an ice walk may be one of the activities you might want to include on your bucket list. There are many alternatives but Grotto Canyon and Jura Creek Canyon are within easy reach of Calgary, Canmore and the Town of Banff. Jura Creek Canyon is one of those hikes which offer a wide variety of terrain and experience within a single day. Modest effort, low risk, fabulous return. I have put the summer trip on my list including the loop with Loder Peak and Door Jamb Mountain. I can hardly wait.

What a different but fantastic hike!

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