Big Elbow Trail

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Very Easy
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
11.8 km
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
172 m
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Directions to Trailhead
Big Elbow Trail

Big Elbow Trail is a scenic, easy hike that leads to a backcountry campground. The trail follows an access road with very gradual elevation change, making it a family-friendly outing that’s shoulder season-friendly. The views of Threepoint Mountain and Banded Peak are fantastic.

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Route Description for Big Elbow Trail

The Little Elbow Recreation Area can get quite busy on the weekends. While there is normally plenty of parking, pay attention to signage—there are certain areas where parking is restricted to campsite users, equestrian trailers, or otherwise. You might have to trek through the campground a bit to reach the trailhead depending on your parking spot. The route signage is generally clear in the area-—follow the signs for Big Elbow.

Big Elbow Trail offers lovely views of Forgetmenot Ridge, Forgetmenot Mountain, Threepoint Mountain, Banded Peak, and the Bow River. The actual trail follows a wide road, so there’s nothing technical or difficult about it. The elevation gain is modest, making it a great choice for families and strollers. The trail starts by approaching and then crossing Harold Chapman Bridge. The road generally follows the river and never gains much elevation at once.

Because the views are enjoyable the entire way, it’s up to you how far up the road you go. The trail ends at Big Elbow Backcountry Campground, which is a great option if you want to make a backcountry trip of the hike. Those wanting a multi-day adventure can continue on to Tombstone Campground or Mount Romulus.

Whenever you’ve had your fill, simply turn around and return the way you came.

Insider Hints for Big Elbow Trail

  • To make a full weekend of it, you can take the Big Elbow-Little Elbow loop to traverse nearly 48.0 km
  • Powderface Trail (the western terminus of Highway 66) is closed from December through mid-May each year
  • This is a great hike in spring and fall because of the low elevation, and if the conditions are fair you can enjoy it through winter as well

Getting to the Big Elbow Trail Trailhead

From Calgary, head west on Highway 8. At the traffic circle, take the exit onto Highway 22 South. After 14.0 km, take a right at the T intersection onto Highway 66. Turn left at the intersection with Powderface Trail and follow the Little Elbow Camp Access Road. Continue 2.0 km and park at the Little Elbow Recreation Area. The trail begins just before Harold Chapman Bridge.

Route Information

  • When to do


  • Backcountry Campsites


  • Pets allowed

    Yes - On Leash

  • Family friendly


  • Route Signage


  • Crowd Levels


  • Route Type

    Out and back

Big Elbow Trail Elevation Graph

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Big Elbow Trail Reviews

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