Whiskey Jack to Elk Pass to Fox Creek

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.

Gear

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.

Whiskey Jack, to Tyrwhitt, to Elk Pass, to the ‘couches‘. Then onwards to Fox Creek, and Moraine to connect back at the start with Whisky Jack.

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.

After leaving the parking lot, we skied through the the Bolton Creek campground. At the first intersection, we turned Left to gain Whiskey Jack Trail heading towards the gate.
Immediately before the gates, we turned right to continue on Whiskey Jack Trail.
From the parking lot, it’s a short 200 m to the first left, then another 200 m to the next right.

Main Trail

Once on the main Whiskey Jack Trail, enjoy the lovely ups, downs and curves as the trail winds its way up towards Tyrwhitt.

Whiskey Jack trail is wide, and is machine groomed and track set. We were there fairly early, so had the trail to ourselves and could spread out.
While the trail does gain elevation most of the way, this is by far the hardest part. There was only one very steep area. In comparison to Fire Lookout or Blueberry Hill, Whiskey Jack is mild indeed. This is ideal if you are new to cross-country skiing hills.
As we neared the top, we got a glimpse of Mount Pocaterra.

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.

You are rewarded with a picnic table for completing the Whiskey Jack trail.
Whiskey Jack trail is now complete. Next, turn right on Tyrwhitt Trail.

We are now at a T intersection. Left on Tyrwhitt takes you back towards the Pocaterra trails. We went Right towards Elk Pass.

At the T intersection. Heading west is a great view of Gap Mountain. This trail takes you towards the Pocaterra trails.
At the T intersection, turn Right to head 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.

This photo is from an earlier trip in November when I broke trail most of the way. It is now beautifully track set.
When not skiing through the trees, Mount Pocaterra is a constant companion on our left.
The Tyrwhitt Trail is about 5 km long between Whiskey Jack and Elk Pass.

Tyrwhitt Trail ends at Elk Pass. You will again find the standard issue picnic table to mark this major junction.

The Elk Pass junction. The Hydroline Trail is on our right. We will ski straight ahead to find the Couches, and to complete our loop.

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.

Note the tiny bit of pink flagging beside the skiers. Denise (left) has been here before so knew what to look for. If you miss the flagging, there are lots of tracks heading off to the side.

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.

It is beautiful on the West Elk Pass trail. It is 100% skier set track, so be prepared to break trail after a snow fall.
Once in the meadow, we can just see the couches on the left, poking through the trees.
Leslie, me and Nancy are enjoying the three couches. There is even a short wall to block any wind. I can imagine this would be a glorious place to eat your lunch on a sunny day. Check out the craftsmanship on this furniture. Each one has a different shape and design. Whoever you are – well done!

After enjoying our lunch in this secluded spot, we returned the way we came to the main Elk Pass trail.

Return Route

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.

From Elk Pass, we continued south west on Elk Pass Trail. The yellow West Elk Pass trail takes you to the couches. It is NOT on the map and is an unofficial trail.

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.

This is a natural stopping place for people. To the left is the main trail that ascends the final hill to the Elk Pass parking lot. Turn Right here to access Fox Creek Trail.

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.

The Fox Creek Trail follows – what else? – Fox Creek! This delightful trail twists, turns and bumps up and down.
This is the first of two bridges you cross on the Fox Creek Trail.
Water was still flowing in spots on Fox Creek. Absolutely gorgeous.

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.

The Fox Creek (light blue) and Moraine (grey) trails take us back to our starting point at Whiskey Jack (red).
This is the Y junction on Fox Creek trail. To the left connects with another trail. We headed Right on Moraine Trail, which will take us back to our starting point at Whiskey Jack 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.

Mount Indefatigable is actually across from Kananaskis Lake, but looks like it is right beside us from this view. This viewpoint has several benches. The trail turns right here and continues to Whiskey Jack trail.

Moraine Trail connects with the original Whiskey Jack Trail. From this intersection, we turned left and skied back to our cars.

Skiing back to the parking lot through Bolton Creek campground. It was interesting to see the snowed in campsites and signs in the winter.

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.

If you found this post useful, please do me a huge favour and click the Star button to “Like” it. You can also follow my blog, follow me on Instagram, or join my FaceBook page Al’s Adventurers.

Alisen

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)

This almost 20 km trip takes in several trails to make big scenic loop. No major hills are climbed if you are wanting to avoid elevation.
There is less than 400 m of elevation gain for the trip. Most of it is gained in the beginning when you are nice and fresh. I also felt like there was no overly sustained section as the trail seemed to undulate and switch between up and flat fairly regularly.
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Posted in Adventures, Skiing
5 comments on “Whiskey Jack to Elk Pass to Fox Creek
  1. Looks like you were skiing in a winter wonderland!! The trails look very well marked, which is always great, especially since there are so many connecting trails. I’m envious of how much snow you have. I’ve been itching to bust my snowshoes out, but looks like I’ll have to wait awhile longer for some snow.

    • alisendopf says:

      Yes, I agree. The official winter trails are very well marked. I hear you are getting a polar vortex coming your way. I wish you lots of snow but no ice! Stay warm!

  2. Ooooh chilly chill to enjoy the winters

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