Tony Daffern | Jun 20, 2015 | Kananaskis Trails
The High Rockies Trail, which connects Goat Creek at the Banff Park boundary to Elk Pass on the Alberta B.C. boundary, is the westernmost section of the Trans Canada Trail in Alberta. The project’s proponent, the Alberta TrailNet Society, envisions the trail becoming a world-class destination trail through Kananaskis Country, with shuttle busses transporting trail users between trailheads. Presently, there are no overnight facilities for thru hikers on multi-day trips between Spray Lakes West and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.
A mixture of old and new trails, it heads south from Goat Creek along existing trails west of the Spray/Smith-Dorrien Highway (742). It passes Goat Pond, crosses Three Sisters Dam and heads down to Driftwood Day Use Area where it crosses to, and stays on, the east side of the highway. With the exception of the section between Chester and Sawmill, the trail to Upper Kananaskis Lake will all be new construction. The plan is to route the trail 200–500 m uphill from the highway to catch the best views through open areas. Even then most of this section will be through forest. Short connectors will be built to access the existing day use areas along the highway.
Of the many bridges to be built the most challenging is the one across Blackshale Creek (about halfway between Black Prince and Peninsula). It is proposed to cross the steep shale gully using a ropeway ferry crossing where you haul yourself across in a cart similar to the cable crossings on the West Coast Trail. Guess what is going to be the most popular section of the High Rockies Trail?
After reaching Lower Kananaskis Lake the trail will pass by Canyon campground, along the power line and cross the park road to Elkwood and on to Marl Lake using existing trails. The final section will be south to Boulton, then to Elk Pass trailhead and up Fox Creek to Elk Pass on the power line where a kiosk will be erected.
The trail will cater to hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers, snowshoers and in some sections skiers and equestrians. Construction has recently started near the Goat Creek trailhead and by the end of this summer the trail will have reached the bridge over Buller Creek. The project is being organized in eight phases and organizers are working with the Province on final approval for the detailed alignment of some sections. The approximately 70 km-long trail is expected to be finished before Canada’s 150th celebration in 2017.