Riders of Rohan - Canmore - Hiking Alberta

 

Riders of Rohan is a steep, historical trail above Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

 

Riders of Rohan Trail, Grassi Lakes, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

On a summer weekend afternoon, the Grassi Lakes parking area will likely be very busy.  This hot Sunday afternoon in August is no exception.  Following a pleasant, gentle hike along Rundle Canal, the next objective will be an aggressive climb on Riders of Rohan trail with a return via the difficult option from Grassi Lakes above Canmore, Alberta, Canada.  This hike begins from Grassi Lakes parking but instead of hiking the busy trails to Grassi Lakes, the trail for Riders of Rohan begins on the paved access road, next to Rundle Canal, past the small TransAlta housing community, towards their power generation facility at the base of Ha Ling Peak.

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Grassi Lakes parking is jammed with cars and overflowing a long way down the access road.  A shady, vacated spot just a few metres from the trail-head is a lucky find at Grassi Lakes in Bow Valley near Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking the road beside Rundle Canal towards the base of Ha Ling Peak in the Bow Valley at Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The gate into the Spray power generation station is only a short distance from Grassi Lakes parking in the Bow Valley at Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The bridge across the canal is adjacent to a wildlife corridor crossing at the Spray power generation station in the Bow Valley at Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Across the bridge, a secondary bridge provides an excellent view of TransAlta's Spray power plant.  A short moderate climb beneath power lines leads to a long, arguably somewhat straight and rustic gravel road beneath power lines stretching east.  The hike passes the T-junction where trail from the other side of Rundle Canal intersects.  Continuing straight, about half a kilometer (¹⁄₃ miles) later, the Riders of Rohan trail-head appears.

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada TransAlta's Spray Power Plant past turquoise water in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The long and winding (straight) road beneath the power line heading east in the Bow Valley past Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

 Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The junction of the power line trail with the Riders of Rohan trailhead beneath Ha Ling Peak in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The beginning of the Riders of Rohan trail in the Bow Valley above, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Initially, the ascent is gentle.  The grade increases slowly but exponentially until, at the first intersection with the Highline Trail, the pitch can be considered steep.  Trail quality is better than expected with the exception of flood debris in a short stony section.  This trail is classified as an expert-level downhill mountain biking route.  As elevation increases rapidly, trail surface becomes substantially more rocky and rugged, and the logic in the expert downhill rating becomes clear. 

Keep in mind the Riders of Rohan portion of this hike is only 1.6 KM (1.0 mile) with an elevation gain of 335 m (1,100 ft) to a maximum elevation of 1,722 m (5,680 ft).  Gross and net elevation are virtually the same.  The hike is a thigh-thumping, heart pounding, wind-sucking bit of a climb.  Definitely good aerobic exercise.  A few mountain bikers come rocketing down the trail on my ascent.  There is usually space at trail side to step out of the way.  Exchanging greetings with anyone so intensely focused, at that pace, would be distracting and dangerous to the highly committed mountain bikers.

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada June 2013 flood debris across the Riders of Rohan trail just above the first intersection with the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada There are many rock ramps along the trail to make downhill mountain bike riders airborne along the Riders of Rohan trail in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The Riders of Rohan trail gets progressively more rugged and maintains consistently aggressive altitude gain in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Looking back on the second intersection of the Highline Trail with the Riders of Rohan trail in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

The Riders of Rohan trail gets progressively more rugged as altitude increases.  In spite of the rugged terrain, there are moss carpets on the sidelines and visions of scenic, forest magic along the way.

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Lush moss carpets border the Riders of Rohan trail in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The surface of the Riders of Rohan trail gets increasingly rugged and rocky as altitude increases in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Very rugged trail passes through large stands of Lodgepole Pine along the Riders of Rohan trail in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada A sunbeam catches a new spruce flourishing in the cracks of a large boulder along the Riders of Rohan trail in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Arrival at a small, short dip in the trail creates uncertainty about ability to hike downhill after so much uphill.  The dip is a very brief but welcome reprieve in the relentless ascent.  The trail continues to aggressively increase in complexity as more impromptu ramps are passed and respect for the skill of expert mountain bikers increases.  The few who pass me are wearing full face helmets.  Full body armor is justifiable.

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada 
 
 
Unknown at the time at the time but, after passing a side junction leading down to Grassi Lakesarrival at an intersection off to the right seems sufficiently inconsequential on this trail with many offshoots but after passing the junction a brief view through the forest reveals some unknown concrete infrastructure on the down slope beneath.
 
 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Passing the trail junction leading down to curious infrastructure below, along the Riders of Rohan trail in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Descent from the Riders of Rohan trail leads to this tower with a water flow control on a canal from Whiteman's Pond nearby in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada A bit further down a water flow tower links the canal to the long downhill penstock as accessed from the Riders of Rohan trail in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada. Grand mountain views across the Bow Valley from here.

