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Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike


  • Sparrowhawk Tarns



  • September 18, 2021



  • Ed, Dave, Craig, Mike, Brenda, Oak, Peter, Lisa, Gerard, Carolyn, Angela, Russ, Ken, Rod, Bauer, Erin



  • the trailhead is on the Spray Lakes Road and is 23 km south of Canmore
  • the trailhead is not marked, and the trail starts on the east side of the road across from the entrance to the Sparrowhawk Day Use Area
  • the faint trail angles 45 degrees to the right across an embankment into the trees



Degree of difficulty:

  • 600 meters of elevation gain and 11 km distance if you go to the middle of the tarns valley
  • the new trail starts with a gentler climb than the old one as they carved a new trail to allow the bikers to access the High Rockies trail
  • after a short distance, the trail crosses the High Rockies biking trail, so be careful to continue straight up the mountain
  • a little further along there are markings (.9 km into the hike) where you turn to the right as the straight-ahead trail leads up to Read’s Ridge and Tower
  • after the initial climb, the trail rolls through the trees with the creek on the right at times until you exit the trees and come to a vast open rock area
  • at this point, there are trails on the far right (our typical route) or the far left (not recommended) that both take about a half-hour to get up to the upper cirque
  • be careful with your footing walking up this rock field and try to follow the cairns to stay on the path
  • the hike took us 4 hours, and we moved at a fairly leisurely pace



Interesting notes:

  • this timing was great to observe the larch trees changing color, and it’s much less crowded than the trails in the Lake Louise area
  • the hike is very scenic once you exit the trees and enter the upper valley, where marmots typically abound in the beautiful rock field
  • on this day, we saw a pika for the first time for me
  • there are also some interesting rocks with lichen and other features that we were not able to discern
  • the area is flanked by Mount Sparrowhawk, Read’s Ridge, Red Mountain, Mount Bogart, and Mount Buller
  • at the top of the valley, you can look back for a picturesque view of Spray Lakes and Mount Nestor across the valley
  • the tarns in the upper valley will vary in the amount of water depending on the season
  • Sparrowhawk Mountain was in the running for the site of the 1988 Winter Olympics ski venue
  • the mountain was named in 1917 for HMS Sparrowhawk a British destroyer that sank in WW1 during the Battle of Jutland
  • this trail is also used to access Read’s Ridge and Read’s Tower