The Fundy Footpath is a rigorous multi-day hike along the Bay of Fundy in New…
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 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.
How to get to the trailhead for the Troll Falls hike
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.
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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 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 was closed in March when I visited because of icy trail 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. Icers 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 visit, 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 Upper Troll Falls trail
The signed trail to the upper falls is reached 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, it would be a great destination for a picnic.
Looking for raptors on the Hay Meadow Trail
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 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.
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 winter hikes in Alberta you might enjoy
- Hiking the Spray River Loop Trail, Banff National Park
- A Winter Hike in the Canadian Badlands of Alberta
- Tunnel Mountain: Banff’s Must-Do Hike
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