Scrambling up Grotto Mountain offers a commanding aerial view of Canmore and the Bow Valley. Often thought of as a quick scramble, the route is a bit more technical than meets the eye, making a scramble up Grotto Mountain really fun!
On Highway 1, it is 110.0km west of Calgary or 20.0km East of Banff. On the west side of Canmore, turn onto Highway 1A towards the ACC Canmore Clubhouse. The trail starts here, however there is no parking permitted here, but you can find some along the road.
|When to do|
June - October
ACC Clubhouse near trailhead
Yes - On Leash
Older Children only
Out and back
Rising over 1400m from the trailhead, Grotto Mountain is fairly big and makes a perfect summit goal for a day out!
There are three routes to the top of Grotto Mountain. The one we chose is known as the “ACC route.” It’s largely just a hike and starts a short distance below the ACC clubhouse in Canmore. Unfortunately parking in any of the ACC lots wasn’t permitted, but we found space on the west side of the access road across from a woodpile. A short distance further up the road we started hiking on a signed trail. It is a bit tricky to follow in the beginning due to a number of intersecting trails, poor signs, and confusing directions, but we eventually found ourselves on the correct trail and geared down for the long and steep ascent.
It was a steep and strenuous grind all the way to the ridge crest, 1250m higher than where we’d parked. At this point the trail petered out, but the summit was in sight 1.8km away and not much higher. Continuing towards it, we felt the ridge crest was a bit too exposed and so stayed just below it on the south side, but this was not a good route choice. The going was tedious, the route circuitous and unclear, and it ended up taking us about 90 minutes to reach the summit (more than double what it should have). On the return trip, after a cold but very necessary lunch break, we followed the crest of the ridge and found it much, much easier. While it was a bit narrow in spots it was nothing more than a hike and only one short section required scrambling (a 2m climb with good hand and footholds). Whenever it looked impossible to continue from far away, we just kept going and an easy route would reveal itself.
With a few short breaks on the way down we arrived back at the car at 4:00 pm. Even considering the delay caused by our poor route choice up top this was quite a bit later than I had expected. It’s a good thing we started somewhat early, and that early start also had us hike up the south-facing ascent slopes in the relative cool of the morning.
The Iron Goat Pub & Grill is a great pub and is home to one of our favourite views in Canmore. Consider ending your day with dinner and drinks at the Iron Goat.
This is a great shoulder-season scramble, as the snow and ice melt earlier than surrounding summits. Consider trying this in spring and autumn, once the snow has melted.
Spend the night in Canmore, and end your evening with a short hike starting in town.
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