Time: 3 hours
Distance: 8 km (return)
Elevation Gain: 200 m
How To Get There: Go west (from Calgary) on TransCanada to the Seebe exit, go north then turn left on 1A for 10.9km. The Grotto Mountain Day Use area is on the north side of the highway and well marked.
Kim had hiked this trail before and wanted to show it to me because it is known for having some old pictographs on the canyon walls. We did this trail on our last day of camping at Lac Des Arcs campground and it was a beautiful day. Though we did drive past the trailhead parking lot the first time, we finally managed to turn back around and park at the right spot. The trailhead is easy to find but getting to the right trail is a little trickier.
Kim knew that the right trail starts along a small power line (ascending slowly upwards) and then once you pass the Baymag Plant, you have up to follow up the creek which eventually starts to turn into a canyon. We were lucky enough that Kim had done the trail with someone who knew what they were doing and she was able to remember where it was we were supposed to turn. Once you are walking in the creek, it can be a little difficult because you are trying to not roll your ankles while picking your way through the rocks. We went in the summer so the creek was all dried up so we didn't have to use the dirt trails that wind up beside the creek. By this point, there wasn't really any elevation gain. We made it to the waterfall but completely missed the pictographs! The waterfall wasn't very big as it had dried up quite a bit but it was still a lot of fun to climb up (even though it was a bit slippery).
We then decided to keep exploring through the canyon (which started to narrow significantly after the waterfall).
We passed a lot of rock climbers along the way and then finally got to a point where the canyon receded and the creek spread out even further. There was no more running water and it was just a lot more rocks to pick through. We eventually climbed onto the trail along the side of the dried up river bed and stumbled across quite a few old campfire spots.
As we continued on, we spotted some hoodoos and eventually the cave that Kim had climbed once before. The dirt and rocks were very loose and you had to climb up on your hands and feet making it a very difficult task!
We eventually did get in the cave and were even joined by a few other fellow hikers. We all joked about falling to our doom before one by one, we all braved going back down. Kim and I explored the area for a while and then started heading back, keeping our eyes peeled. Luckily, I finally spotted the pictographs!
They are on the west side on the canyon wall, just past Grotto Falls. They are very faded but you can definitely make out a sun, a canoe and a person (??). I think whoever did the drawing should probably keep their day job. It was a beautiful hike and I would definitely recommend it to anyone of all ages! I've heard it's also beautiful in the winter so maybe I'll also check it out then!