Red Rock Canyon Loop - Waterton - Hiking Alberta

 

Red Rock Canyon is a visual banquet in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada.

 

 

The Red Rock Canyon Loop in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada is a half-hour, 0.7 KM (⅜ mile) loop hike with 20 meters (66 feet) of elevation gain to a maximum elevation of 1,520 m (4,986 ft). 

The hike around Red Rock Canyon Loop is easily accessible by bicycle, car or shuttle from the Town of Waterton to the end of the Red Rock Parkway.  Red Rock Canyon is a very beautiful and busy place throughout the summer so it is wise to arrive early in the day.  Bring an extra layer for the cool morning.

 

Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Red Rock Canyon as viewed from the bridge adjacent to the parking area at the end of Red Rock Parkway

 

North from the Town of Waterton on the Waterton Lakes National Park access road (Hwy 5), a left turn on the 15 KM (9.4 mile) paved Red Rock Parkway weaves its way west through the impressive Blakiston Creek Valley where roadside exhibits explain this route is the ancient Buffalo Trail used by Indian hunting parties during the past 10,000 years. 

The ride is a dramatic example of Waterton Lakes National Park's unique characteristic where prairies meet mountains.  At the end of the road, a large parking lot, with nearby washrooms and picnic facilities, marks the beginning of the trail-head for the adjacent Red Rock Canyon Loop. 

Following yesterday's ambitious hike to Crypt Lake, this day's agenda will call for short-haul, lower elevation-gain hikes as muscles and joints recover.

 

Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada The parking area at the end of Red Rock Parkway leads directly to a bridge over Red Rock Canyon in Waterton Lakes National Park

 

This hike can begin from either side of Red Rock Creek running through the canyon.  Be sure to hike upstream.  Other trails begin from the same trail-head. 

There are interesting interpretive plaques along the trail which provide information about the formation of the canyon.  The red rock, called argillite, is mudstone compressed in the presence of oxygen.

The green stone is argillite made of mudstone compressed without the presence of oxygen.  Lighter colored layers were laid down thousands of years earlier by storms or eruptions creating layers between events of mudstone.

 

Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Providing scale standing beside Red Rock Creek at the bottom of a shallow part of Red Rock Canyon in this photo taken from the bridge adjacent to the parking area.

 

The canyon get deeper as the trail progresses along the top of the canyon.  The trail arrives at the top-of-the-loop, upper bridge over the deepest part of the canyon at 25 m (82 ft). 

Proceed past the bridge on rugged, compromised trail along the west side of the canyon for limited views into the canyon with no opportunities to make a descent within a reasonable distance.

 

Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada The bridge crosses over a deep part of the canyon about 0.4 KM (1/4 mile) from trail beginning

 

Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada A view of Red Rock Canyon looking nearly straight down from the bridge.

 

Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Red Rock Canyon looking down from the bridge near its deepest point.

 

Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada The river cascades through pools of water at the bottom. It is visually and audibly spectacular.

 

Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Early in this sunny day, contrast in light is an issue for the camera. Red Rock Canyon is a beautiful place.

 

The return on the opposite side of Red Rock Canyon leads back to the starting point where the fun begins by hiking partway up the bottom of Red Rock Canyon through Red Rock Creek as far as feasible.

 

Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Recent hot weather, combined with latent snow pack in surrounding mountains, has water running fairly high for this time of the year.  There are pools sufficiently deep to discourage hiking all the way to the upstream log jam but rock-hopping and wading through knee-deep water in sandals proceeds as far as feasible. 

The creek walk is an extraordinary sensory experience of brilliant color, bouncing light and the reverberating sound of rushing white water over smooth, red-rock walls with beige extrusions.

 

Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The best photographic opportunities lie at the bottom of Red Rock Canyon, rock-hopping in sandals along the rock shorelines or through the cool, crystal-clear water cascading over colorful stones.  Smooth, wet surfaces can be very slippery.

Photographic mosaics spring from patterned formations surrounding colored pebbles at the bottom of Red Rock Creek.  The cool exercise is a lot of fun and it is difficult to stop taking pictures.  Here are a few favorites.

 

Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Working the way downstream, final photos are taken beneath the bridge over Red Rock Canyon where the hike began.  Looking closely will reveal the straight-line shadow of the bridge crossing Red Rock Creek.

 

Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Red Rock Canyon - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The parking area bridge over Red Rock Canyon also hosts the trail to Blakiston Falls.  Actually, a number of trails begin from the Red Rock Canyon parking area, so it is important to take a moment to be sure the hike is on plan.

 

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