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No more getting close to Troll Falls

Troll Falls Hike – A Year Round Outing in Kananaskis

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The Troll Falls hike is a standout as a year-round family-friendly outing. It’s only 3.4 km round-trip, climbing just 60 m to end at the falls. As of 2020 you can continue on a scenic side trail to Upper Troll Falls – which I’d highly recommend you do. The hike is especially lovely in winter when the waterfalls becomes icefalls.

You can do the Troll Falls hike on foot, snowshoes or even by fat tire bike which you can rent from Kananaskis Outfitters. You could also do the short spur to the falls either before of after skiing to Skogan Pass – a cross-country ski outing I highly recommend.

Unfortunately, it’s getting very busy at the Troll Falls parking lot, particularly on weekends. Go early or late in the day so you can get a parking spot. Or park up by the Pomeroy Kananaskis Lodge in Kananaskis Village and take a longer hike via the network of trails that leads to the falls.

Be sure to purchase your Kananaskis Conservation Pass before you head to the falls.

Upper Troll Falls is particularly pretty
Upper Troll Falls is particularly pretty

How to get to the trailhead for Troll Falls 

The hike is easily accessible from Calgary via a one-hour dramatic drive.

Take Highway 40 South to the Kananaskis Village turnoff also called Mt. Allan Drive. Follow the road past the first junction and then turn right into the Stoney Trail parking lot. If you’ve reached Nakiska Ski Resort you’ve gone too far. There is signage pointing to the trailhead. Note that there is no parking along the road.

For an up to date trail report check out the Kananaskis Parks link here.

                       

The hike to the falls in late spring is a study in green
The hike to the falls in late spring is a study in green
 The falls are popular with ice-climbers
The falls are popular with ice-climbers but regular folks can no longer get close to the icefall

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Troll Falls hike route description

The trip to the falls is a perennial favourite. Despite the short distance there’s quite a lot of variety in the terrain – and the trail is easy to find even with the web of trails in the area.

Start the Troll Falls hike from the Stoney Trailhead near the outhouse. Head up the signed trail on an easy grade to reach a section through dense evergreen forest. Once you’ve dispatched with that, you’ll reach a scenic open area filled with aspens. From there, check the map at the intersection. You’ll next head along a narrow trail that hugs the left bank of Marmot Creek. You can’t miss the sight of the debris left over from the 2013 floods.

There is also a 0.9 km side trail that will take you to Upper Troll Falls. You reach it before you reach the lower falls – but it gets closed when there are icy conditions. Elevation gain is still minimal – about 70 m, but be sure to exercise caution anywhere near the falls.

You’re practically on top of Troll Falls before you get a really good view. Microspikes used to come in handy because you could explore around the icefall. Now, you get the sanitized, safe version which is fine but not as much fun. If you like to play on ice, I highly recommend one of the three ice walks in Alberta. Jura Creek also has a short section that is fun for kids.

Shop: These are the icers I like the best – and have been using for some time. They never fall of and would be handy if you continue to the upper falls.

It will take fast hikers about an hour to do the return hike. Families with young kids might need a couple of hours especially if you want to play along the way or if you do the return loop via the Hay Meadow trail along the Kananaskis River.

Retrace your steps to return to the Stoney Trail parking lot. The hike to Troll Falls can be done in any season but I personally think it’s best in winter. However, the hike to Upper Troll Falls in summer is also pretty sweet.

Loop option to Troll Falls and back via Hay Meadow

On a recent hike to the falls, we opted to do a 4 km loop – heading up to Troll Falls on the main trail but returning via the Hay Meadow Trail. There are maps at every intersection so you can figure out the way. If you don’t see Hay Meadow marked, look for the trail heading under the powerline at the first intersection you reach on the way back to the car after visiting the falls. (It is east or on your left as you’re heading back to the trailhead.) It takes you to the Hay Meadow Trail that starts off in open woods but ends up beside the Kananaskis River.

