Karst Spring is accessed from Mount Shark Ski Area parking in Kananaskis Country south from Canmore, Alberta, Canada.
Hiking any Kananaskis Country backcountry creek in winter is a journey in artistic splendor. Snow formations, combined with ice crystal sculptures perch over gently running water, creating a finely detailed vision of tranquility that soothes the soul.
This short and beautiful day hike is about 9 KM (5.6 miles) round trip with gentle elevation. In winter it is a snowshoe trip on decent, narrow trail through predominantly aromatic, evergreen forest.
From Calgary, Alberta, the drive is west on the TransCanada Highway, south on Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40), to the gated end, followed by a brief jaunt westerly on Kananaskis Lakes Road for a right turn north onto Smith-Dorrien Trail (Hwy 742) and north to the left hand exit which soon passes the entrance to the historic and rustic Mount Engadine Lodge.
The trail-head for Watridge Lake to Karst Spring begins from the ample Mount Shark parking area at the end of the drive up this road. The Mount Shark area contains a labyrinth of professionally groomed, cross-country ski trails.
This site was developed and used for training and overflow events during the 1988 Winter Olympics hosted by Calgary. The primary cross-country ski venue was the Canmore Nordic Centre in Canmore, Alberta, Canada. Both offer well maintained world-class wilderness adventure opportunities.
Take the Watridge Lake Trail. It is important to consult a detailed hiking guide like Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Country trail guide for correct turns. The large billboard trail map at the Mount Shark complex is helpful and the appropriate Gem Trek Map is also very useful.
Small investments in hiking guides and maps will reap long term benefits for many future wilderness adventures. Following a complex set of turns, arrival at beautiful Watridge Lake leads to crossing the creek on a boardwalk for the creek side hike which will lead directly to Karst Spring.
A viewing platform, which is not particularly snowshoe friendly, has been installed at Karst Spring. On the plus side, the platform allows closer proximity to the water gushing from the rock cavern than would otherwise be achievable.
In spring, the warm water output can be substantially more robust and, occasionally, the roar can be heard several kilometers away.
Watridge Lake and Karst Spring offer a great, moderate hiking experience year round. On the return hike to the Mount Shark parking area, there is a breathtaking mountain view at the boardwalk across partially frozen Watridge Creek. Retreat is via the same route hiked for access.
In summary, there remains only a 45 KM (28 mile) drive north on the Smith-Dorrien Trail for the broad choice of a rewarding dinner in Canmore, Alberta prior to the drive home to Calgary.