Monday, November 05, 2018

The NEW Hiking Trail to Troll Falls and The Upper Falls, Kananaskis

The hike to Troll Falls is one of the most popular (and easiest) hikes in all of Kananaskis. It's a cute little 3.7 km loop with a beautiful waterfall as your reward. Visit this destination now though and you'll find signs guiding you above to the Upper Falls (and a total of four separate waterfalls you'll get to visit in roughly 6 km round trip.)

Marmot Falls (one of the three sets of waterfalls you can visit above Troll Falls)


Introduction to the "NEW" Hiking Trail to the Upper Falls


I should be clear that there has always been a trail to the Upper Falls above Troll Falls, and that hikers have been visiting this area along Marmot Creek for years. Alberta Parks has recently put in some official signing though to help keep visitors a bit more safe (and to keep people a bit further away from the creek where they'd previously been hiking.)

The new trail above Troll Falls is safer, generally "family-friendly" as long as you keep an eye on the kids, and follows an unofficial path through a forest where you're protected from sudden drop offs and cliff edges.

I should also mention that you will not be going anywhere near the actual "top of Troll Falls" on this trail. You will not be above Troll Falls, looking over the edge. Your objective is the Upper Falls, a completely different set of waterfalls. And en route to the Upper Falls (also known as Double Falls,) you'll pass by two other sets of waterfalls as well.

The Upper Falls above Troll Falls

Hiking to Troll Falls from the Stoney Trailhead


For trailhead directions and a general overview of this hike please visit the Alberta Parks website where you can read all about the Troll Falls Hike.

We started at the Stoney Trailhead below Kananaskis Village.

From the Stoney Trailhead, the Alberta Parks website says it is a short 1.7 km hike (one way) to reach the falls. You'll be following wide ski trails (great on a bike as well as on foot) and there are signs at every junction.

The Troll under the bridge

While the trail to Troll Falls isn't very "exciting," the kids found a large tipi and had fun playing in the dry creek bed under the bridge shown above.  It was also a blissfully short hike to the final junction with the falls and the hike in did not take very long.

Playing in a tipi the kids found
The kids could have played here for an hour

Reaching Troll Falls 


If you've visited Troll Falls before, you'll quickly notice a couple of changes. First, there are signs near the falls guiding you on a "new" trail to view the Upper Falls. There are two of these signs and you can follow either one because the trails join up within a few minutes.

Please read the yellow sign below as well and judge for yourself if this trail is suitable for your family. It is not an official trail and it is not completely without risk.



Second, Alberta Parks has constructed a wooden hand railing alongside the climb up to the ledge under Troll Falls. In slippery conditions it's always been very sketchy getting up close to the falls so I appreciated the new hand railing (and used it.)

A new wooden hand railing helps hikers get up on the ledge where my son is standing

Highlights of a visit to Troll Falls:

  • It's fun to hike up to the ledge shown in the photo above and to see how close you can get to walking underneath the falls.

  • It's fun to see the actual "troll" if you follow the hand railing up beside the falls. The "rock troll" is shown in the photo below. 
Rock that looks like a troll's face beside Troll Falls

My son inside one of the troll's eyes

Following the Trail to the Upper Falls 


We explored the area around Troll Falls for about 20 minutes and then crossed the creek by the sign for the Upper Falls. It's quite easy to cross the creek without getting wet, but if the creek is high, just walk back down the trail a short distance until you reach the first sign for the Upper Falls. This trail has an actual plank bridge.

Crossing the creek at Troll Falls to start our hike up to the Upper Falls

Once on the other side, we followed blue sign posts, wooden signs for the Upper Falls, and orange flagging on a rough trail that will become more well defined as it gets more foot traffic. At present, the trail is pretty faint in spots and we appreciated the blue sign posts.

Following blue markers to the Upper Falls

Our Second Set of Waterfalls, Boulder Falls 


There is no sign telling you that you've reached "Boulder Falls," which is probably not an official name, but we had the Kananaskis Country Trail Guide by Gillean Daffern with us, and she has labeled this waterfall as such.

