Friday, 25 July 2014

Hiking with Kids in Kananaskis: The Vaults of Mt. McGillivray

A giant vault blasted into the side of a mountain, then abandoned and almost forgotten. What's not to get excited about if you're a kid (big or small)?

The Trans Canada Trail
Back in the 50s or 60s, somebody blasted a tunnel and side vaults into the side of Mt. McGillivray in Kananaskis (you can read one theory of who and why here). When I was a kid in the late 70s, getting to them was something of an ordeal. You had to bushwhack to them from the Trans-Canada highway, and if you didn't know where they were you could spend the entire day searching for the narrow entrance and never find it. But if you did know, the short hike through the brush to treeline brought you a place custom designed to trigger a kid's imagination.
One of the washouts

Click here for more kids hikes in Banff, Kananaskis, Kootenay and other areas of the Canadian Rockies. 

Today, you park at the Heart Creek day use area, head west and the Trans Canada Trail takes you most of the way there. Luckily, the floods of June 2013 washed out a couple big chunks of the trail, reintroducing a bit of adventure and effort to reach the vaults. After negotiating your way across the washouts, it's almost impossible to miss the well-beaten path that now leads up to the vaults in a couple gentle switchbacks.

Although the vaults now lack the
Wolf track on the trail
exclusivity of being able to say you went somewhere that 99.9% of even the most experienced hikers have never heard of, they haven't lost any of their ability to spark the imagination.  And, as the wolf tracks we followed down the path, well beaten mountain paths are still wild. Try this hike from spring through to fall when you're looking for a fun, easy way to spend a couple hours in the mountains.

Distance: 3 or 4 km return
Time on the trail: 1-2 hours
Elevation gain: About 100 m

Driving Directions: Trans-Canada west from Calgary to the Heart Creek day use area across from Lac des Arc. Look for the Trans-Canada Trail sign on the west side of the parking lot across from the outhouses.
Click here for a driving map.

The entrance

The "foyer"

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