Here’s a fun little hike, far easier than most we chronicle. It makes a loop around the west end of the Canmore Alberta, also hitting up some trails in the woods just across the river. Mountains, lots or them to see. Stunning stuff here! There’s a bit of history too, the site of a vanished coal mining community, plus an abandoned rail line with a spectacular bridge. Lots of variety, lots to take in.
There’s many possible starts to the adventure. We found some public parking along dead-end 17th Street, well west of the super busy parts of town (which can get absolutely nuts), keeping us from having to fight for a space. Sanity intact, head west and at the last house hit the trail and turn left.
Stroll along at a leisurely pace, passing others out for a walk. Be sure give a nice hello to all. Meeting up with the Bow River, the town’s historic train bridge (aka, the Canmore Engine Bridge) comes into view. This structure will be the subject of its own “Bridge Hunting” article soon. It uses an uncommon truss form (bridge-nerd lingo) and of course is quite old. It was used by the Canadian Pacific Railway to access some coal mines.
Cross over the river and follow the old rail line for a time. One more bridge, a smaller one at a side channel, pass a hydro plant, then hit the stairs. All couple hundred of them. Top out and look down with satisfaction. Those steps just got owned. Honestly, who needs a fitness membership?
You’re now on the Georgetown (Interpretive) Trail, just one route within the Canmore Nordic Centre Network. Meander west, passing many side trails (many of which are for bikes only). There’s lots of signs here so it’d be hard to get lost. On a high bench above the Bow, an occasional break in the trees affords one a good look west across the valley and the big peaks found there. Awe inspiring! But wait there’s lots more mountains yet to see.
A tiny little stream shows signs of having two personalities. It’s a trickle today, but deep gouges and cuts in its channel tell us it’s got a nasty side.
Drop down. Soon on coal slack underfoot marks your arrival at Georgetown. Yes, there used to be a community here on these flats, circa 1910-1916. They used to mine the black stuff here – there was and still is lots of coal in the area. Outside some occasional remains here and there, most of them easily missed, there’s very little to indicate there was ever anything here. It’s like Georgetown never existed. There’s a couple interpretive signs that explain a little of the town’s history.
A picnic table makes a fine lunch spot, the many peaks of Mount Rundle towering overhead. This is the east end of a limestone mass which extends off to the west for a half dozen kilometres or more. All the way to Banff in fact.
Done chowing down? Next, take the trail heading south and up and at the next junction, soon in, turn left. There’s some concrete stuff to your right sort of hidden in the woods, ruins from the Georgetown Mine.
The road gains elevation, but never too steeply. Pass many more bike trails, keeping an eye open for riders (it’s a popular place). Spend a moment or two on a paved path, then join up with the Georgetown Trail you came in on. Retrace your steps back to the train bridge.
Follow the old rail bed, which until the 1970s served the Canmore Coal Mine nearby. Pass an old “tell tale”. What’s this? Thought you’d never ask. It’s a series of dangling ropes or light chains hanging over the track which on striking employees riding the tops of cars (which they did in the old days) reminds them there’s a close clearance structure ahead, the bridge in this case. It’s a warning. Duck! Or get taken out.
Back in town now. The first of several groups of elk seen this day are passed. They pay us no mind. We hear bears can be found on or near the trail at times too. None showed for us. Your mileage may vary.
Houses back onto ponds and backwaters. Lots of trees. And those mountains all about. Nice place to live, here in the Rockies. We’re blessed. We have the best playground in the world.
At a T junction, leave the railbed behind and follow the dirt path leading west. For a time it’s jammed in between houses and a placid river channel and later a golf course (warning – we just missed being hit by an errant ball) and yet more back yards. Keep an eye open for the elusive Boler here. We spotted two in quick succession.
Trending north, soon on go right, a side trail leading to “Larch Island” which in fact seems Larch free (those trees preferring the alpine) and rather un-island like. The only water was the Bow on the one side. Wander about in the peacefull Larch-less woods here.
Come to the Bow. To the east more stunning peaks, Ha Ling and one of the “Three Sisters” poke out above the forest. Hit the main trail, left here, then soon on a right back on the road where you parked. Drive away, Fast and Furious style, another fun hike behind you. Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
If you wish more information about this trail, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: May, 2017.
Location: Canmore, AB.
Height gain maximum: 150m-ish.
Height gain cumulative: 250m-ish.
NOTE: all distances and heights are approximate.
Technical bits and notes: Expect to share the trail with human and beast.
Reference: Kananaskis Trail Guide by Gillean Daffern.