Highline Trail - Canmore - Hiking Alberta

 

The Highline Trail begins at Quarry Lake above CanmoreAlberta, Canada.

 

Highline Trail, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

The plan is simple.  Implementation is different from plan.  From Quarry Lake parking, the clearly marked trail-head leads south towards Ha Ling Peak and Mount Lawrence Grassi to the power lines.  A quick jog left will intercept the West Connector.  Word of warning.  In this area, there is a complex labyrinth of trail created over generations of logging, mining, real estate development and recreational activity.  Only main trails are shown on the map but there are many opportunities to get off track (lost) so it is important to pay close attention.  Signage is cryptic and occasionally, mildly confusing.  This hike is spectacular in many ways and worthy of the time and effort.

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Highline Trail trailhead at Quarry lake parking in the Bow Valley Corridor at Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Mount Lawrence Grassi and Ha Ling Peak host the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor at Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada View beneath the power lines to the East End of Mount Rundle (EEOR) from the West Connector to the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor at Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Intersection of the trail beneath the power lines with the West Connector to the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor at Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

 

The turn onto the West Connector of the Highline Trail is signed with a warning to be aware of descending mountain bikers.  The West Connector is a sustained, moderate ascent on variable-surface, winding trail through beautiful and lush forest canopy, shading moss bordered shrubbery.  The energizing and musky forest odor complements the effort of the climb until the next cryptic sign announces arrival at the junction with the Highline Trail.  A right turn would lead west towards the junction with the Riders of Rohan trail and Grassi Lakes.  The left turn will take the Highline Trail to the East Connector.

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Trail junction to the West Connector of the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor at Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Rocky trail on the West Connector to the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor at Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Excellent trail, tall trees and moss bordered shrubbery on the West Connector to the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Intersection with the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor at Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Hiking east on the Highline Trail is like a roller coaster past significant drainages and through lush forest with borders of thick moss.  The aroma is fresh and haunting.  Natural artistic features along the trail keep the camera busy and extend the length of the effort.  Curiosity requires investigation of many trail branches to discover what each has to offer.  At occasional drainages along the Highline Trail there are often open views across the valley which create opportunities to investigate the features of the opposite range hosting Grotto Mountain, Mount Lady Macdonald and Squaw's Tit past the Town of Canmore.  Occasionally, there is an excellent view of Quarry Lake and, reassuringly, the car remains in the parking area.

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking across a drainage on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking through lush and artistic forest scenery on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada A drainage view across the Bow Valley from the Highline Trail above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking through lush, aromatic and artistic forest scenery on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

The fascinating hike with undulating elevation continues.  Photographic opportunities are endless and frequently irresistible.  Expansive views from many drainages provide views of the opposite range and outstanding views across the Bow River and Canmore.  The images bring up fond memories of past hiking partners and vivid memories of previous hiking adventures on a rich and rewarding time-travel experience layered on top of the relaxing and wide-eyed wilderness adventure. 

Following more lateral and undulating forest navigation on good but rocky trail, another drainage provides an excellent view of the new aqueduct emanating from Cougar Creek to mediate any future events like the June 2013 Flood which devastated parts of the Canmore area.  Occasionally, changes in elevation are moderated by tight switchbacks which quickly modify the leisure of the relatively flat sections.  One of these switchbacks is the intersection with the trail to Three Sisters Creek further east.

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

Hiking through lush, aromatic and artistic forest scenery on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Entry to another significant drainage along the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The fabulous view from this drainage on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor to mountains past Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada A view back to my car at Quarry Lake from the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking through lush, aromatic and artistic forest scenery on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking through lush, aromatic and artistic forest scenery on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking through lush, aromatic and artistic forest scenery on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking through lush, aromatic and artistic forest scenery on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

A view up a drainage to Mount Lawrence Grassi above the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada.  The urge to scramble up the drainage is nearly irresistible.  Another day.

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

A good view of the new aqueduct at Cougar Creek between Grotto Mountain and Mount Lady MacDonald as seen from the Highline Trail across the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada A long lens view of the Cougar Creek aqueduct from the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Occasional tight switchbacks on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The trail intersection on the Highline Trail which leads to the extension to Three Sisters Creek in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

The original intent does not include the Highline Trail past the East Connector but this is a grand weather day and the sense of discovery is clearly overpowering common sense and recognition of age.  The trail immediately passes a stream with cascading waterfalls and then a beautiful, moss covered rock outlier.  Blue posts mark the location of the Highline Trail where there are frequent intersections with other, undocumented trails.

