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Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

The Grotto Canyon Trail Ice Walk Near Canmore, Alberta


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Letti Stepp



Welcome to the glistening wonderland of Grotto Canyon, a natural masterpiece tucked away near Canmore, Alberta. This hidden gem offers a unique and thrilling experience: an ice walk along the frozen canyon, showcasing breathtaking frozen waterfalls, towering cliffs, and awe-inspiring scenery.


Grotto Canyon is a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and photographers alike. This enchanting trail presents a winter wonderland like no other, where visitors can embark on an unforgettable journey through a frozen landscape.


As the temperature drops in the winter months, the flowing water of Grotto Creek transforms into a spectacular frozen spectacle. The frozen waterfalls create intricate ice formations, inviting visitors to explore a mesmerizing icy labyrinth.


Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a first-time ice walker, Grotto Canyon offers an accessible and enjoyable adventure for people of all ages and fitness levels. From thrilling ice climbing opportunities to serene winter walks, Grotto Canyon provides the perfect escape into the beauty of the Canadian wilderness.


In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the wonders of the Grotto Canyon Trail, providing you with all the information you need to plan and enjoy a memorable ice walk. From how to get there to what to wear, we’ll cover everything you need to know to make the most of your visit.


So bundle up, grab your camera, and get ready to embark on an extraordinary winter adventure as we explore the magical Grotto Canyon Trail.


Overview of the Grotto Canyon Trail

The Grotto Canyon Trail is a stunning winter destination located near Canmore, Alberta. This 4.2 kilometer (2.6 mile) trail takes you through a picturesque frozen canyon and offers a truly unique and magical experience.


Starting from the Grotto Pond Day Use Area, the trail meanders along the frozen Grotto Creek, leading you deep into the heart of the canyon. As you make your way along the trail, you’ll be surrounded by towering limestone cliffs adorned with intricate ice formations.


The trail itself is relatively flat and easy to follow, making it accessible for hikers of all skill levels. However, it’s important to note that during the winter months, the trail can be covered with snow and ice, so proper footwear with traction is highly recommended.


One of the highlights of the Grotto Canyon Trail is the opportunity to see ancient First Nations pictographs. These unique rock art images can be found on the canyon walls and provide a glimpse into the history and culture of the indigenous people who once inhabited this area.


Another notable feature of the trail is the exquisite frozen waterfalls that form along Grotto Creek. These frozen cascades create a stunning backdrop, offering a sense of tranquility and natural beauty.


Whether you’re looking to embark on a peaceful nature walk or a thrilling ice climbing adventure, the Grotto Canyon Trail has something to offer for everyone. As you explore the trail, you’ll be surrounded by the serene beauty of the Canadian Rockies, making it a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.


While the Grotto Canyon Trail is a year-round destination, it truly shines in the winter months. The frozen landscape and the sparkling ice formations create a surreal atmosphere that is simply breathtaking. Whether you’re a seasoned winter explorer or new to the wonders of the frozen wilderness, the Grotto Canyon Trail is sure to leave you with lasting memories.


How to Get to Grotto Canyon

Grotto Canyon is conveniently located near Canmore, Alberta, making it easily accessible for visitors. Here are a few options for getting to the trailhead:

  1. By Car: The most convenient way to reach Grotto Canyon is by car. From Canmore, head east on Highway 1 (Trans-Canada Highway) for approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles) until you reach the Grotto Pond Day Use Area. There is ample parking available at the trailhead.
  2. By Public Transportation: If you prefer to use public transportation, you can take a bus from Canmore to the Grotto Pond Day Use Area. Check with local transit authorities for bus schedules and routes.
  3. By Guided Tour: Another option is to join a guided tour that includes transportation to and from Grotto Canyon. This can be a convenient choice for those who prefer not to drive or want the added benefit of a knowledgeable guide.

Regardless of how you choose to get to Grotto Canyon, it’s important to check road and weather conditions before your trip, especially during the winter months. The trailhead may be snow-covered, so be prepared with appropriate footwear and equipment.


Once you arrive at the Grotto Pond Day Use Area, you’ll find signage indicating the start of the Grotto Canyon Trail. The trail is well-marked and easy to follow, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty and serenity of the canyon.


Remember to respect the natural surroundings and follow any posted guidelines or regulations to ensure the preservation of this remarkable area.


Now that you know how to get to Grotto Canyon, it’s time to plan your visit and embark on an unforgettable ice walk adventure.


