Time: 5 1/2 hours
Distance: 13 km
Elevation Gain: 680 m
How To Get There: Going west on Hwy 11, take the turn off just across from the Nordegg town access (Shunda Road). Follow the signs for the Coliseum trail as they have changed the trailhead staging area due to the old trail running through private property
Well hello there! It's been a while since I've been able to add to my hiking blog. But I'm back in Alberta now and ready to get going again. Now the closest mountain range to me is in the Nordegg area, so without further ado...
Coliseum Mountain is one of the closest mountains to Sylvan Lake. For this reason, and based on the fact that we were just getting back to hiking after almost five months, we decided to pick this hike as a way to get our hiking legs going again. It was a gorgeous day at 22 degrees and not a cloud in the sky as we drove to the trail head.
The trail starts off flat as it works it's way through skinny pine trees and tall grass. There are some summer houses that pop up here and there as you make your way north towards a small creek crossing.
The slope that leads down to the creek crossing is surrounded by taller pine trees, one of which has a helpful arrow pointing us on our way.
Matt and I stopped for a brief moment at the creek. Because it was spring, the water was high enough that we had to jump across instead of using the protruding rocks as stepping stones. Matt was very excited to get to the other side.
Once we got past the creek, we found ourselves walking through a thick forest of never ending pine trees, complete with various spring flowers. The sun shone bright which left me feeling euphoric and happy to be home. The trail is well-maintained, covered in dead pine needles and occasional stones.
After gaining a bit of elevation, the needle-covered trail flattened for a kilometer through the strong aroma of spruce before finally coming to a three-way intersection. Going left takes the hiker up to the summit of Coliseum Mountain and going right takes you to the Nordegg Ranger Station.
This is where the first of the switchbacks begin and most of the elevation is gained. There aren't a lot of views but there is ample opportunity for a good cardio workout. Just make sure you don't skip leg day before climbing this portion of the hike. While there are rare points where the trail is flat, for the most part it's constantly moving upwards.
Because a wind storm had blown through a few days prior, there were numerous obstacles along the way that forced us to walk off-trail momentarily. I almost couldn't believe how many trees had been knocked down because of the sheer force of mother nature.
Like many trails that are frequented often, Coliseum Mountain has a problem with hikers who prefer to take short cuts and thus create lasting damage off the trail. In an effort to curb this, some helpful hikers have dragged fallen branches onto the short cuts in order to dissuade people from using them.
The sky remained blue as we continued to work our way towards the summit. There wasn't much indication on the elevation we were gaining, especially because the trail remained mostly the same for the first while.
Over time, tree roots begin to protrude through the dirt more and more.
Another obstacle on the trail was the water run-off that became more and more frequent as we climbed. Some parts of the trail almost looked like a small stream!
A few switchbacks later and we were finally getting to a point where the winter snow was no longer melting.
While the temperature dropping was a disadvantage and made the trail a bit more of a challenge, it definitely made for better views as the thick forest finally began to clear enough to reap the rewards of our hard work climbing upwards.
Large cliffs began to take the place of trees as we got closer and closer to the top of the ridge that would take us the rest of the way. I always think that the more rock formations you see, the closer you are to getting to the top. This trail was certainly no different!
We were lucky enough that someone had just previously hiked the trail before us which meant we weren't in charge of pot-holing as the snow began to reach our calves. The trail flattens as it extends through a mix of forest and meadow.
Finally we were spit out the other side and got our first nice view of the summit. The impressive bowl separating the higher rocky ends and the ridges in the rock resemble the seating in an ancient coliseum (thus the name).
We took a few pictures from our perch and then began making our way around the ridge, moving immediately onto lose scree. The trail is steep in sections and we had to be careful to watch our footing, especially with the snow caked to the rocks in certain spots.
A inukshuk stands watch over the mountain which provided the perfect spot for lunch and more photos.
Naturally, we were joined by a friendly chipmunk who was incredibly curious about our food. It was apparent that he had been fed by humans in the past.
The scree trail disappears into a muddy trail that then transforms into giant snow drifts. while we were done with much of the elevation gain, we had to fight against the frozen precipitation. There was a few times where I found myself falling knee-deep and getting temporarily stuck.
The trail along the ridge darts in and out of the forest, offering great views of the Nordegg area.
One part along the trail sticks far out from the trees and offers a panoramic view of the ridge bowl, showing us where we had come from and where we were heading.
Not too far after, we took the chance to see the north side of the ridge before continuing along our way.
Fun Fact: Coliseum Mountain is the location of the very first fire lookout in Alberta built in 1927. We could see why once we cleared the final patch of trees and witnessed our closest view of the cap yet. With that advantage, a person could see for miles!
Climbing up the cap is the second part of the hike that entails a but of scree. It's not too bad and the only challenge really comes from the steep climb.
On top of the cap is short grass that covers everything like icing on a cake. There is a cairn that indicates the summit which we made sure to take pictures of before exploring the surrounding area.
Not too far off to the west of the cairn, there is a button that indicates what we've just achieved climbing.
After enjoying the gorgeous weather for a bit longer, we finally decided it was time to head back down.
As far as a 'welcome back' to the mountains trip goes, I was glad I had chosen Coliseum Mountain. It's a nice hike for someone who is looking to get their "hiking legs" back and offers pretty great views of the Nordegg area. You can even see Abraham Lake and Mt. Baldy from the summit.
A moderate hike with a rewarding ending. Not a bad outcome for my first hike of 2017!