Hiking Guide for the Grotto Canyon Ice Walk

Grotto Canyon Elevation
Rating 7.10
Difficulty Easy

The Grotto Canyon Ice Walk Hike

 Bow Valley Provincial Park, Kananaskis, Alberta

My latest hike has taken me to the Bow Valley Provincial Park to do the Grotto Canyon Ice Walk. The trailhead is located off the 1A Highway in between Exshaw and Canmore. Turn into the parking lot at the sign marked "Grotto Pond", and you'll see the start of the hike marked by a sign. It's a 2.1 kilometer easy trek to the frozen waterfalls at the end of the hike for myself and my friend Jesse. I strongly recommend having some sort of ice grips on your boots when doing this hike, or wear snowshoes with ice cleats on them like we did.

My friend Jesse near the start of the hike.

The first kilometer of the trail is without a doubt the worst part of the hike. It's easy, but the sounds of a nearby mineral processing facility drown out the sounds of nature and can put a damper on this section of the trail. There are a few unmarked trails here and there that also can sometimes intersect the main trail, so remember to follow the signs when they are present, like the one in the picture below.

Always follow the signs!

After roughly a kilometer of hiking, you'll come to the entrance of Grotto Canyon. There is a bench at the top of the ravine there where you can rest and take in the beautiful views of the Bow Valley.

Stop for a rest at the bench before entering the canyon for some incredible views!

For the next part of the hike you can opt to either follow the trail up the hill to the right or descend down the well worn path into the canyon itself to walk up the frozen creek. Either way you'll still end up in the canyon in a few hundred meters, so I always opt to hike up the canyon itself from the beginning.

Jesse points out our path into Grotto Canyon.

My next step marks the beginning of the "Ice Walk" part of the hike.

The section in the canyon is the best part of the hike. You'll have towering rock walls on your sides and feel the crunch of thick ice under your boots. In some sections the ice even appears blue, but today we couldn't see it because of a thick layer of snow atop it.

Jesse hikes on the frozen creek.

As you continue hiking through the canyon you'll pass something many people miss on this hike. There are aboriginal pictographs on the rock wall at the last bend before you can see the waterfalls. They were made by the Hopi tribe that currently resides in Arizona, and are roughly 500-1300 years old!

Here I'm posing with the pictographs left by the Hopi tribe that are 500-1300 years old!

The pictographs are quite a sight to behold, so make sure you look extra hard for them. After the pictographs you'll come to your destination, the frozen waterfalls. There are three frozen waterfalls here, with two of them being directly in front of you and the third being up a small hill to the right. These are quite popular with ice climbers, so take care not to damage them. The smooth ice always is quite the sight to see, and will keep you coming back to do this hike because of its magnificence.

If you're feeling like you want to keep hiking you can keep following the canyon to the left of the waterfalls, but there isn't much else up that way except for what was once a shallow cave destroyed by the 2013 floods. Head back the way you came to get back to your vehicle and complete the hike.

Hopefully you've enjoyed reading about this hike! Keep an eye on this website because the video of my excursion will be on here in a few weeks!

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