What to Wear and Pack for the Ice Walk

When preparing for an ice walk in Grotto Canyon, it’s important to dress appropriately and pack essential items to ensure a comfortable and safe experience. Here’s a list of what to wear and pack for your ice walk adventure:

  1. Layers: Dressing in layers is key to regulating your body temperature during the ice walk. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep you dry, add a warm insulating layer, and top it off with a waterproof and windproof outer layer to protect against the elements.
  2. Insulated Water-Resistant Boots: Ensure you have sturdy and waterproof boots with good traction to navigate the icy terrain. It’s important to keep your feet warm and dry throughout the ice walk.
  3. Thermal Socks: Opt for thick thermal socks to provide extra warmth and cushioning. Consider bringing an extra pair in case your feet get wet.
  4. Gloves and Hat: Protect your extremities by wearing insulated gloves or mittens and a warm hat or beanie. These will help retain body heat and keep you comfortable during the ice walk.
  5. Microspikes or Crampons: Depending on the conditions of the trail, it may be necessary to use microspikes or crampons for added traction. These can be essential for navigating slippery sections safely.
  6. Backpack: Bring a small backpack to carry essential items such as water, snacks, extra clothing layers, a camera, and any personal items. It’s important to pack light but have enough supplies to stay comfortable during the ice walk.
  7. Food and Water: Stay hydrated and energized by bringing plenty of water and snacks. Opt for lightweight, high-energy foods such as trail mix, energy bars, and fruit.
  8. Sun Protection: Even in cooler temperatures, the sun’s rays can still be intense. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect yourself from sunburn and glare.
  9. Camera and Binoculars: Capture the stunning beauty of Grotto Canyon by bringing a camera or smartphone to document your ice walk. Binoculars can also come in handy for spotting wildlife or admiring distant features.
  10. First Aid Kit: It’s always wise to have a basic first aid kit on hand. Include items such as adhesive bandages, moleskin for blisters, pain relievers, and any necessary personal medications.

Remember to check the weather forecast before your trip and adjust your clothing and gear accordingly. Be prepared for changing conditions and always exercise caution while exploring the icy terrain of Grotto Canyon.


By following these recommendations and being well-prepared, you can fully enjoy your ice walk adventure in Grotto Canyon and create lasting memories of this stunning winter wonderland.


Safety Precautions on the Grotto Canyon Trail

While the Grotto Canyon Trail offers a magical and captivating experience, it’s essential to prioritize safety during your ice walk adventure. Here are some important safety precautions to keep in mind:

  1. Check the Weather: Before heading out, check the weather forecast for Canmore and the surrounding area. Extreme weather conditions can make the trail hazardous. Avoid venturing onto the trail during heavy snowfall, high winds, or extreme cold temperatures.
  2. Share Your Plans: Inform someone of your planned route and estimated time of return. This can be a friend, family member, or park ranger. It’s important to have someone aware of your whereabouts in case of an emergency.
  3. Stay on the Trail: The Grotto Canyon trail is well-marked, and it’s important to stick to the designated path. Venturing off the trail can lead to dangerous terrain and could potentially harm sensitive ecosystems.
  4. Use Proper Footwear: Ensure you have proper footwear with good traction to navigate the icy terrain. Microspikes or crampons may be necessary in certain conditions to provide extra grip and prevent slips and falls.
  5. Be Aware of Ice Conditions: The trail may consist of various types of ice, including compacted snow, slippery ice, or thin ice over water. Test the stability of the ice before stepping on it and proceed with caution.
  6. Follow Wildlife Guidelines: Grotto Canyon is home to a variety of wildlife species. While rare, encounters with animals such as elk or bears are possible. Carry bear spray, make noise to alert animals to your presence, and keep a safe distance if you encounter wildlife.
  7. Dress Appropriately: Ensure you dress in warm, layered clothing to protect against the cold temperatures. Keep extremities covered with gloves, a hat, and warm socks to prevent frostbite.
  8. Stay Hydrated and Nourished: During physical activities in cold weather, it’s easy to forget to drink water and eat. Stay hydrated and energized by drinking plenty of water and consuming snacks regularly.
  9. Carry Essential Supplies: Bring a small backpack with essential supplies such as a first aid kit, compass, map, flashlight, and extra food and water. These items can come in handy in case of emergencies or unexpected situations.
  10. Hike with a Partner: Whenever possible, it’s recommended to hike with a partner. Having someone with you increases safety and provides support in case of any difficulties or accidents.

Remember, safety should be your top priority during your ice walk adventure. By following these precautions and using common sense, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience exploring the wonders of Grotto Canyon.


