Cougar Creek - Canmore - Hiking Alberta

 

Cougar Creek carries runoff between Mount Lady Macdonald and Grotto Mountain at Canmore.

 

 

Note: Substantial damage was inflicted on this watercourse by June, 2013 flooding.  This post has become historical.  The way things were.

 

Cougar Creek occupies a spectacular canyon between Mount Lady Macdonald and Grotto Mountain on the north side of Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

The creek flows south through Canmore to converge with the mighty and historically significant Bow River running beneath majestic mountains framing the town's southern barrier. 

The paved parking area, accessible by Benchlands Trail or Elk Run Boulevard, has space for about 20 vehicles.

Excellent trail along the Cougar Creek drainage leads past Mount Lady Macdonald as it narrows into the canyon leaving behind awesome views to the south from the parking area.

 

Cougar Creek - Canmore, Alberta, Canada View south across the TransCanada Hwy and Canmore to Three Sisters Mountain from Cougar Creek Trailhead

 

Cougar Creek - Canmore, Alberta, Canada View south across the TransCanada Hwy and Canmore to Mount Lawrence Grassi and Ha Ling Peak (photo right) from Cougar Creek Trailhead

 

Hiking through this canyon will challenge the feet as most of the surface is rough, loose rock and likely to be different annually as water, ice and perpetual erosion rearrange geographical features. 

The hike can be as long as chosen, a half day, full day or multiple days as trails link well beyond into the Ghost and Banff National Park.  A reasonable day hike would be about 4 kilometers (2½ miles) from the parking area to the Canadian Forks.

Near the beginning, trails branch off to the left, first to the east end of the Montane Traverse and second to the derelict Teahouse, ridge and summit of Mount Lady Macdonald.  

Continuing through the canyon will involve 13 creek crossings as the hike continues into the canyon as far as possible on one side before the way is blocked by a sheer cliff face, forcing a crossing to the other side.

 

Cougar Creek - Canmore, Alberta, Canada Mount Lady Macdonald from Cougar Creek Trailhead

 

Cougar Creek - Canmore, Alberta, Canada Cougar Creek between Mount Lady Macdonald and Grotto Mountain

 

Cougar Creek - Canmore, Alberta, Canada Trail at Cougar Creek between Mount Lady Macdonald and Grotto Mountain

 

Cougar Creek - Canmore, Alberta, Canada View back along Cougar Creek to Three Sisters Mountain towering over Canmore's south-west

 

This location is also popular with rock climbers because there are many bolted and anchored rock walls.  The Alpine Club of Canada is located nearby on the lower south-west slope of Grotto Mountain.

Their hostel is a nerve center which accommodates rock climbers from around the world with knowledgeable local support from one of the greatest assemblies of skill and talent on the planet.

 

Cougar Creek - Canmore, Alberta, Canada Cougar Creek Water flow builds from snow melt as the day warms up

 

Cougar Creek - Canmore, Alberta, Canada The route is sporadic and very rocky along Cougar Creek between Mount Lady Macdonald and Grotto Mountain

 

Cougar Creek - Canmore, Alberta, Canada View back along Cougar Creek to Three Sisters, Mount Lawrence Grassi and Ha Ling Peak

 

Water flow in the creek is considerably above average today.  At the first creek crossing, the water will be above the top of the leather hiking boots so hiking sandals are required for water navigation and neoprene socks provide protection from very cold water. 

Here is the situation.  Early morning water flow is considerably above normal due to a late beginning summer.  There is still a large snow pack at high elevations, the day is warming up rapidly and water flow will increase substantially throughout the day as snow melts above. 

Additionally, potential thunderstorms are forecast for the day and there is visibly heavy weather in the vicinity.  Once in the canyon there is limited visibility above and mountain weather can change rapidly and dynamically.

If the snow melt and rain combine, being deep in the mountains with only one practical way out could potentially result in being trapped by powerful water too dangerous to navigate safely or at all.

Rapidly increasing water can be like a slow motion flash flood.  The risk profile is high hiking solo and cell phones may be unreliable in a canyon.

 

Cougar Creek - Canmore, Alberta, Canada A small but pretty waterfall along Cougar Creek near Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Cougar Creek - Canmore, Alberta, Canada A small but pretty waterfall along Cougar Creek near Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Reluctantly, the decision is made to retreat to the parking area.  It is always best to err on the side of caution. 

The wilderness, like a great friend, will always be there another day.

 

Cougar Creek - Canmore, Alberta, Canada Mount Lady Macdonald on the retreat of the west side Cougar Creek Trail

 

Crossing the bridge at the parking area to hike up the opposite side of the Cougar Creek drainage leads to the old Rundlestone Quarry.  Many side trails emanate from here onto Grotto Mountain and beyond. 

Canmore is the gateway to the east entrance of Banff National Park.  This modern town offers a goldmine of hiking opportunities within close proximity to civilization and accessible transportation.

 

Cougar Creek - Canmore, Alberta, Canada On the Cougar Creek east side trail, arriving at the old Rundlestone Quarry

 

Cougar Creek - Canmore, Alberta, Canada Old Rundlestone Quarry along Cougar Creek near Canmore, Alberta

 

Cougar Creek - Canmore, Alberta, Canada Tailings scrap along the trail at the old Rundlestone Quarry in Canmore

 

Cougar Creek - Canmore, Alberta, Canada Hiking back to the trail-head on the east side of Cougar Creek in Canmore

 

Cougar Creek - Canmore, Alberta, Canada One of the beautifully maintained and distinctive homes along the east side of Cougar Creek

 

Cougar Creek - Canmore, Alberta, Canada View over the landscaping north towards Mount Lady MacDonald in Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

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