Distance: 6.5 km
Elevation gain: 285 m View map Download GPS track
After a quick morning hike up Shunda Mountain
and a hot lunch at our cabin – a rarity when we go hiking – we had the entire afternoon available for another hike. I didn’t feel we had the time to safely ascend another mountain before sunset at 4:30, so we turned to the David Thompson Hiking Guide for ideas. One sight I’d been interested in seeing was Crescent Falls, and so we decided to follow the directions in the guidebook for “Crescent Falls and Bighorn Canyon”. The directions and accompanying map didn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me as I’d been under the vague impression that you could drive right up to the falls, but the book was quite clear that it was a 3.1 km hike to reach them.
We followed the directions in the guide to the recommended starting point – a viewpoint signed as the “Crescent Falls Viewpoint” but referred to as the Bighorn Canyon viewpoint in the guide – but with no sign of the falls and my lingering questions about the directions we continued driving to the end of the road. A huge parking lot here should have tipped me off that the trail started at this point, but the guidebook was quite insistent that the trails originating from here went upstream along the Bighorn River with no mention of Crescent Falls. After a bit of indecision I decided to take it easy and just follow the guidebook, so we drove back to the viewpoint and started hiking upstream along a trail.
The trail we followed initially contoured along the rim of the canyon, but soon moved into viewless and dull forest. The only interesting aspect of the trail were some wolf tracks from a few days earlier, and with nothing better to do we ended up following them down to the canyon floor, passing the sparse remains of a grouse on the way. A huge icefall on the opposite side of the canyon was quite impressive, but the steep bushwhack to get back out of the canyon wasn’t particularly pleasant.
Back on the trail we soon arrived at Crescent Falls, less than 100 m from THE BLOODY ROAD! Granted this particular road was closed for the winter, but it was no more than a few hundred meters from the end of the main road I’d driven to an hour earlier. The boring 3 km hike we’d endured through viewless forest to get there appears to have been contrived for no purpose other than to turn a 5 minute walk into a 2 hour trudge. As I said to Sandra, “why don’t they just say start in Nordegg and call it a 3-day backpacking adventure!?” So if you’re ever interested in seeing Crescent Falls, drive to the end of the road and walk a few hundred meters down towards the picnic area/campground (or drive if the gate is open). Don’t waste your time walking through the forest like we did.
Regardless of the peculiar route we took to get there the falls were, thankfully, quite beautiful. The cold of the previous weeks had encased them in spectacular ice, and a steep and icy track that led down to a bedrock platform below the upper waterfall allowed us to walk nearly right up to the ice.