Grotto Canyon Unique Canmore Hike in Kananaskis Country

Grotto Canyon trail in Kananaskis Country, near Canmore Alberta, is unique in several ways including the pictographs on the canyon wall. I might have missed the rock paintings but another hiker pointed out the general location earlier along the hike.

The trailhead to Grotto Canyon hike is on the left side of the parking lot. Starting off with a strange twist to hiking trails in Alberta, you will walk past the Baymag (magnesium oxide) facility in Exshaw at the start of the hike. Driving from Calgary to Banff you see the industrial site from across the Trans-Canada highway and Lac des Arcs.

 

Grotto Canyon hiking trail winds through rocky terrain in Kananaskis

Grotto Canyon hiking trail winds through rocky terrain in Kananaskis

 

Who would imagine a cool hiking trail exists on the other side of a lake behind an industrial plant in the Rocky Mountains?

If you’re thinking who the hell wants to see an industrial facility during a hike, then maybe you will enjoy a more serene hike close to Canmore. Try Grassi Lakes trail instead.

Read on to find out more about this unique hiking trail near Canmore Alberta in the beauty of Kananaskis Country.

READ now: 5 Easy hikes in Kananaskis – best hiking near Calgary

 

Hiker in the Grotto Canyon Kananaskis Alberta Canada

Hiking the Grotto Canyon in summer

 

Grotto Canyon hike description

Starting from the trailhead this hike is not going to win you over but trust me when I tell you it’s worth your time to check out this easy Kananaskis hiking trail.

 

Baymag facility is seen from the Grotto Canyon trail

Baymag facility is seen from the Grotto Canyon trail

 

Walking past the Baymag plant there is a sign explaining the many uses of magnesium oxide such as water treatment and acid neutralization.

 

Baymag (magnesium oxide) mineral processing facility info

Baymag (magnesium oxide) mineral processing facility info

 

Continuing on the trail past the Baymag site the trail is mostly straight and uneventful but then turns towards the canyon and a change of scenery.

Now if you’ve been to Johnston Canyon in Banff this hike may prove underwhelming. But the Grotto Canyon has something Johnston Canyon does not. Pictographs from several hundred years ago. So it’s worth it to hike the Grotto Canyon trail, plus there are way fewer people on this hike!

 

Start of Grotto Canyon hiking trail Exshaw Alberta

Start of Grotto Canyon hiking trail Exshaw Alberta

 

You’ll want to wear proper hiking shoes on Grotto hike because there are a lot of rocky areas and it’s easy enough to slip or twist an ankle if you’re wearing the wrong footwear.

 

Hiking through the narrow canyon at the Grotto hike in Kananaskis

Hiking through the narrow canyon at the Grotto hike in Kananaskis

 

Bright red velvety looking maple leaves are due to Erineum Velvet Galls (mites) at Grotto Canyon hiking trail in Alberta Canada

Velvet Erineum patches on leaves of maple trees at Grotto Canyon in Kananaskis Alberta

 

Grotto Canyon Pictographs

Shortly after entering the narrow canyon there is a spot with several pictographs that you’ll miss unless you are looking for them. Watch for the pictographs on the left side of the canyon, around 4 to 5 meters (12 – 16 ft) up the canyon wall.

See the photo below to help guide you to the pictograph site in Grotto Canyon.

 

Pictographs on the walls of the Grotto Canyon trail in Kananaskis AB

Location of the pictographs along Grotto Canyon trail

 

Did Hopi Indians visit Grotto Canyon?

In the southwestern United States the Hopi Indian tribe lives in what is now Arizona, the area where their ancestors lived for thousands of years. The Book of the Hopi, written by 30 elders of the Hopi nation, includes the story of a journey to the land of ice and snow.

 

Petroglyph image at Grotto Canyon hiking trail near Canmore

Pictograph image at Grotto Canyon hiking trail near Canmore

 

Could the pictographs in the Grotto Canyon be from the Hopi Indian trip to the northern lands?

 

Rust colored pictograph at Kananaskis Country hiking trail Grotto Canyon by Canmore AB

Rust colored pictograph at Kananaskis Country hiking trail Grotto Canyon

 

According to this Globe and Mail article a Canadian archaeologist believes the Hopi made the pictographs in Alberta, including one of a flute player which resembles the Kokapelli.

 

Pictograph of animal on the wall of Grotto Canyon in Kananaskis

Pictograph of animal on the wall of Grotto Canyon in Kananaskis

 

Practical info for Grotto Canyon hike

Location

Only 10 minutes from Canmore Alberta the Grotto Canyon hiking trail is a favorite for all types of hikers, from families and group outings to solo hikers.

Address

Grotto Trail, Bighorn No. 8, Alberta

 

Kananaskis hiking trail Grotto Canyon

Kananaskis hiking trail Grotto Canyon

 

From Canmore

Take Bow Valley Trail (Hwy AB-1A East) for 12 km (7.5 miles) and turn left into the Grotto Canyon parking lot.

Allow 10 – 15 minutes driving time.

Trailhead is on the left side of the parking area.

 

From Calgary

Take the Trans-Canada Hwy 1 West to exit 114 towards Seebe/Exshaw/Stony Indian Park.

Merge onto AB-1X North, you’ll cross the Bow River, then shortly afterwards at the T intersection take a left onto Bow Valley Trail (Hwy AB-1A West) signs for Kananaskis/Exshaw.

Follow Bow Valley Trail (AB-1A W) for 11.2 km (7 miles) then turn right into the Grotto Canyon Trail parking area.

Allow 1 hour driving time.

The trailhead is on the left side of the parking lot.

 

An unusual start to a hike, passing by the cement plant at Lac des Arcs Alberta

An unusual start to a hike, passing by the cement plant at Lac des Arcs Alberta

 

Hike distance

4.2 km (2.6 miles) out and back trail

 

Time required

Allow 90 minutes to 2 hours

 

Elevation gain

100 meters (328 ft)

 

Squirrel standing amoung the rocks in Kananaskis Country

Squirrel in Kananaskis Country

 

Difficulty

Easy

 

Rocky Mountain view while hiking the Grotto Canyon trail near Canmore

Rocky Mountain view while hiking the Grotto Canyon trail near Canmore

 

Best time to hike

From May through October and throughout winter you can also hike this trail provided you are prepared for winter conditions with possible ice and snow. Be sure to wear crampons in the winter and hiking poles are also a good idea.

 

Highlights/Features

  • Waterfall
  • Pictographs
  • Narrow canyon

 

Grotto Canyon trailhead at Kananaskis Country AB near Canmore

Grotto Canyon trailhead at Kananaskis Country AB near Canmore

 

Facilities

  • Washrooms
  • Garbage cans
  • Paved parking area

 

Dogs allowed on trail?

Yes, but dogs must be on leash at all times

 

Hiker and signage for Grotto Creek Canyon

Hiker and signage for Grotto Creek Canyon

 

Save it for later on Pinterest!

Grotto Canyon hike in Kananaskis Country Canmore Alberta Canada

Tags: , , , ,

About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 4 of living a nomadic life, roadtripping around the USA and Canada and writing about her experiences. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

2 Replies

Trackback  •  Comments RSS

  1. Jo Harmon says:

    Fascinating to learn that the Hopi may have made this trek. I have never heard of this. Weather and time have tried to hide these amazing petrographs.

    • Susan Moore says:

      Yes it’s so intriguing, the Hopi could be the artists who painted these pictographs. The art on the canyon walls is amazing to see but it’s easy to hike right past unless you know where to look.

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Top