Lunch beside Marmot Creek

This set of falls was pretty small (basically just water running down through a steep canyon) but we enjoyed a lovely lunch sitting on rock slabs above the creek here.

Boulder Falls passes through this rocky canyon 

And a word of caution here for parents with young kids: don't let them get too close to the canyon edge. We kept a close eye on our children here even though they are a bit older. As you can see in the photo above, a fall into this canyon would not end well.

Not a bad spot for a lunch break!

 Reaching the Upper Falls and the End of the Trail


We pulled out our hiking guidebook again and discovered that this third set of waterfalls was also known as "Double Falls."

You'll understand that name when you see it, with its two separate sections of water cascading down the creek.

This is the lower section of the Upper Falls
The Upper Section of the Upper Falls

We found these waterfalls to be quite gorgeous and could have spent a while taking photos here. 

It was quite easy to reach this ledge without getting wet

While you could technically hike further up Marmot Creek, there's a sign telling you that you've reached the end of the trail once you reach the Upper Falls. We heeded the advice and turned around at this point.

I'd guess that we hiked about a kilometre (at the very most) up this trail from Troll Falls to the end. (2 km round trip.)

Our turn around spot was at this sign

Hiking back down to find Marmot Falls 


Marmot Falls
One of the sets of waterfalls we wanted to find the most is called "Marmot Falls," and we knew that in theory, it should have been the first set of falls we'd reach after climbing above Troll Falls.

Somehow though we missed these falls on the way up so had to pay a bit of attention to find them on the way down. 

A few hints I can give you for finding them (because you'll have to leave the new hiking trail to find them:)

  • On your way up from Troll Falls, look for a small tipi in the forest and listen for the sound of crashing water. The trail down is close to there.

  • Look for a faint steep trail leading down to the creek before you reach Boulder Falls mentioned above.

  • When we were here, one of the blue sign posts on the main trail was knocked over. The trail down to Marmot Falls was right at the knocked over sign post. (I can't guarantee this will always be the case.)

The amazing Marmot Falls

We talked to several people on the trail and nobody had found these falls, so they're a bit of a secret (that we only knew about because of Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Country Trail Guide.)

Why you want to find Marmot Falls: because you can walk right underneath them (which was an incredible experience!!)

Standing underneath Marmot Falls 

Special Caution for those wanting to find Marmot Falls: 

  • The trail down is very steep.

  • There is a canyon right near the falls and a fall would not end well. It is very deep and you'll want to keep kids away.

I'm sure there's a reason that Alberta Parks didn't put a sign post guiding people down to Marmot Falls (for general safety) so watch your children carefully please.

Underneath Marmot Falls 

Hiking out Via the Hay Meadow Trail 


We returned to the Troll Falls trail and rather than return straight back down the trail to the parking lot, we decided to do the Hay Meadow extension (which adds maybe a half kilometre at the very most.)

The kids enjoyed playing by the river and I always find it very pretty down by the Kananaskis River.

You'll find a map at the junction with the Troll Falls Trail and the main trail you came up from the parking lot. This map shows the Hay Meadow Trail on it as well.

Hay Meadow and the Kananaskis River

Want to do this Hike with your Family?


The trail was still in excellent shape with no snow on the first weekend of November. There was a tiny bit of ice around Troll Falls, but other than that we had no need for ice cleats.

This hike should remain in condition all winter long, but you'll want to bring ice cleats or microspikes with you as soon as it gets snowy and icy. You might even need snowshoes if you go above Troll Falls this winter. 

Please exercise caution if you visit this area in the winter and stick to the easy (relatively flat) walk to Troll Falls if you're not experienced with winter hiking. Otherwise, I'm thinking it could be a very beautiful hike this winter to the upper falls (with spikes or cleats.)

And total time it took our gang for this hike was roughly 3 hours (at a very relaxed pace, stopping lots to play.)

Check this hike out with your family!


No comments:

Post a Comment

ShareThis