December 15, 2020
This has been a funny year for snow, with most of it sticking to the continental divide areas. This means snow is really only in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (PLPP) and the Lake Louise area. This has forced me to explore both these areas, which I am greatly enjoying. This week’s trip was to PLPP, where we were on the hunt for a few new (to me) trails, AND to find the unmarked “couches” that Skier Bob talks about. Be sure to bookmark Bob’s page for all things skiing, included the latest track setting and trail condition reports.
Standard cross-country skis are ideal. The majority of this trip is either machines groomed and track set, or trails set by skiers. Please note that these are not mixed use snowshoe trails, however there are lots of mixed use snowshoe trails in the area.
Overview and Coloured Trail Map
This loop picks up so many trails, I thought it would be easier to block them out using different colours. The loop starts at Whiskey Jack, and then turns right at Tyrwhitt Trail. Tyrwhitt automatically connects with Elk Pass Trail. If you want to do the add-on to find the couches, follow the West Elk Pass Trail. Follow Elk Pass Trail to its lowest point, and then turn right onto Fox Creek Trail. When Fox Creek Trail Ys, take the trail heading to the right, which is Moraine Trail. Moraine Trail then connects back up with the original Whiskey Jack trail.
Parking and Trail Head
Park at the Bolton Creek campground parking lot. There might be more than one entrance depending if the Trading Post is open. From the parking lot, head east on the main trail through the campground.
Once on the main Whiskey Jack Trail, enjoy the lovely ups, downs and curves as the trail winds its way up towards Tyrwhitt.
Just shy of 4 km, we came to the T intersection with Tyrwhitt trail. As with most junctions in PLPP, it is marked with the ubiquitous metal picnic table.
We are now at a T intersection. Left on Tyrwhitt takes you back towards the Pocaterra trails. We went Right towards Elk Pass.
We skied Tyrwhitt Trail for another 4.8 km (8.8 km total). Keep straight at the Fire Lookout junction.
Tyrwhitt is a lovely trail that alternates between trees and open meadows. Mount Pocaterra kept us company on our left the whole way.
Tyrwhitt Trail ends at Elk Pass. You will again find the standard issue picnic table to mark this major junction.
We were now in prime Couch hunting territory. We needed to access West Elk Pass trail, which is the summer route to Elk Pass. We continued on the Elk Pass Trail, heading towards the Blueberry Hill junction. After about 1.5 km (about 10.3 km total) we saw the bit of flagging that marked the entrance.
We skied into a beautiful winter wonderland of fresh fluffy snow. We skied (left) back towards Elk Pass for about 700m. We were in the middle of the meadow, and the couches were tucked off to the east side in a small bunch of trees. This would be an ideal spot on a sunny day.
After enjoying our lunch in this secluded spot, we returned the way we came to the main Elk Pass trail.
From here, you can return the way you came via Tyrwhitt and Whiskey Jack, or continue in the same direction on Elk Pass Trail to make a loop, which is what we did.
Once back on the main Elk Pass trail, we continued towards Blueberry Hill for our return. We stayed on Elk Pass trail until we skied to the very bottom, about 1.8 km from the entrance to West Elk Pass (about 13.5 km total distance). You will know you are at the very bottom because of the big hill directly in front. This is a T intersection with Fox Creek Trail. Turn right here.
We stayed on Fox Creek Trail for about 3 km. This is a delightful trail in tight woods that twists, turns, and ups and downs its way back towards Bolton Creek. There are two bridges to cross, and the forest vistas through here are well worth the trip. This trail is 100% skier set, so after a big snowfall you may be breaking trail.
After 3 km, the trail Ys. Fox Creek Trail continues straight (or slightly left). To get back to our starting point at Bolton Creek Campground, we went right onto Moraine Trail.
Moraine Trail is about 2.5 km. It starts in the trees, but then it opens up to follow the ridgeline with the most gorgeous view of what must be the south peak of Mount Indefatigable (if I’m wrong, please let me know which mountain that is).
There are three benches along here to commemorate loved ones. The trail turns right here, and continues into the trees towards Whiskey Jack trail.
Moraine Trail connects with the original Whiskey Jack Trail. From this intersection, we turned left and skied back to our cars.
While this is a long loop, it is by no means difficult. There is some elevation gain, but nothing sustained like Blueberry Hill or Fire Lookout. This is an ideal beginner / intermediate trail. I will definitely add this to my list of must-do winter skis.
Totals – Tracked on Strava
Date: December 15, 2020
Group: Five (Alisen, Nancy, Carol, Denise and Leslie)
Distance: 19.42 km
Elevation: 376 m (1,241′)
Time: 3 hours 50 minuets (includes lunch & breaks)