“A nice hike in the woods with enough uphill to count as a decent cardio outing.”
— Ken Campbell
Birding · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
In wet springs, the section before the boardwalk on the lower return route can get very boggy/swamped. It is better to stay off this section in these conditions and use the upper leg as your return route to reduce continued trail widening/de-vegetation of this area (not to mention being soaked up to the knees!)
This is one of the older singletrack loops in Canmore. It's a multi-use trail so expect to see bikers, runners, hikers and horseback riders. Over time, various game trails have become preferred route options, so there are dozens of intersections that can seem confusing. However, the main trail is the most defined and usually the variations will rejoin the main route. As a basic route-finding tool, remember to keep the summit to your left shoulder and the valley to your right on the way out and the reverse on your way back.
Start at the Cougar Creek parking lot on Elk Run Blvd. Follow the right side of the creek upstream to the trail into the woods. Continue up, past minor junctions until the main trail takes an obvious turn to the right, away from the creek.
You'll be at a junction here, both go the same place, but the left route is steeper but shorter. It's best to continue straight, ignoring junctions, and go up the manufactured switchback trail.
At the top of the switchback, continue straight (yes, ignoring offshoots and junctions!) until the trail t-junctions. Take the climb to the right, this is the main uptrack of the outbound Horseshoe.
Follow this uphill and outbound to the East, using the 'left-shoulder/right-shoulder' orientation previously mentioned; there's junctions, of course, but the main trail is obvious. The steady uphill will eventually flatten out, then start to descend.
Eventually, you'll have to swerve around a fallen tree; 50 metres ahead the trail will T-junction. Take the right turn for the downhill return leg. Watch out for the right turn partway down and follow it. If you find yourself in the bottom of a gully, you've missed the turn - but don't worry, continue up the other side of the gully, turn right at the trail junction and eventually rejoin the main trail.
Continue to follow the main trail. You'll pass around the lip of a grassy ravine overlooking town, then through some rooty, occasionally muddy terrain to a short boardwalk. Cross it and continue straight down the rooty terrain, following the main track to the top of the manufactured switchback trail you climbed early in the hike. Follow this route back out to the parking lot.
Flora & Fauna
As with most of the trails in Canmore, bears and cougars exist. Many choose to carry bear spray.