On our last full day in Canada, we packed the car and checked out of the hotel in Canmore. We wanted to do a short hike before driving back to Calgary, but I didn’t see any additional hikes in Banff that would fit into our allotted time. Upon doing some research online, I decided that we should attempt the West Wind Pass hike within the nearby Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park.
We drove to the trailhead at GPS coordinates 50.9764, -115.3213, discovering that Smith Dorrien Trail is a gravel road, on which we had to drive several miles. I did not enjoy that experience very much. When we arrived, we saw a number of other cars, and there was plenty of room to park along the side of the road. The trailhead was easy to find:
After the hike, we saw a detailed map that showed that the West Wind Pass trail was considered an “informal trail.” This means that it was not marked and it was impossible to discern which was the “informal trail” and which were detours/alternate routes/other paths leading nowhere in particular/etc.
Our hike started out well enough, with the promise of nice scenery.
Batya was enjoying her final hike in Canada for 2018.
In reading of this hike online, one review had said that whenever one encountered a fork in the trail, one needed to stay to the right. This was an example of such a fork, but it appeared that someone had placed a few small branches across the right fork. Therefore, we went left, and in hindsight, I suspect this was a mistake. If so, then I curse whoever put those branches across the right fork, as they ruined the hike for us and several other people.
We continued on, with the scenery continuing to please.
We met a number of people returning on the trail, and they told us they had not been able to make it to the top. We continued, and eventually reached an area which I did not photograph, but which I will try to describe. The “trail” was interrupted for about ten feet by a section of bare rock that was slanted at about a 30 degree angle to the right. If someone were to slip in this area, they would not necessarily slide a long way off the trail, but the rock seemed especially rough, threatening to cause severe lacerations to anyone who did slip. I suspect this is where a number of people were turning back, and so we did.
After we turned back, my attention was drawn to some movement or rustling noises nearby, and upon resting and watching quietly, we were rewarded to see a family of ruffed grouse. In fact, we stopped and had lunch at this spot:
As we were having lunch, one pair of hikers coming from uphill passed us. They had been brave enough to cross the area that I considered to be hazardous, but they too hadn’t made it to the top of this “trail,” speculating that they had gone the wrong way.
After lunch, we headed back to the car. At one point, we heard a group of about four women who were hiking downhill on what appeared to be a parallel trail below us. We didn’t speak with them, but I speculate that in heading uphill, they had taken a right turn at the fork where someone had placed the branches to mislead other hikers, and perhaps that had been the correct “informal trail” of the warren of trails here.
As we neared the car, we caught sight of the Spray Lakes Reservoir:
I really think that whoever administers Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park should be ashamed of themselves, for it would only take a few hours and a few (Canadian) dollars for someone to add blazes of paint or markers to properly mark the correct/preferred/safe path that one is to take when attempting a visit to West Wind Pass, and to place substantial logs across the paths one is not supposed to take. We had read this was a trail that could even be enjoyed by families with small children, and instead we encountered several adults in their prime who were turning back.
As we drove out of the park, we stopped to visit the Spray Lakes Reservoir, which was nice:
As we drove away from the Canmore area, we briefly saw a deer near the road, which was nice. I have mentioned before that compared to my visit to Glacier National Park, I had seen very few animals in the Banff area.
We drove back to Calgary, spending the night there, and the next day we flew back home. It was an enjoyable vacation for the most part, though we wished the visibility had not been obscured with smoke from forest fires, and that we could have seen more animals.