High Rockies Trail Guide

It was a beautiful sunny day up at Spray Lakes yesterday and there was lots of activity. We walked the well-packed section of the High Rockies Trail between Driftwood day-use area and West Wind Pass trail to the accompaniment of yipping sled dogs running on the other side of the reservoir. To introduce you to the trail we have developed a Guide to the High Rockies Trail.

A work in progress, it covers the 30 km of trail built this past summer between Goat Creek and Buller Mountain day-use areas. Maps show the main trail and access points with distances for each segment to help you plan your outing. Being a linear trail you either have to return the way you came or use two vehicles. There are also short descriptions for each section of the main trail.

View to the north west over Spray Lakes Reservoir.

View to the north west over Spray Lakes Reservoir.

View south from Driftwood over a sparkling reservoir.

View south from Driftwood over a sparkling reservoir.

Surface hoar crystals

Surface hoar crystals on the surface of the reservoir.

At present, there are two sections of distinctly different character. The northern section from Goat Creek to Three Sisters Dam is more open and has a tread wide enough for skiing with great views when travelled from south to north. Be aware that it is used in winter by Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours which stage at the west end of Three Sisters Dam. There is room to park outside their staging area.

After a short section between Three Sisters Dam and Driftwood day-use area which has potential avalanche danger in winter and may be closed, the trail south of Driftwood runs mainly through mossy spruce forest on the east side of the highway with occasional views. At present the trail appears to be broken by snowshoers, hikers and fat-tire bikers to Sparrowhawk  day-use area. The most southerly section of new trail between the “avalanche cut-off” and Buller Creek is closed in winter because of avalanche danger.

Typical trail

Typical trail through the spruce forest.

Next year another 30 km of trail will be developed south from Buller Creek to Lower Kananaskis Lake and a route will be signed through Peter Lougheed Provincial Pass to Elk Pass, the High Rockies Trail’s final destination.

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4 comments… add one
  • Tony Daffern Dec 7, 2015, 11:54 am

    Both avalanche areas that have warning signs on the road are controlled by Kananaskis Public Safety and at times of High hazard the road is likely to be closed until avalanche control has been done. I think that walking along the road to bypass the Buller section as long as avalanche hazard is not High is an acceptable risk
    However, the High Rockies Trail crosses the bottom of the avalanche run-out zone, and in certain snowpack conditions there is the possibility of remotely triggering the slopes above. This section of trail should be closed all winter.
    The trail just before Driftwood is below the road and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it when the forecast danger level at treeline is Considerable or less. I believe the slopes above this section rarely avalanche, and then only after very large dumps of snow or during the spring thaw. Of course, K Country may decide to close it anyway.

  • RyderDA Dec 7, 2015, 9:35 am

    I don’t remember — would bypassing the trail closure in the winter around Mt. Buller by going onto the road (shudder) eliminate the avalanche hazard? I seem to recall avalanche warning signs on that section of the road.

    I know you can’t get away from the avi danger up by Driftwood.

  • Tony Daffern Dec 1, 2015, 12:17 pm

    I believe that from Goat Creek the Trans-Canada Trail will go down Goat Creek, then Spray River to Banff, then to Canmore on the Banff Canmore Trail. The Trans-Canada Trail philosophy is to include as many communities as possible.

  • GMJ Dec 1, 2015, 8:40 am

    How does/will the HRT connect to the Trans-Canada trails in Bow Valley?

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