Canyon Creek Ice Cave Trail, Bragg Creek.
Follow AB-66 along Elbow River, 2 km east of Elbow falls. Turn north on Canyon Creek Road, 500 m to Ing's Mine parking lot, trailhead.
APR to NOV no restrictions.
|Classification:||Karst Cave Ice Cave Inkasion|
|Guided tours:||self guided, L=100 m.|
|Address:||Canyon Creek Ice Cave, Tel: +1-, Fax: +1-,|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|1905||discovered by Stan Fullerton.|
|2000||access road closed due to a large number of accidents with day-trippers not being prepared to enter the cave.|
Canyon Creek Ice Cave is located high up on a mountain side and far away from the next town. The only way to get there is by hiking. So this cave is actually not a tourist destination, the actual destination is the Canyon Creek Ice Cave Trail. The trail starts at Highway 66 and is 14 km long round trip with a height difference of 472 m, so you should plan about four hours. The cave is one of numerous interesting things, mountaineers can see, when they walk the trail.
The cave has a spectacular high portal, 5 m wide and 10 m high, and has a great view. Behind the portal is a huge chamber which becomes quickly smaller and continues as a straight passage about half the size of the portal. There are ice stalagmites on the floor and some rather narrow side passages, which are partly or fully ice filled, and the ice stays into the summer. This ice cave is quite exceptional, as it is not of the cold trap type, it's a dynamic ice cave. And the cave has a huge portal, which actually faces southward. Nevertheless, the altitude and the northern location make the cave inaccessible with ice and snow during the winter, and in this time the ice grows inside until it fills the back almost completely. The ice in the front part melts immediately during spring, but the narrow passages at the end do not allow air currents, as long as they are mostly filled with ice. There are often several meter high ice stalagmites in the main passage, even in early summer.
The cave has formed along a vertical crack in the rock, and due to the frequent freezing the cave shows large-scale frost wedging during freeze-thaw cycles. The effect is strongest at the portal, hence the huge entrance portal, but it is found in most parts of the cave and resulted in the destruction of speleothems and massive layers of debris on the floor. In caves this process is generally called inkasion.
Only twenty minutes west of the City of Calgary, this cave became a popular outing for visitors of all ages and experience. The road actually follows the valley to the cave, and some years ago it was possible to drive there and just walk up to the cave. As a result many visitors were ill-prepared for a caving expedition and there were numerous accidents. To avoid fatal accidents the road was permanently closed and there is now a new parking lot at the highway. So every visitor has to walk 6 km along the gravel road to get to the old parking lot and the same distance back, plus the original trail uphill to the cave and back. Due to the drastically increased requirements, the cave is now only visited by people who are serious about it and also seriously care about the right equipment. Which was the idea.
The cave is a real cave trekking tour, however, if you stick to the 100 m long main passage its mostly horizontal walking across debris. Nevertheless, a helmet with headlamp, additional lamps, a warm jacket and gloves are recommended. Walking shoes which are suitable for the steep alpine trail to the cave entrance are also suitable for the cave. The cave does not have much mud and clay, so actually there is no need to change the clothes afterwards. Unfortunately the cave has been subject to considerable vandalism and damage in its history. This includes spray paint markings, garbage, and even human waste inside the cave. Please respect the cave and do not add to the damage. Also be careful on the way to the cave, there has been a fatality due to rockfall from careless hikers. While the cave is accessible without restrictions we strongly recommend a visit during summer, in winter the snow and ice make the trip more dangerous and only suitable for people who do mountaineering in winter and have the appropriate gear.