Troll Falls and Hay Meadow - Kananaskis Country - Hiking AB

 

Troll Falls is a short, easy and popular hike near Nakiska in Kananaskis Country, west of CalgaryAlberta, Canada.

 

Hay Meadow, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Following the hike along Ribbon Creek, with a return via the interesting ski route linking back through Coal Mine Scar Trail and Hidden Trail to the Ribbon Creek parking area, there remains time for Mélanie and I to revisit an old and familiar friend.

From Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40) the turnoff for Nakiska Ski Resort crosses the short, stone bridge over Kananaskis River with calendar quality images of Mount Kidd to the south and Mount Lorette to the north.  After passing the left turn leading to the Kananaskis Delta Lodge, the first turn to the right leads directly into the Stoney Trail Day Use parking area along Stoney Trail for one of several access points to the short, easy and always popular Troll Falls hiking trail.

Reference Gem Trek Map 'Canmore and Kananaskis Village'  available at  most  outdoor recreation stores or Map Town for personal shopping and on-line orders.

The wide, well-groomed Troll Falls path is clearly signed to the left from historical and venerable Stoney Trail, which is the gated road under the power lines.  The Troll Falls trail travels through tall, evergreen forest with dense underbrush over a shallow rise that provides a spectacular mountain vista before morphing into Lodgepole Pine and Aspen forest.  The trail complex in this area is quite robust but intersections are clearly signed. This approach to Troll Falls is a straight-in route without using any options to left or right.

 

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The four-way intersection into Troll Falls is clearly signed and the hike continues on good path, with 2013 flood-related rubble still clearly evident, adding a feeling of mystique for the short distance remaining to the main waterfall.  The process repeats itself along most major Kananaskis Country watercourses where creek and river banks continue to erode from flood damage.  Compromised supporting soil along the creek bank collapses and trees tumble.  Ongoing maintenance reduces the risk of injury on the trail but the application of common sense is valuable.  The sound of Troll Falls is first heard before the enticing veil of white water beckons hikers to the base.

 

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Surrounding bedrock at the base of Troll Falls is wet from constant mist created by water falling over rock in swirling air currents.  This is a very popular ice climbing arena during winter due to short, easy access.  The base fall is easy to top rope and there are several frozen waterfalls along Marmot Creek which stretches several kilometers back onto the flanks of Mount Allan and Mount Collembolla.  Caution is expedient in accessing the Troll Falls bowl.  Appropriate footwear becomes a significant safety feature when hiking over muddy and slippery rock on the route to the face of 'the Ogre' and continuing trail around, up and away from the waterfall.  

Troll Falls is an incredibly beautiful and sensory space best visited in off days or hours when crowds are small or non-existent, like today.  The trail loops up, along the cliff face, and branches back down to the main trail.  Our choice for retreat is to avoid the main trail and track the creek side initially on challenging, rustic trail which clearly illustrates continuing flood erosion.  The off-trail route involves climbing over and crawling under obstacles as the creek flows towards Kananaskis River.  As reasonable off-trail routes disappear, an expeditious retreat to the main trail is in close proximity to the entrance at the four-way junction. 

 

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This is the first time Mélanie has seen the waterfall since the flood but we have hiked into and climbed ice here many times in past seasons.  On exit, via the same route taken in, the four-way junction allows alternative paths for retreat.  One option is a short distance left for a return route along the flat and boring Stoney Trail with power transmission lines draped overhead.  Stoney Trail is a more efficient and less interesting access route to and from Troll Falls.  Another alternative from the four-way junction is to cross Stoney Trail and link up directly with a faint trail though grassland into Aspen forest joining the Hay Meadow Trail.

The Hay Meadow Trail intercepts the Kananaskis River on the swing back towards parking at the Stoney Trail Day Use Area.  There are incredible views across the flood-altered river plain and forest tunnels to magnificent mountains which include Mount Baldy and Old Baldy.  Along the Kananaskis River bank, the spit of land used for the annual eagle migration count has been altered but remains available for this important, annually-recurring ritual.  The Hay Meadow Trail completes through a sunlit, forest tunnel with a swing right into the Stoney Trail Day Use parking area.

 

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The drive north along Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40) features an iconic and photogenic oasis that has provided peaceful refreshment and relaxation for travelers on the east side of Highway 40 south of Barrier Lake and the pass along the side of Mount Baldy.

 

This is O'Shaughnessy Falls.  The flat falls is uniquely beautiful and hosts a water (wishing) well and a memorial bench for visitors to enjoy a relaxing moment.  The water should be run through a filter or treated to be safe.  A short trail climbs steps and wanders up creek side for a short distance.

 

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The perennial 'Point of Interest' waterfall provides a memorial bench for pondering pure natural sound and beautiful imagery on a day when the highway is quiet.  'Lise'  left us far too soon.  History for this roadside retreat is challenging to find and reader comments to fill in the blanks will be appreciated.  

When was the formal point of interest established?  Who is O'Shaughnessy?  Is there more to know about Lise?  When was the wishing well constructed?  And by whom?

Dinner with Mélanie is the always outstanding Wednesday Roast Duck at Jonas Hungarian Restaurant in downtown Calgary.

 

Photographs for this short, easy hike into Troll Falls with a return via Hay Meadow were captured in Kananaskis Country west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada on September 7, 2016.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

According to the book "Canmore & Kananaskis History Explorer" by Ernie Lakusta, John O'Shaughnessy was the chief engineer during the construction of Hwy. 40 in 1973. The falls named for him flows from a spring higher up the slope. In the book it's written that: "This 'forever-flowing' spring was a sacred spring for the Stoneys. They called it Mini Hniyamba Wathte Ze. Its waters had been used for generations and it is said that neither sickness nor disease affected those who used them. To O'Shaughnessy's credit, he had the waterfall constructed to control the stream, then progressed to landscaping around the waterfall and building the wishing well that has become a favourite tourist attraction." So it sounds as if O'Shaughnessy found a way to maintain free access to the stream and its spring while not compromising the new highway. Now, as far as "Lise" is concerned, I have no idea at all, so maybe someone else can solve that mystery.

Thank you very much, Joan for your input for my benefit and all readers.  Your time and effort is very much appreciated.

I must get myself a copy of that book.

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