Highlights and Points of Interest along the Trail

The Grotto Canyon Trail is not just a scenic walk; it offers numerous highlights and points of interest that add to the overall experience. As you venture along the trail, keep an eye out for these captivating features:

  1. Frozen Waterfalls: One of the most awe-inspiring sights along the trail are the frozen waterfalls that form along Grotto Creek. These icy cascades create stunning formations, sparkling in the winter sunlight.
  2. Ancient Pictographs: Grotto Canyon is home to ancient First Nations pictographs, rock art images painted on the canyon walls. These pictographs provide a glimpse into the heritage and culture of the indigenous people who once inhabited the area. Take the time to appreciate and respect these historical treasures.
  3. Ice Climbing Opportunities: For those seeking a more adventurous experience, Grotto Canyon offers excellent ice climbing opportunities. The frozen walls and waterfalls provide a challenging and exhilarating climbing experience for experienced climbers.
  4. Wildlife Spotting: Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife encounters along the trail. Grotto Canyon is home to diverse animal species, including elk, birds, and even the occasional bear. Photographers will have ample opportunities to capture unique wildlife moments.
  5. Panoramic Canyon Views: Throughout the trail, you’ll be treated to breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding canyon walls. Take a moment to soak in the grandeur of nature and appreciate the beauty of the Canadian Rockies.
  6. Serenity and Tranquility: The peacefulness of Grotto Canyon is a highlight in itself. The tranquil atmosphere of the frozen landscape creates a sense of serenity and allows visitors to reconnect with nature.
  7. Unique Ice Formations: As you wander through the canyon, you’ll encounter a plethora of unique ice formations. From delicate icicles to intricate patterns etched into the walls, each ice formation tells a story of the ever-changing natural world.

These highlights and points of interest along the Grotto Canyon Trail add an extra degree of fascination to your ice walk adventure. Embrace the opportunity to explore and discover the wonders of this remarkable natural wonderland.


The Frozen Waterfalls of Grotto Canyon

One of the most captivating and enchanting features of Grotto Canyon are the frozen waterfalls that grace its walls. These icy cascades create a picturesque and mesmerizing scene, offering a unique and awe-inspiring sight for visitors of all ages and backgrounds.


As you trek along the Grotto Canyon Trail, you’ll have the opportunity to witness these stunning frozen waterfalls in their full splendor. The frozen waterfalls are the result of the frigid temperatures that transform the flowing water of Grotto Creek into delicate icicles and majestic ice formations.


Each frozen waterfall is a masterpiece of nature, with intricate patterns and shapes adorning the limestone cliffs. The waterfalls glisten in the sunlight, creating a dazzling display of light and ice that is simply breathtaking.


Photographers will be thrilled to capture the beauty of these frozen waterfalls, as they provide a unique subject for stunning winter photographs. The contrast between the crystal-clear ice and the dark rock walls creates a striking visual effect.


As you approach the frozen waterfalls, you may even hear the melodic sound of trickling water. Although the water has frozen in place, the echoes of its flow remain, creating a serene and peaceful ambiance.


It’s important to exercise caution when getting close to the frozen waterfalls. The ice can be slick, and the area surrounding the falls may be unstable. Take your time, watch your step, and admire the frozen beauty from a safe distance.


Throughout the winter season, the frozen waterfalls of Grotto Canyon continue to evolve and change. As the weather fluctuates, new ice formations may develop, creating a dynamic and ever-changing landscape. Each visit to Grotto Canyon offers a unique opportunity to witness the frozen waterfalls in different stages of formation.


The presence of these frozen waterfalls adds an extra layer of magic to the Grotto Canyon experience. It’s an opportunity to marvel at the power and beauty of nature, showcasing the magnificence of ice and water in perfect harmony.


Whether you’re an avid nature lover, a photography enthusiast, or simply seeking a serene and enchanting winter adventure, the frozen waterfalls of Grotto Canyon are sure to leave you in awe.


Wildlife Encounters on the Grotto Canyon Trail

Exploring the Grotto Canyon Trail not only offers breathtaking scenery but also the opportunity to encounter a variety of wildlife species that call this pristine area home. From majestic elk to soaring birds of prey, Grotto Canyon is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.


As you make your way along the trail, keep your eyes and ears open for these potential wildlife encounters:


Elk: Grotto Canyon is known to be frequented by elk, especially during the early morning and late afternoon hours. These magnificent creatures, with their impressive antlers, can often be spotted grazing in the open meadows or seeking shelter in the nearby forests. Enjoy observing them from a safe distance and remember to give them the space they need.


Birds of Prey: Grotto Canyon provides an ideal habitat for various bird species, including birds of prey such as eagles, hawks, and falcons. Watch as they gracefully soar through the sky, scanning the landscape for their next meal. Bring your binoculars or a zoom lens to appreciate their beauty up close.


