Banff National Park
Time: 3 hours
Distance: 8.4 km (return)
Elevation Gain: 455 m
How To Get There: Travelling west from Calgary on the TransCanada, turn right off of the first exit to Banff. Turn right again onto Minnewanka Road. Drive until you see a sign for the Upper Bankhead day use area and then turn left into the parking lot. The trailhead for this hike is at the far west side of the parking lot.
Today was a good day. Though the weather wasn't very promising, I was able to hike with my mom once again. On top of that, I also received some very good career news just before we started our hike. Though any day in the mountains counts as a good day for me!
The forecast was calling for grey skies and a high of only 2 degrees Celsius. So after we parked, we put on our toques and gloves and then set off on our latest adventure. It was around 11 am once we started on the actual trail. I wanted to make sure we finished the hike before 3 pm as snowfall was supposed to start around then.
This trail starts off on a widened gravel trail. Not too far in, you begin to climb upwards, surrounded on all sides by a thick forest of broad-leafed and needle trees.
There was a light dusting of snow on the ground from the night before which accented the beautiful fall colours. Though it was a bit chilly, this time of the year is often a real treat for the eyes so we didn't mind.
The smell of mulch filled the air and we made sure to take every opportunity to breath in what nature had to offer. About 1 km into the hike, we came across an old abandoned building frame of what used to be an old mining house.
Now it just serves as a canvas for graffiti artists and neat pictures for passing tourists.
After the ***, numerous mine shafts began to pop up along the trails. Every one of them was gated off so as to protect people from getting too close and falling in. It was interesting to see so many different shafts dotted among the forest.
Though they created deep scars in the ground, it was a haunting reminder of the life that once was. I can only imagine how difficult it would have been for the miners to work in this kind of mountainous setting.
The trail is a continuous uphill climb. Though the elevation doesn't gain sharply at any point, it's still a bit of a workout since there aren't many flat spots to catch your breath.
After we continued on past the mine shafts, the trail got a little more wild looking. I have never seen a trail with so many exposed tree roots on it before! You really need to watch your footing at this part or you could end up flat on your face!
A lot of people complain that this trail doesn't offer a lot of views until the very end. While I do understand where they're coming from, as the trail is completely shrouded in forest as you work your way up, I don't think that makes this trail any less interesting. There were all sorts of animals along the way, including a squirrel who decided to pose for me right up until I managed to get my camera out. We could also see rabbit prints in the snow along the way.
I can only imagine the amount of wildflowers that grow here during the summer time. There were still a few flowers clinging to life and it was already October!
There are a few scatterings of switchbacks but for the most part, the trail moves straight up the whole way. It's only when it begins to veer along the side of a valley do you start to see the mountains and TransCanada Highway below. Unfortunately, we weren't able to see very far as the clouds were hanging very low that day.
We were able to take a few pictures at an interestingly shaped tree though!
A few boulders began to pop up just before we started to walk through a very dense thicket of pine trees.
Popping out on the other side, we were finally able to see our goal in full sight. The bowl of fallen boulders is an interesting spectacle.
The official trail ends right around this point but there is a trail that continues up the right side of the thick talus so we continued on.
This is where most of the elevation is gained as it's virtually a straight up climb to the end of the trail.
We could have continued past the big boulders but decided to stop and have lunch at this point, as the low hanging clouds made it pointless to keep climbing.
When we sat down to enjoy the view, we were pleased to see that the clouds weren't completely covering everything around us. We were still able to see Bow Valley, as well as the small and hidden alpine lake that had eluded us earlier.
After lunch, we explored the area a bit before finally heading back the way we had come.
When we reached the bottom of the bowl, we turned off into the pine trees and took a look at the alpine lake. It was already mostly frozen over! With a few more pictures taken, we finally decided it was time to head home.
This trail is a great option for the whole family. If you want to find a way to get the kids to burn some energy off or if you're just new to hiking but want to gain some elevation, I would definitely recommend this hike. It's not known for any special views, but it's interesting to see what kind of carvings a glacier can do.