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking through lush, aromatic and artistic forest scenery on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking through lush, aromatic and artistic forest scenery on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking through lush, aromatic and artistic forest scenery on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking through lush, aromatic and artistic forest scenery on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The continuation of the Highline Trail is clearly marked.  But........there is an option in the Bow Valley Corridor above, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Clearly, at a left turn, an even better trail continues straight.  This will need to be investigated.  There is a log bench visible on a rise along this rogue trail that begs for attention.  After passing some interesting features, the beautiful, old-road trail leads to another, different trail junction for continuing east on the Highline Trail towards Three Sisters Creek.  However, at this trail junction, there is evidence of an old road that has been blocked by a log barrier.  This will need to be investigated.

 

 

 

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada A log bench along an old road is visible from the Highline Trail intersection in the Bow Valley Corridor in Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Apparently the bench has been placed to watch people die from some form of mountain biking lunacy near the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking through lush, aromatic and artistic forest scenery on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

 

This will need to be investigated.  The next half hour will be spent on an old, nearly forest-reclaimed road interrupted with multiple blockades and substantial dead-fall. Much of the time is spent crawling, military-style, on the belly or climbing over old barricades and dead-fall. 

There is an old derelict camp stove at roadside confirming  this is likely an old and long-abandoned logging road.  When the heavily-forested and nearly-reclaimed road swings right, away from the original intended objective, the turn about repeats the physical endeavor to get back to the junction with the Highline Trail.

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The Highline Trail veers to the left but an old, blocked road continues straight in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada There is substantial deadfall along the nearly reclaimed road in the Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada An old, derelict logging camp stove in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada One of the old barricades in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Back at the intersection with the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

The Highline Trail begins a steep and sustained descent with the benefit of switchbacks to reduce the grade.  Some of the switchback turns are very tight.  For the past several kilometers there have been many red and yellow trail flags resident along the trail for no apparent reason.  These are likely route flags to guide mountain climbers on their way from the valley to climb Canmore Wall or the Ship's Prow on the steep slopes of Ha Ling Peak and Mount Lawrence Grassi

The aggressive descent levels to the sound of rushing water and soon, trail markers lead to a newly constructed foot bridge over Three Sisters Creek.  During this well-timed pause, there is an obvious opportunity to quell thirst and hunger.

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking through lush, aromatic and artistic forest scenery on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking through lush, aromatic and artistic forest scenery on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Tight turn switchbacks along sustained descent on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking through lush, aromatic and artistic forest scenery on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Hiking through lush, aromatic and artistic forest scenery on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada.  An unusual structure appears straight ahead.

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

The fairly elaborate lean-to may be an novelty construction or, covered with a tarp, an overnight staging point for rock climbers from the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Well marked trail at the bottom of the descent and near Three Sisters Creek on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Arrival at Three Sisters Creek along the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

The Highline Trail continues past Three Sisters Creek.  The decision is made to call the creek the turnaround point following lunch in the sun beside the cascading, white-water creek at the newly constructed sawn-log, picnic bench with it's own Inukshuk and an incredible view of Three Sister Mountain looming above.  Kudos to the people who performed this post-flood reconstruction.  Fabulous Job!

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail continues into urban development past Three Sisters Creek in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

The sawn-log picnic bench and Inukshuk at Three Sisters Creek on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The view upstream from the bridge at Three Sisters Creek along Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada A section of wooden pipe along Three Sisters Creek at Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The lunch location on the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada 
 
 
After consuming lunch and drinking all the fluid including Nuun electrolyte, the Katadyn bottle is loaded from the cold, fresh water in Three Sisters Creek and the return hike to Quarry Lake begins.  Climbing back up the steep Highline Trail for descent on the East Connector is completely unappealing, particularly when there is a perfectly good and level, albeit undocumented, trail directly at the bottom of the Highline Trail near Three Sisters Creek.
 
The firm decision is made to avoid further ascent and hike on any trail heading west or down.  When there is an option, it is characteristic to choose uncharted and new experience terrain.  There is less than complete confidence if this will work but nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Local Canmore residents will recognize the locations, but this solo hike proceeds with no clue about the route.  The adventure continues.  Almost immediately, this approach turns interesting with the discovery the trail is navigating an old mountain biking course.  The trail appears to have had little use in the past few years but the path is very good and level.
 
