Old Goat Glacier is a favorite hike west of Three Sisters in Kananaskis Country, Alberta.
Hiking specs for Old Goat Glacier are:
- Round trip hiking distance: approx 5 kilometers (3¼ miles)
- Maximum elevation: 7,710 ft (2,350 m)
- Elevation gain: 2,116 ft (645 m)
Driving west in early morning rain, the target for the day is Old Goat Glacier, a few kilometers south of Canmore, Alberta, Canada along the Smith-Dorrien Trail.
Past Dead Man's Flats, the skies begin to open up over mist-enshrouded mountains and sagging spirits soar. The mixture of weather warrants photos of mountain views from the TransCanada Highway, and of reflections on Goat Pond while heading south from Canmore on the muddy Smith-Dorrien Trail (Hwy 742).
The trail-head is on the west shore of Spray Lake a short distance south of the left turn on the far side of Three Sisters Dam. Watch carefully on the right of the West Side Road for a short turn into an old gravel pit.
The parking area is above where Old Goat Creek enters Spray Lake and a trail heads up over the small ridge to link into the trail along the creek. The trail beside Old Goat Creek far exceeds expectations and within an hour, refreshment is being enjoyed at the base of very beautiful Old Goat Falls.
Another hour of steep trail ascends through talus and scree to arrive at the lateral moraine for the hike along the top past polished valley walls created by thousands of years of receding glacial ice.
Old Goat Glacier is at the western edge of Kananaskis Country. Banff National Park is on the other side of Old Goat Mountain.
Photos are taken looking up and down the length of the terminal moraines which contain what little remains of Old Goat Glacier. Marmot observes the consumption of lunch as mist drifts into the valley.
Old Goat Glacier is a mysterious and peaceful place. Hiking solo prevents exploring the surface of the glacier. To do so, without a hiking partner and the proper gear, would be foolish and potentially dangerous.
Caution and sensible decisions are expedient here. Several have lost their lives with poor off-trail wilderness decisions within volatile terrain.
The return hike follows the same route used for access. Old Goat Glacier is a wonderful short hike through a wide variety of terrain with many spectacular features.
On the drive home to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, a short drive further south on the Smith-Dorrien Trail allows a photograph to be taken across Spray Lake of the location for the basin in which the Old Goat Glacier resides. The waterfall at the terminus reveals the location.
The low ceilings and drifting cloud add an aura of mystique and beauty throughout the day. Even when inclement weather seems like a deterrent, it can become a benefit, if the decision is made to continue.
Note: Access to Old Goat Glacier was substantially altered by the June 2013 floods. Consult a more current post. Check in at a Parks Visitor Center.