Early-season hiking below Yamnuska

Looking for early-season hiking? Try the Yamnuska Natural Area, a nature lovers paradise less than an hours drive from Calgary. A transition zone between prairie and mountains, it’s one of the best places in the foothills for wildflowers. A 1974 study by the Bow Valley Naturalists identified 306 vascular plants. They also observed 74 species of birds, mule and white-tailed deer, and found a rich fauna of moths and butterflies.

On the 'Golf Course', Goat Mountain behind

On the 'Golf Course', Goat Mountain behind

In addition to the flora and fauna, the area has interesting geological features with the McConnell thrust fault separating the upper Eldon limestone (where climbers play) from the underlying sandstone Belly River Formation. Originally the sandstone was on top of of the 300-million-year younger limestone. An amazing geological story well worth reading up on. There is also a wide variety of glacial landforms such as drumlins, moraines, eskers, kettle ponds and lakes, kame ridges, scree slopes and rock slides. (GILL: in my opinion, it far exceeds in interest the nearby Bow Valley Provincial Park.)

The northern end of the area is accessed from Yamnuska trailhead. Follow the trail beyond the trailhead kiosk for a short distance. Look for a long, straight cutline to your left before the trail crosses the quarry road. Step over deadfall and follow the cutline to the old road leading to Meadow Lake. Turn left.

To access the southern, and most interesting area, park in a small parking lot across the highway from the entrance to the municipal dump. Walk up the road toward the dump bearing right to the main gates. Step over logs to the right, immediately before the gate, onto an obvious trail. At the drift fence duck between two horizontal wooden bars, then follow a good trail along the outside of the chain-link dump fence to its end. Turn left and follow a wire fence to the obvious major trail. You will have to put up with the garbage-clad fence and polythene-draped trees; but it’s not for long.

There is one  other popular access point just  south of Hwy 1X that has a gate leading onto land recently turned over to the MD. (Gill: This is the fastest route to Crescent Lake and my prefered entry point.)  There is room for two or three cars by the gate and in the ditch. A less used entrance north of Hwy. 1X has no place for parking.

The map shows major trails (solid red) that allow loops of varying lengths. Other trails or routes (no trail) we have followed are shown as dashed lines. There are many other bits of trail not shown. The GPS tracklog shows the major trails plus the route to the spring. Explore and enjoy.

Below Yam Map

Download GPS track log gpx

Note: The Yamnuska Natural Area is now officially part of Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park. Names on the map are taken from Yamnuska – Introductory studies of a natural area with proposals for its protection and use. 1974, Bow Valley Naturalists.

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