Location: Bow Valley Provincial Park, Grotto Pond Parking Lot, Highway 1A
Elevation: 100m (328 ft)
Time: 2 – 3 hours
*NOTE*: Ice Cleats are 100% needed
Grotto Canyon is a fun hike in the summer, but it really stands out in the winter time. The trail begins at the Grotto Pond day use area along Highway 1A. The trail is marked with a sign near the front of the parking lot. It starts off running parallel to the highway, past the Baymag mineral processing facility where they produce Magnesium Oxide.
It soon veers to the right where you drop down into the canyon. This is where you will need some ice cleats on your feet! I picked up a pair of Kahtoola Microspikes from MEC and they worked amazingly well on the ice. Make your way along the frozen creek between the tall, stone walls of the canyon. Soon on your left before you turn a corner, you will come across pictographs. These ancient figures are incredible to see but can be easy to miss so keep your eyes peeled.
Eventually, you will come to the waterfalls that will likely be frozen still. There are two directly in front but also look to your right up higher to see another impressive icefall. This is a popular spot for ice climbing. They are impressive to see and make a great spot to stop and have a snack and take some photos.
Head left along the path past the waterfalls to continue through the canyon. It eventually opens to a gorgeous valley with hoodoos and a cave that the braver few can climb up into. Getting up is easy, down is a bit more challenging as we discovered. We couldn’t go much further without snowshoes, and this is where most turn around and head back.
Overall the ice walk is a gorgeous and fun way to spend an afternoon and is friendly for all levels. But we must stress to bring some ice cleats to make your experience the most enjoyable and safe!