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Grotto Canyon Hike


  • Grotto Canyon



  • November 18, 2023



  • Ed, An, Oak, Erin, Rod, Bauer, Kent, Colleen, Peter, Lisa, Stefan, Gerard, Carolyn



  • from Calgary, take Highway 1 and turn off at the Seebee exit onto Highway 1X for a couple of km, and turn left (west) onto 1A of the hamlet of Exshaw for 3 km
  • from Canmore, take the 1A east for 13 km (10 minutes) and the parking lot is on the left-hand side
  • the Grotto Creek parking lot is on the right (north) side of the highway beside Grotto pond
  • a 10-minute drive from Canmore and 45 minutes from Calgary
  • the trailhead starts on the west side of the parking lot at the large Grotto Creek Trail sign
  • you take a path for a km through the trees along the edge of the Baymag 2 plant (processing plant for magnesium-carbonate), before turning right (marked with flagging tape) to follow Grotto Creek up the limestone walled canyon



Degree of difficulty:

  • 350 meters elevation gain
  • 8.5 km round trip up the valley
  • the hike took us just under 3 hours at a very leisurely pace
  • the creekbed was rocky and had a few ice patches
  • there is not much elevation, so it’s a relatively easy hike other than the tricky footing through the creekbed in the canyon and all the rocks in the creekbed beyond the canyon



Interesting notes:

  • partway up the creekbed just before the bend, on the left-hand side, are some Hopi pictographs (painted in ochre) that are estimated to be 500 to 1300 years old
  • the Hopi (meaning peaceful people) tribe is now based in Arizona, and one of the most visible pictographs is of their symbolic flute player
  • there are 200 climbing routes along the Grotto Canyon hike
  • just around the bend, there is an Inukshuk Garden and a little further along are some hoodoos and a cave in the sandstone on the left wall of the valley
  • the hike is wedged between Grotto Mountain to the west and Mount Fable to the east
  • members of the Palliser Expedition named the area Grotto in 1858 after discovering the cave tucked into the mountain, which they described as having a large stream leading to a clear pool and green mossy bank
  • Mt. Fable was named by the first ascent party in reference to a story about heavy bush causing a prior attempt to fail, which they considered a fable