Smaller Wildlife: Keep a keen eye out for the smaller inhabitants of Grotto Canyon as well. Squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits may scurry across your path, while smaller birds serenade you with their melodic tunes. Take the time to appreciate the diversity of life that thrives in this pristine wilderness.


Potential Bear Encounters: While rare, it’s essential to be aware of the potential for encounters with bears in Grotto Canyon. As with any outdoor adventure in bear country, it’s crucial to carry bear spray and know how to use it. Make noise to alert bears to your presence and remain vigilant by keeping an eye out for signs of bear activity, such as tracks or fresh scat. If you do encounter a bear, remain calm, back away slowly, and give the bear plenty of space.


Respecting and preserving the wildlife and their habitats is vital. When observing or photographing wildlife, keep a safe distance, avoid disturbing their natural behavior, and refrain from feeding them.


Remember, wildlife encounters are fleeting and unpredictable, so approach them with patience, respect, and appreciation for the natural world. By practicing responsible wildlife viewing, you can contribute to the preservation of these magnificent creatures and their habitats in Grotto Canyon.


As you embark on your adventure along the Grotto Canyon Trail, keep an open mind and heart, and be prepared to be amazed by the wildlife encounters that await you.


Tips for a Successful Ice Walk Experience

Embarking on an ice walk adventure in Grotto Canyon is an exhilarating experience that requires some preparation and knowledge. To ensure a successful and enjoyable ice walk, consider the following tips:

  1. Check Conditions: Prior to your trip, check the weather forecast and trail conditions. Be aware of any warnings, closures, or advisories that may affect your plans.
  2. Wear Proper Footwear: Invest in insulated, waterproof boots with good traction to navigate the icy terrain. Consider adding microspikes or crampons for extra grip on slippery sections.
  3. Layer Clothing: Dress in layers to regulate your body temperature. Use moisture-wicking base layers, insulating mid-layers, and a waterproof outer layer. Avoid cotton, as it retains moisture and can make you feel cold and uncomfortable.
  4. Stay Hydrated and Fuelled: Carry water and energy-rich snacks to stay hydrated and nourished during your ice walk. It’s important to keep your energy levels up in the cold weather.
  5. Follow Trail Markers: Stay on the designated trail and follow any signage or markers. Straying off the path can be dangerous and harm the fragile ecosystem of Grotto Canyon.
  6. Be Mindful of the Ice: Test the stability of the ice before stepping on it. Be cautious on slippery sections and avoid unstable ice formations or areas with flowing water underneath.
  7. Respect Wildlife: Keep a safe distance from wildlife and observe them from afar. Do not approach or feed them, as it can be harmful to both animals and humans.
  8. Carry Essential Supplies: Pack a small backpack with essentials, including a first aid kit, a map or compass, a flashlight, and extra clothing layers. It’s better to be prepared for unexpected situations.
  9. Travel with a Companion: Whenever possible, hike with a partner. Having someone with you increases safety and provides support in case of any emergencies or difficulties.
  10. Take Your Time and Enjoy: Pace yourself and take the time to appreciate the beauty of Grotto Canyon. Embrace the serenity and wonder of the icy landscape, capturing memories through photography or simply soaking in the atmosphere.

By following these tips, you’ll enhance your safety, comfort, and overall experience during your ice walk in Grotto Canyon. Remember to prioritize safety, respect the environment, and embrace the magic of this unique winter adventure.



Grotto Canyon, with its magnificent frozen waterfalls, icy landscapes, and rich wildlife, offers an unforgettable ice walk experience near Canmore, Alberta. This hidden gem showcases the beauty and power of nature, captivating visitors with its breathtaking scenery and serene atmosphere.


As you venture along the Grotto Canyon Trail, you’ll be immersed in a winter wonderland that truly showcases the splendor of the Canadian wilderness. The frozen waterfalls, towering cliffs, and ancient pictographs tell a story of a land shaped by time and natural forces.


When preparing for your ice walk adventure, remember to dress in appropriate layers, wear sturdy boots with traction, and pack essential supplies. Follow safety precautions, stay on the designated trail, and respect the wildlife that calls Grotto Canyon home.


While the icy beauty of Grotto Canyon is undoubtedly captivating, it’s the personal connections made and the memories created that truly make this experience special. Take the time to savor the tranquility, to listen to the crunch of snow beneath your boots, and to appreciate the delicate intricacy of each frozen waterfall.


Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast seeking adventure, a nature lover craving a connection with the natural world, or a photographer looking to capture the magic of winter, Grotto Canyon promises an experience that will leave a lasting impression.


So, bundle up, embrace the chill of the air, and embark on an extraordinary ice walk adventure in Grotto Canyon. Allow yourself to be amazed by nature’s wonders, and cherish the memories of this pristine winter paradise.