Icewalk in Grotto Canyon
Canada › Grotto Mountain
Added by James Hueser
- Distance: 4 km (2.5 miles) round trip
- Duration: about 3 hours
- Elevation gain: 200 m (650 feet)
- Frozen river walk through a canyon
- Pictographs - 500 to 1300 years old
To get to the trailhead, take Highway 1 and take the Seebe exit (Highway 1X). Continue north on Highway 1X and take a left at Highway 1A. A few kilometres after the town of Exshaw, turn into the parking lot marked by the Grotto Pond sign.
The trailhead is well marked and follow the trail until the clearing at Grotto Creek. From there, just follow the creek/canyon until you come to the ice/waterfalls. At that junction, take a left to walk out of the canyon and up the braided river valley - if you take this path you'll see some hoodoos with a large cave, as well as some pretty magnificent views of Heart and Pigeon mountains to the southeast. There isn't an "end" to the trail in the river valley, just turn around once the terrain is too difficult to navigate.
I always get a kick out of seeing pictographs. These ancient paintings are located on a flat, vertical slab about 500 m from the icefall junction. As soon as the icefalls come into view, take a few steps back around the corner and search the wall on the left for them.
If I'm not summiting something, I really like seeing something different and getting some big views in. I've never seen hoodoos in the mountains before, and it was really cool getting a closer look into the cave that formed there - not recommended during bear season! I also really enjoyed how the surrounding mountains were boxed in by the canyon and the views opened up in the river valley.
On the way down, I tried to shave some time off by penguin sliding down the river. I probably had a bit too much fun doing that.
- Hiking boots
- Trekking poles
- Winter layers
- Water and snacks
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I have avoided this hike for quite some time, due to its popularity during the "other three months of the year". Thanks to El Niño, I've gotten out to do many of the hikes I would normally avoid this winter. Past the Exshaw plant, the trail up the canyon/creek bed turns into solid glacial-colored ice. It's beautiful on its own and around every corner, you will find something else captivating enough to draw you all the way to the falls. Just make sure you have quality footwear for the ice, or a good sense of humor. In February, I left the parking lot about 3:30 pm, had the place to myself, and by the time we got back to the car around 7:30, the stars from the parking lot were absolutely spectacular. Check out your dark sky report before you go, and travel with a headlamp or qualify flashlight. It's worth it.
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