 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Retuning on the Highline Trail at Three Sisters Creek in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking trail beside an old mountain biking course beneath the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking trail beside an old mountain biking course beneath the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking trail beside an old mountain biking course beneath the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

 

Open sections provide lower elevation views across Canmore to mountains on the opposite side of the valley which are different but equally spectacular.  In one open section, there is evidence below of old demolished buildings in an open field. 

Although no signs are evident, a large boulder barrier suggests the hike is proceeding on private land.  There is no expectation to be challenged and when leaving, there will be absolutely no evidence of my presence.  Passing one old, decrepit, mountain biking ramp features a leap into more than 30 m of vertical descent over rugged forest and rocky terrain with little margin for error.

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada View from open field across Canmore to mountain views from beneath Highline Trail in Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada A long lens view of the Cougar Creek aqueduct with Mount Lady MacDonald and Grotto Mountain behind from beneath the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Evidence of demolished building in an open field below with Grotto Mountain behind from beneath the Highline Trail in Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada A large boulder barrier blocks an old road beneath Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Seriously! A mountain biking ramp beneath the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The best angle found to view the landing zone on the other side of the ramp beneath the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore above Alberta, Canada.

 

For some distance the hike proceeds past forest debris on the left which has been placed there to obliterate passage on an old road.  Additionally, the hike is over trail that is black, coal dust.  This portion of the retreat is through an old abandoned coal mine. 

A prominent trail branch to the left, which proceeds uphill, is the only exception made to the hiking strategy of west and down only.  The trail passes an old coal strip mine.  Exit past another row of boulders, with a mountain biking ramp, leads to a modern gravel road.  Following a bit of exploration in this area descent on the road past open coal outcroppings to a gate clearly, indicates leaving restricted private land.

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada A trail branch on trail made of coal leads left and up beneath the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Forest debris blocks passage on an old road beneath the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking past an old coal mining strip mine beneath the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The trail is over coal beneath the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Leaving the strip coal mine area beneath the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada A roadside coal outcropping beneath the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The gate which restricts access to the old coal mining area beneath the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

The wide grassy cut-line heads west from the gate and passes a single beehive to urban development where the trail finally intersects with the East Connector from the Highline Trail far above.  A brief descent collides with urban development and gravel road leads to signage beneath power lines with the East End of Rundle prominent to the west.  This is mercifully the home stretch.

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada A single beehive beneath the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The grassy cutline leads to urban development near the East Connector to the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Intercepting then descending the East Connector to the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada This sign, flipped 90 degrees counter clockwise, would make better sense at the East Connector to the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Approaching the power lines on descent of the East Connector to the Highline Trail in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Homeward bound beneath the power lines and EEOR in the distance near Quarry Lake at Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Good, wide, flat and well signed gravel trail leads to an obvious turnoff into Quarry Lake and paved path around the lake leads to the lonely car in the parking area.  The day has been much different and more aggressive than planned or anticipated, with fascinating discovery.  Boots are off.  Sandals will be fine for the drive back home near Calgary Olympic Park in Calgary.

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Good, wide and well-signed path leading towards Mount Rundle near Quarry Lake in Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada The turnoff to Quarry Lake in Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking on paved path around Quarry Lake in Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Highline Trail, Bow Valley Corridor, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Mount Rundle past Quarry Lake in Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

The day is a much more aggressive project than originally planned.  The original plan to ascend the West Connector, hike east on the Highline Trail and descend on the East Connector with a return beneath the power lines would have covered about 13.6 KM (8½ miles) with a net elevation gain in the range of 210 m (690 feet). 

The extension to Three Sisters Creek via the Highline Trail would bring the total distance near 18 KM (11¹⁄₃ miles) with similar net elevation gain

With additional side trails and adventures, the estimated hiking distance on the day is something in the 25 KM (15⅝ mile range).  Important note: Gross elevation gain substantially exceeds net elevation gain due to the undulating nature of the Highline Trail.

 

Photographs for this hike on the Highline Trail and surrounding terrain were taken on September 1, 2014 above Canmore in the Bow Valley Corridor west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

 

 

 

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Comments

Thank you, Jerry. The Highline Trail above Canmore is an excellent hike. The next time I return I shall scramble one or two of those drainages.

As an avid hiker I always enjoy your postings, but I particularily enjoyed this one. Keep up the great work.

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