Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Jura Creek - The Best Winter Hike in Kananaskis

Best?  Really, the absolute best?... - Yes.  The very very absolute best, most fun for all ages hike in Kananaskis award goes to Jura Creek!

Having Fun in Jura Canyon

While there are other good hikes in Kananaskis that can be done in winter, Jura Creek is something special because it's a hike that can not really be done in summer.  The canyon through Jura Creek can only be tackled in winter when the water is well frozen under a layer of ice and snow.

In summer you could be wearing hip waders here

I imagine that some hardy folks could attempt the canyon in summer, but you'd get seriously wet and cold, and would need either hip waders or sandals with strong tough feet.  And although there is a hiking trail that goes up and around the canyon, I've never found it to be that much fun.  Who wants to look down on a narrow canyon when you could be running through it instead?

Much more fun to be IN the canyon than walking around in summer

Sliding on ice in the canyon
The hike to Jura Creek starts from the Graymont Plant outside the tiny town of Exshaw.  (about a 45 min. drive from the west end of Calgary)  For a full description on how to get to the trailhead and how to find the canyon, read through to the end of this post where I have directions copied from last year's story that I wrote on Jura Creek, Ice Ice Baby - Winter Canyon Hiking.


Why do we love this hike so much?

One - The Canyon is Close to the Highway!  You'll hike a kilometre at most (return) to get to and from the canyon.  Many other local canyons require a much longer approach.  

Two - The hike is close to Calgary! You don't always have time to drive far for a short day hike.  At 45 min. away from the city, it's perfect for a half day outing.

Three - It's Fun! - Kids can slide down frozen waterfalls on their bums, slide around on the ice, play hide and seek behind boulders, and chase each other around the twists and turns of the canyon walls.

Playing on the ice in the canyon
What kid wouldn't like this hike?

Four - It's a Short Hike!  The most exciting part of the canyon is accomplished in a short 3km return hike.  In that short distance, you can hike the narrowest parts of the canyon, have a snack, and head back before the kids get tired.

Lots of fun in Jura Canyon

Five - No crowds!  Few families in Calgary have ever hiked this canyon.  Chances are good you'll have the trail and canyon to yourself. 

Solitude guaranteed!

Trail Directions:

Follow the Trans-Canada Hwy from Calgary to the turnoff for Bow Valley Provincial Park and the town of Exshaw. (This will be just after the turnoff for Hwy 40 and is about 70km from the west end of Calgary.) When you get to Hwy 1A, head west towards Exshaw.  Just before the tiny hamlet, you'll see the Graymont Plant entrance.  This is where we always park and I've attached a photo so you know where to park.  Note that you might also see cars parked on the highway a few metres back as well and you could park there too.  However, there's no way I can accurately describe where to pull off the road.  Parking at the Plant is easier.  

Parking for Jura Creek

Once you have parked, walk across the highway and up a tiny slope into the trees.  Follow a worn path through the trees until you reach the creek bed.  You'll head east or right at the creek bed, descending to walk on the rocks, and follow it to the mouth of the canyon.  From there, make your way through the canyon as far as you want to go.    

Approaching the canyon from Jura Creek


I was testing out a new pair of snowshoes from Colorado based company, Crescent Moon, for this hike.  To read the review on my Crescent Moon Gold 13 Women's Trail Snowshoes, follow this link to my gear review for Snowshoe Magazine.

Snowshoes with good grip made this hike a lot of fun

Final Notes:

Snowshoes or ice cleats are recommended for this hike so that you can walk safely on the ice.  At some times of the year, they won't be necessary if large amounts of snow cover the canyon ice.  For this reason, cleats would be easier than snowshoes to bring along and leave in your backpack if not needed.  Sleds can be used sometimes as well if there is enough snow on the hike to the canyon.  This year we definitely did not need a sled - - and really did not need snowshoes.  

Lots of snow in the canyon this year!
Ice Cleats were very helpful

What's your favourite winter hike in Kananaskis?


  1. We hiked Grotto Canyon just after Christmas as our '2nd Annual Holiday Hike'. it was really cool, but could have done more. The year before was up to Johnston's Canyon, which was equally as good, maybe a bit better scenery. My FAVOURITE, though, was a hike I did with my family to Chester Lake in Kananaskis Country. We brought a crazy carpet for each of us, and after we reached the lake, we crazy carpeted back down to the parking lot. What an outstanding adventure!

    1. We really need to buy some crazy carpets. That would be a lot of fun.

  2. My name is Tanya, too. ;)January 22, 2014 at 10:21 PM

    I found your blog by looking for lakes to visit near Calgary, and I love it! So much information that I can't find anywhere else. Thank you!