If you want to enjoy autumn colours in Kananaskis Country, you have two general choices. You can search out the larch patches near treeline in the western half of the Kananaskis, or you can hike among the aspens and poplar groves along the eastern fringe of Kananaskis Country.
One popular aspen hike is the Fullerton Loop in the Elbow Valley, near Allen Bill Pond. This autumn, thanks to the efforts of the Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association, there is a new trail which is sure to become just as popular. The Snagmore trail is a beautifully routed trail that wanders among aspen groves and over a small hill, with numerous viewpoints along the way. Begin by following the Elbow Trail for about a kilometre from Allen Bill Pond to the Fullerton Loop junction. Continue 200 metres east to the junction with the Snagmore trail on your right. For the next 1.2 kilometres, the trail follows a most aesthetic line along the edge of an aspen-lined escarpment overlooking the Elbow River. The trail then begins an easy climb up the sunny south slopes of Snagmore Hill, gaining 150 metres in 2 kilometres. A lovely, flowing descent of about 150 metres brings you to the Iron Springs trail in another 2 kilometres. Along the way, you’ll notice that the trail has been carefully planned to stay on dry ground, avoiding sharp switchbacks or steep grades, while taking advantage of every opportunity for views. Many corners have been banked to make mountain biking more enjoyable.
From the north end of the Snagmore trail, you can return to Allen Bill Pond via the Iron Springs and Elbow Trails for a nice half-day loop. Alternatively, you can make larger loops by connecting onto the new Fisher Ridge trail to the Iron Springs and/or Elbow Trails, or continuing even farther over the Ranger Summit and Fullerton trails. These trails are described in the 4th edition Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, Volume 2 (trails 4, 5, 6 and 7).
So far this season, the Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association has focused on constructing new trails in the area between the West Bragg Creek day use area and Allen Bill Pond. 28 kilometres of trail have already been cleared and the tread has been built on 20 kilometres. The new tread is now at a critical stage, where light use by hikers and mountain bikers in dry conditions will help compact and smooth the trail. It is best to avoid the trails during wet weather because this can damage the tread. Equestrians are asked to stay off of the new trails for about a year, to give the trail a chance to harden up. Note that some bridge construction is still required, so be cautious around streams and wet areas. The bridges should be installed by the end of October.
Work has now started on the new trails north of the West Bragg Creek day use area, with the aim to clear a further 15 kilometres of trail, bringing the total to 43 kilometres by October 31. The trails are being constructed with a combination of professional trail builders, contracted track-hoe machines and over 1400 hours of volunteer labour. You can support this project by joining the Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association, donating money or volunteering your time. There is a particular need for a qualified track-hoe operator.
Thanks to everyone involved with this project. The new trails are all very impressive!