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The canal from Whiteman's Pond which links to the penstock beneath Riders of Rohan trail in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

To hike the descent of Riders of Rohan trail from the dam at Whiteman's Pond at the crest of Canmore Hill in Whiteman's Gap, the correct approach is along the TOP of the dam.  Offshoots from trail above Grassi Lakes and trails along lower tiers at the dam lead nowhere.  It is important to stay on the top of the dam and hike to the fenced canal with the cylindrical tower beneath.

 

Riders of Rohan Trail, Grassi Lakes, Canmore, Alberta, CanadaRiders of Rohan Trail, Grassi Lakes, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Looking back to the trail link from the dam to the descent of Riders of Rohan trail in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada. There it is.  Between the pole and the fence.  Enjoy the incredible view from this plateau.

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

A view across the valley to the East End of Rundle (EEOR) with the Smith-Dorrien trail (Hwy 742) and the top of the Grassi Lakes climbing walls in the middle foreground from the top of the Whitemans Pond dam in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

 

The Riders of Rohan trail extension continues south along the west side base of Ha Ling Peak above wonderful views of Whitemans Pond.  Trail quality improves substantially but after a short distance a backtrack to the trail intersection begins the descent to Grassi Lakes.

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The trail junction from Riders of Rohan to Grassi Lakes in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Descending the 0.3 KM link on good trail bordered by moss carpet beneath Lodgepole Pine to Grassi Lakes from Riders of Rohan trail in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking at and beneath the penstock on the link from Riders of Rohan trail to Grassi Lakes in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

On approach to Grassi Lakes, people are assisted who have been misled by confusing signage on  the transition from peace and quiet to frantic pandemonium.  A small, sawn-log bridge with a handrail traverses the outflow from Grassi Lakes to tumbling waterfalls.  Nearby a still-water, picturesque pond deserves a moment of reflection on initially graceful descent.

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Access to the difficult option descent from Grassi Lakes in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The sawn-log bridge over the outflow channel from Grassi Lakes in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Downhill tumbling water from the Grassi Lakes outflow in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada A peaceful, reflective pond near the outflow from Grassi Lakes in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

The difficult part of the route is a very steep descent (or ascent) on wet and uneven rock steps.  There are throngs of people making their way cautiously up and down the short, challenging component.  The reward is magnificent views over the power station, the Rundle Canal and surrounding mountains of the Bow Valley Corridor.

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Level, rugged trail on the Grassi Lakes difficult access trail in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Steep, uneven and wet rock steps on the difficult option for Grassi Lakes access in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Beautiful cascading waterfalls from Grassi Lakes beneath Ha Ling Peak in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Beautiful cascading waterfalls from Grassi Lakes beneath Ha Ling Peak in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada A grand view over Rundle Canal from the difficult option for Grassi Lakes in the Bow Valley above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

The trail returns to excellent quality, flattens out and widens on the final stretch to the car at Grassi Lakes parking.  Distance from Grassi Lakes to parking, on the difficult option, is about 1. 5 KM (1 mile).

 

Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Riders of Rohan, Bow Valley, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

The number of cars has increased substantially since hike beginning.  Total distance of the Riders of Rohan loop hike beginning from Grassi Lakes parking is only about 5 KM (3.1 miles) with the benefit of a good workout and phenomenal scenery.  Best done on a weekday in shoulder seasons.

The Riders of Rohan trail claims historic roots.  From the 'Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, 4th Edition, Volume 3', the present day Riders of Rohan trail was an Indian trail connecting the mountains to the prairies through Whiteman's Gap between Ha Ling Peak (Chinaman's Peak) and Mount Rundle.  Early European travelers began using the trail in the early 1840s on this route which became known as the Oregon Trail (not to be confused with the U.S. version).  A portion of the original south component from Whitemans Gap is forever buried beneath Whitemans Pond.

Pictures for this post on the Riders of Rohan trail in the Bow Valley near Grassi Lakes above Canmore, Alberta, Canada were captured on August 10, 2014.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

First of all, great website Barry! My girlfriend and I just started waterfall chasing this year and have taken it as a challenge to see as many as we can. It would have been helpful to see this post before going to Grassi Lake Falls ourselves recently...we ended driving on that road under the power lines and completely missed the Riders of Rohan trail. Our website is albertawaterfallchasers.com. Thanks again, I'll be checking your website before our travels to aid in our planning :-)

Thank you, Troy, for your kind words.  Best wishes on your mission.  There are virtually endless waterfall opportunities.  In hindsight it would have been helpful to have established a waterfall category.  There are spectacular opportunities in Yoho National Park and both Glacier National Parks.

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