The 1.5 km Hay Meadow trail takes you right back to the parking lot. 

The loop option takes you along the Kananaskis River
The loop option to the falls takes you along the Kananaskis River via the Hay Meadow trail
The Troll Falls hike starts off through dense ramrod straight trees
The hike starts off through dense ramrod straight trees
 The trail is dog-friendly but keep your dog on a leash
The trail is dog-friendly but keep your dog on a leash
There's more drama in the winter at Troll Falls
There’s more drama in the winter (note that we could get close like this a few years ago but not now)
Go on a weekday to avoid the crowds and enjoy the beauty
Go on a weekday to avoid the crowds and enjoy the beauty
The view from behind the icefall
The view from behind the icefall
 I think it's prettier at the falls in the winter
I think it’s prettier in the winter
Looking at the falls from a distance
Looking at the falls from a distance
No more getting close to Troll Falls
No more getting close to the falls – I guess too many people hurt themselves on the ice
Explore more of the trails in the area but never walk on the ski trails
Explore more of the trails in the area but never walk on the ski trails
Fun in the snow for Rosie the Bernese mountain dog
Fun in the snow for Rosie the Bernese mountain dog

The Upper Troll Falls trail

Reach the signed trail to Upper Troll Falls before you reach Troll Falls. Follow it to the top, and do a loop to come back down. Add about 20 – 30 minutes if you plan to do it. There are lots of pretty stops along the way up. In summer, the upper falls would be a great destination for a picnic.

Picturesque cascades all the way up to the Upper Troll Falls
Picturesque cascades all the way up to the Upper Troll Falls
My 90 year old neighbour made the hike up to Upper Troll Falls with no difficulty
My 90 year old neighbour made the hike up to Upper Troll Falls with no difficulty
Getting behind Upper Troll Falls
Getting behind Upper Troll Falls

Looking for raptors on the Hay Meadow Trail hike

I had no idea when we started back to the car on the Hay Meadow Trail that we would run into volunteers counting raptors. There is a great spot halfway along the trail beside the Kananaskis River that is ideal, as it offers 360 degree views. To the east you can look for raptors soaring over Mount Kidd in Spray Valley Provincial Park and Mount Allan along with other mountains in Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park. To the west, you might see them soaring over Wasootch Ridge.

Volunteers sign up for a full day. They bring in spotting scopes, warm clothes, drinks and a lunch – and count birds rain, shine or snow. The ones we met said the sunny days might be nicer for them from the comfort level, but you don’t tend to see as many raptors.

If you hike the Hay Meadow Trail, particularly during the spring and fall migration, don’t hesitate to speak to these volunteers. They are a wealth of information – and at the very least can point you to any raptors flying high on the thermals. 

I highly recommend the loop instead of an up and back on the Troll Falls trail as its prettier and its fun and educational to look for raptors.

A volunteer birder is counting raptors as part of a large study
A volunteer birder is counting raptors as part of a large study
The Rocky Mountain Eagle Research Foundation at work
The Rocky Mountain Eagle Research Foundation at work
Ask one of the volunteers to help you identify some of the raptors they see
Ask one of the volunteers to help you identify some of the raptors they see
Want to join the raptor count?
If you know something about raptors you can join the count – and if you don’t a stop to read the signs along the Kananaskis River is a good way to start
What the falls look like in late spring
What the falls look like in late spring
The view from behind the falls
The view from behind Troll Falls – when it wasn’t fenced off

Nearby accommodation options 

There are a couple of places to stay nearby. The Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel is a great choice if you’re looking for something affordable. But if you want to splurge – and perhaps visit the Kananaskis Spa as well, choose Kananaskis Mountain Lodge.

In the summer you can stay in tipis and trappers tents at nearby Sundance Lodges.

Other hikes in Alberta you might enjoy

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest board.

The Troll Falls hike in Alberta's Kananaskis Country is an easy year round hike. There's a nice loop you can do that allows you to see the spring & fall raptor migration

 

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