Junction Creek Trail
Elbow Valley (Kananaskis)
Time: 5 hours
Distance: 16 km (return)
Elevation Gain: 213 m
How To Get There: Proceed to Turner Valley and take the Hwy 546 west turnoff in the middle of town. Follow Hwy 546 into Kananaskis Country and the Sheep River Provincial Park. Follow the scenic road till its end at approximately 40kms. Park in the lot at the end of the road and cross the Sheep River for the beginning of the trail. The trail begins across from the middle of the lot, just west of the River log riding sign.
Matt picked out this trail from a book called Kananaskis Country Trail Guide Vol. 2 . The weather was perfect for hiking (not too hot, not too cold). We didn't have to hard of a time finding the trail head (which is surprising for us) and we were able to get down to the Sheep River where the trail head actually begins. After wading across and then putting our hiking shoes back on, we began to long trail.
It wasn't much of a challenge as most of the trail is flat but it was beautiful and the area was very green and lush.
The only obstacle on the trail is all of the deep ruts that have been left behind by horse riders. It was a bit mucky so there was some decent sized puddles to get around but that just added to the fun. Along the way we were treated to an assortment of meadows and pine trees. We followed the Junction Creek the whole way there and were surrounded on either side by the mountains as we made our way through the valley.
We finally made it to our destination which was the Three Tier Waterfalls. It looked a lot more impressive in the book but it was still very pretty.
There were a few other hikers not far behind us who set up their tents near the waterfalls so I guess this is also a spot for random back country camping. I will have to look into that another time because this would be a nice place to camp. We stopped and had lunch beside the waterfall, enjoying the views and the sound of the water fall.
Then we stopped and took some pictures and did a bit of exploring (we found a strange looking fort structure and to this day I'm still not sure what it was exactly).
After that, we started the long way back. And when I say long way back, I mean looooong way back. I'm not sure why, but for some reason the trail on the way back seemed to take forever. I think it was mostly because the hike itself wasn't very challenging for either Matt or I and we had already seen everything there was to see on the way to falls. However, along the way we did see another nice waterfall and we also ran into some really cute grouse which we had fun chasing around (note: it wasn't very smart of us to intervene with wildlife like that and I wouldn't ever do it again).
We also ended up getting scared by a bunch of horseback riders as they came around the corner (probably karma for chasing the grouse). All in all, it was a very serene hike.
For those who have children, I wouldn't necessarily recommend this hike just based on the fact that to get to the start of the trail you have to cross the river. However, later on in the summer the river isn't going to be as high so if you really want to go, I would suggest going then!