Visitors 271
36 photos

Distance: 14.5 km
Elevation gain: ~550 m
View map
Download GPS track

Having seen the upper reaches of French Creek and French glacier from Piggy Plus col last year we decided to hike up the creek to explore the area close up.

There are two trails that head up French Creek. One is older and more difficult to follow, but will bring you to the base of each of three very nice and reasonably large waterfalls. The second trail is easier to follow but bypasses the first two waterfalls, although if you go off trail when you hear them you will be able to access the base of the second and view the first from the top of a small cliff. Both trails, however, are in terrible shape and require climbing over or under dozens (if not 100's) trees. Expect to be traveling much slower than usual. Both also require one crossing of French Creek. I'd recommend following the older trail on the way up to see the waterfalls, then heading out the newer trail as the going is easier.

The trail up French Creek starts from the Burstall Pass parking lot and initially follows that trail. At the top of the first minor ascent of this trail (about 3 minutes from the car), just past the muddy pond, turn left onto an old logging road with a clear trail down the middle. This is the second left-hand turnoff of the main trail; the first was graveled and before the muddy pond. Gently ascend along this trail, then descend to the creek. Stay left on the clear trail when the road forks. At the creek the two trails diverge. Right is the older trail with direct access to the waterfalls; straight is the easier to follow trail and requires you to cross the river here. I recommend going right.

The old trail (righthand option) never strays far from the creek. After passing the first waterfall and crossing an avalanche slope (no debris), the trail disappears at a thicket of willows. Cross the stream here and head towards the willows on the other side. When you reach a fairly wide dry gravel channel, head upstream, sticking close to the river until you pick up the faint trail. The second trail (better) trail comes down to these flats as well and ascends a muddy bank. If you take this option you will bypass the second waterfall. Sticking to the older trail near the river, shortly reach the second waterfall. The trail steeply ascends the bank to the left of the waterfall, bashes through incredible deadfall, then rejoins the newer trail. On the way back stick to the newer trail, which is by far the most obvious trail at this intersection. Overall it is in better shape, but two new major avalanches have crossed it and will make for very tough going in a few spots.

The trail now ascends more steeply and the amount of deadfall decreases somewhat. Eventually, after a few steep ascents, reach the gravel outwash flats and moraines of French glacier. Either head towards the main creek to view the glacier from below or ascend the lateral moraine on the left. We stayed low and headed for the main creek. In either case, be aware that the scree and rubble is very lose and the glacier is under gravel near the toe. Hiking towards visible ice could be very risky.

Categories & Keywords
Category:Lifestyle and Recreation
Subcategory:Outdoors
Subcategory Detail:Hiking
Keywords:French Creek, French glacier, Kananaskis, hiking