The Heart Creek Bunker Hike in Kananaskis, Alberta
The Heart Creek Bunker hike is one I'd recommend everyone do, as it's such a unique experience. Before I get into the hike itself, here's a bit of history on the unfinished Cold War era bunker in the Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park. It's purpose was to house important Canadian government documents during a disaster (which the fear at the time would have been a nuclear detonation). Construction started in 1969 and the main tunnel goes back 55 meters, while another branch goes back an additional 40 meters into the dark of the mountain. Construction was halted when the tunnel was about one third of the way dug, and there are no explanations available as to why it stopped.
So now as for the hike itself, the trailhead is easy to find, it's the same one as the Heart Creek Trail. Instead of heading east down that trail however, head towards the west of the parking lot to find the Trans Canada Trail which is the beginning of the hike to the bunker. You'll follow the trail through the forest, paralleling the Trans Canada Highway for a time.
Since you are going underground, I'd recommend bringing a helmet.
The hike itself isn't all that interesting. The noise from the highway is a bit irritating and what views of the Bow Valley you do get usually include the highway and a quarry across the Lac Des Arcs.
The views are alright, but hindered a bit by the highway and quarry across the Lac Des Arcs.
The trail has some ups and downs here and there, but it's nothing that isn't manageable. In a few spots you'll come across some remnants of the flooding that hit this area back in 2013. The rocks swept down by the rushing waters of the creeks all still piled up along the banks, a constant reminder of the unpredictability of nature.
A large amount of rocks that were swept down the mountain in the floods of 2013.
At a certain point you will come to an intersection of trails. This is where you will leave the Trans Canada Trail behind, take the trail to your left and begin to ascend. In this part there's a couple small switchbacks to get up, but they shouldn't prove to be too tough. Once done the switchbacks the trail is a steady incline towards the entrance of the tunnel.
My friend Jesse on the steady incline towards the entrance to the Heart Creek Bunker.
Reaching the entrance, you'll probably feel the need to grab a picture since it's quite a sight to see. I take this time to snap a few pics, take a short break for some snacks, and get my helmet on.
The creepy, ominous black hole in the mountain is definitely worth getting a photo of.
I put my GoPro camera on a head strap mount and gave it to my friend Jesse, giving a first person view of what he was seeing inside the bunker once we entered it. Once you get inside, you can clearly see where drills were used to break the rock to get deeper into the mountain. some spots you can even see what appear to be blast marks on the wall as well.
As you make your way deeper into the main tunnel of the bunker, the light will begin to fade. You'll still have the faint light from the entrance visible, but it won't do anything to light your way as this tunnel of 55 meters deep.
The faint light from the entrance is visible just over my shoulder.
I brought a headlamp, lantern, and another flashlight when going in to try and light my way. There are little rooms off the main tunnel that go back 5 to 10 meters, and there is also another section of tunnel branching off the main one that goes back another 40 meters. This part is completely in darkness, with the only light coming from what you bring in to the bunker with you.
Other than the light of headlamps and lanterns, there's no natural light in the other tunnel.
While in this part of the bunker, my friend Jesse and I decided to have a seat and turn off all of our lights and sit in the darkness. Let me tell you, it's very creepy, especially because it's so quiet in the bunker. There's no echo at all in here, and by this point there was no one else in the bunker.
Once you feel like you're done exploring, head back out the way you came.
To get back to the vehicle you just follow the same trail you took to get to the entrance. Overall this is definitely a hike most people should do, as it's quite a unique experience. I know I'll do it again one day with family that come to visit. It's also worth noting that small kids could do this hike too, as it's not too difficult for them and if they aren't afraid of the dark they should enjoy the bunker. Want to see a video of my experience in the Heart Creek Bunker? Watch below!
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