Feb. 12, 2016
By Morgan Kwan
Winter always seems to pass by faster when you’re busy with activities. Don’t let the season get you down; there are plenty of winter activities to warm up to in the Canadian Rockies. Cross-country skiing is a great low impact sport that the whole family can do. If you’re looking for something a little different, I highly recommend the Goat Creek Trail that runs from Canmore to Banff through the Spray Valley.
A popular summer mountain biking trail, Goat Creek also makes a fantastic cross-country ski trail, even for beginners. Track set for the full 18 km, you pop out at the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel where you can take advantage of the scrumptious Sunday brunch or go for a dip at the nearby Banff Upper Hot Springs before heading back to Canmore. (See my note about transportation at the end of this article).
Trail Name: Goat Creek Trail
Trailhead: Goat Creek parking lot off the Smith-Dorrien Trail, appx. 10-min drive from downtown Canmore. (The same parking lot for the Ha Ling Peak day hike).
Elevation Gain: 1,000-ft drop overall, with uphill sections.
Time Required: 2.5 to 3 hrs one way (18 km one way).
Recommended Equipment: Cross-country skis/boots/poles, water, sunglasses, lip balm (for all the smiles) and a light lunch. Local shops offer rental equipment if you don’t have your own.
The trail starts right out of the Goat Creek parking lot with an immediate downhill section, but don’t let that intimidate you! This is your chance to test your pizza skills. For the first 750 m or so the trail is boot packed and bumpy from all the day hikers, but soon the ski tracks come into view. The first ~9 km of the trail see a few mild uphill sections and creek crossings with steep approaches.
The last ~9 km is characterized by more uphill sections, but the trail widens so you can breath in that fresh mountain air side by side with your friends. As you get closer to Banff (~5 km from the end of the trail) you’ll pass a picnic spot to the right of the trail (gazebo included). There’s a picnic table next to the creek you’ve been chasing the whole time, and if weather permits, this makes an excellent snack/lunch spot.
Continuing on the same trail you eventually pop out at a parking lot right above the Banff Springs hotel. Here is where you would leave a car in advance or arrange a pick up. If you were to return via the trail, it is quite a different experience as the return trip has significantly more elevation gain. If a second car is not an option, there are regular shuttle buses between Canmore and Banff that can be caught from Banff Avenue in front of the high school.
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