The Horton Hill hike, just an hour's drive from Calgary in Kananaskis Country isn't going…
The Jura Creek hike near Canmore is a family-friendly outing with an option to add a level of difficulty by doing a loop hike that includes a scramble of Doorjamb and Loder Peak. Another alternative once out of the canyon and past the false fault, is to walk up Jura Creek for many kilometres. Near the end of Jura Creek, you can climb Morrowmount (in the summer or fall), a peak named for Patrick Morrow, the second Canadian to summit Mount Everest. That’s approximately a 20 – 22 km return hike with a route description here.
I have only done the Jura Creek hike in winter. It might be a tad challenging in the slot canyon in spring with high runoff in the creek, but the rest of the year should be fair game. In winter, families in particular would enjoy the hike, as there’s a short section that’s like a mini-ice walk. It’s nothing like nearby Grotto Canyon, but there is a high fun factor for the younger crowd.
Route description for the Jura Creek hike
Look for the trailhead sign at the west side of the Jura Creek parking lot. There’s a warren of trails in the area but pick anyone that heads west. You’re aiming for Jura Creek. Drop down to the creek bed and head north (or right) for the canyon sandwiched between Loder Peak to the east and Exshaw Mountain to the west. About 10 minutes and 800 metres later, arrive at the slot canyon entrance.
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The slot canyon
Jura Creek’s slot canyon is short, perhaps 150 – 200 m long, and way easier than the mile long slot canyon hike I did in Utah one year. Still, it’s very cool and a definite highlight of the hike. You can be through it in a few minutes, but this is where you’ll want to stop and take some photos.
After the slot canyon there’s another fun section of frozen ice if there has been a cold spell. If you’re coming for the ice walk, wait until mid-January unless it’s been really cold for some time. Despite the short length of the ice walk, I’d still highly recommend a pair of icers and even poles, if balance is an issue for you.
The ice walk will be the highlight for kids – and some adults too. Many families turn around just after the ice walk. If you do that it will be about 3 km round-trip. But I recommend continuing up to the top of the false fault as it’s another interesting feature on the Jura Creek hike.
Options to extend the Jura Creek hike
You can continue past the end of the canyon following Jura Creek through the valley for many kilometres. When we did this, the trail was quite wind-blown, so we ended up taking our icers off and hiking in our winter boots. On other occasions, you might need snowshoes. Elevation gain is minimal. It’s quite lovely walking in winter – especially as hardly anyone goes past the false fault. Count on a return hike of around 7- 8 kilometres if you continue up the creek.
At the top of the false fault, we met a group who were off to do a loop hike that included Loder Peak in January. Apparently, it’s quite doable in winter, providing you don’t mind a bit of scrambling. They figured it would be about a five-hour hike to loop back to the parking lot. It’s on my list now for next summer.
Parking for the Jura Creek hike
You’ll find parking for the hike east of Exshaw, but west of the Graymont Exshaw Plant on Highway 1A. The parking lot is on the north side of the highway here.
If you’re driving from Calgary, get off the Trans-Canada at the Seebee exit (Highway 1X) and follow it to reach Highway 1A. Turn left at the intersection and follow Highway 1A for about 5.5 kilometres. If you’re coming from Canmore, get on Highway 1Pass the turnoff to the Grotto Canyon parking and continue for another 5.5 km to reach Jura Creek. There is signage on the highway.
Alberta Parks improved the parking here a few years ago adding a washroom and trailhead facility. There seems to be some spillover parking on the highway when it gets busy on sunny weekends. Be sure to follow posted signs or you’ll end up with a ticket.
A few considerations
The Jura Creek hike is not as busy as Grotto Canyon. I preferred Grotto Canyon for the ice walk but loved Jura Creek for the variety of experiences. Both are quick to access from Canmore and Calgary.
Dogs are allowed on a leash.
Be sure to take hand and toe warmers, especially if you’re planning a long day out in winter. Dress in layers. Carry the 10 essentials. Take a thermos of something hot to drink and some high energy food.
Further reading on winter hikes or snowshoe outings in Alberta
- Rawson Lake, Alberta – A Year-Round Hiking Destination
- Where to Go Snowshoeing in Banff National Park
- Superb Snowshoeing to Mountain Lakes in Kananaskis Country
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