Old Goat Glacier hike
The hike to Old Goat Glacier is a classic Kananaskis hike on the Smith-Dorrien. While not as popular as other trails, this is a fun hike that is great for intermediate hikers who don’t mind a few steep bits. There are great views of the Old Goat Glacier as well as back towards the Spray Lakes Reservoir.
From the Canmore Nordic Centre, continue west on the Smith-Dorrien (Hwy 742) as it winds up into the Spray Valley for 13.9km. You’ll come to a sign pointing to your right to go to Spray Lakes West Campground, just before you hit the Spray Lakes Reservoir. Turn right here on West Side Rd and go left on the intersection, from there it’s 1.3km to the Trailhead.
|When to do|
Out and back
Old Goat Glacier
Route Description for Old Goat Glacier
From the Old Goat Glacier parking lot, the trail leaves the SW corner of the lot and goes into the trees, loosely following the Old Goat Creek. The trail is a nice meander through the forest. There are a few eroded sections you’ll have to cross, thanks to the flood of 2013.
After 1.6km you come to a clearing, with pleasant views up to the cirque. Walk across this clearing, following a path through the trees. In 825m you come out of the trees and get a nice view. Continue along the path through some more trees that eventually leads you to a scree slope with some large boulders thrown in. Looking up you can tell it’s going to be a steep ascent. There is a pretty waterfall on the right-hand side.
From here the path is steep and might just take your breath away. The path for the hike up is usually fairly obvious, though at times can be challenging to follow and there are several braids of the path. Poles will help as you head up the path, which is worn down in most places. In wet weather this is not a fun route, and we’d suggest choosing a different hike.
Near the top of this boulder field, the path splits and you want to go right as the trail heads across a boulder field and then goes up and curves to the left around the mountain. The path here has boulders and scree on your left and you are on the edge of the trees (on your right). You’ll be wondering where the Old Goat Glacier is at this point.
You continue to walk SE on a good trail and go through a final patch of trees. At this point, you’ll notice a moraine below you on your right. You will be tempted to climb down to the lateral moraine, but stay above it on the clear path, moving uphill until you are well out of the trees. Soon you will see a path leading down on your right. Many people stop here, happy with a great view and not wanting to hike along the moraine.
We prefer to continue onto the moraine, and take the clear path that goes right, down and up to the moraine. From here on up, the weather is typically colder and windier. The route along the moraine is mostly clear, and the trail goes up, then down then back up. As you get farther along the moraine the path becomes fainter and fainter. There are several points on the path where you are right on the edge of the moraine, and a fall would be quite dangerous.
We usually stop about 200m before the end of the moraine (5.3km, 2-2.5 hours from the start of the hike). The views are great here, and going forward adds unnecessary risk of rockfall.
You may be tempted to venture down the moraine to explore the Glacier itself. This is a bad idea, adding unnecessary danger for the inexperienced.
Once you’ve enjoyed the stunning views, return the way you came. You’ll get pretty views out to the Spray Lakes Reservoir on the way down. The route back is steep and poles are a great help. If it’s wet the way back can be pretty terrible.
There are a couple of places where it is easy to miss the path on the way down. The first is at the bottom of the upper boulders, were the actual path goes to the right, but another path goes straight.
The other part where it is easy to get on the wrong path is near the end, where you parked the car. As you go through the forest, you’ll see two paths that head off to the left. The destination of the first path is unknown, though we think it’s the other parking lot by the bridge. The second path going to the left goes back to the parking lot. If you miss the second path going left, that’s ok, you simply end up on the road, about 100m from your car, so all is not lost.
The Old Goat Glacier hike is not a good hike to do when it’s wet or icy. Some sections are very challenging when slippery.
This is a hike where you’ll be happy you brought your poles, both for the ascent and descent, as it’s a tricky one.
Weather always seems to be a bit chillier on this hike, so even if it’s sunny in Canmore, bring a rain-coat and a fleece with you.
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