Canyon Creek Ice Cave

February 11, 2022

I’ve had this adventure on my radar ever since my mountain buddy Annette did it July 2020. When the snow dried up this winter, it was an ideal time for another Bike and Hike Adventure.

My hiking buddy Annette biking back down from the Ice Cave in July 2020.

While we chose to bike in, many people walk in from the parking lot. If you bike, it’s a half day adventure, but walking will stretch it out to a full day.

This is mainly a hike, with one small section of hands on rock right before the entrance to the cave.

Safety Gear: Please be smart about entering this or any other cave. We had helmets (climbing and bike), with good quality headlamps attached. I also carried a powerful bike light meant for night riding. Always have a back-up light. Even though this cave is not very deep, if you lose your light at the back of the cave, it is 100% pitch black (yes, I tested that). Do not go down anything you can’t get back up.

Gear

BIKE: mountain or gravel bike. Helmet.

HIKE: hiking boots, poles and helmet, headlamp and hand held back-up light. Regular day pack kit.

Overview

From the Canyon Creek parking lot, continue to bike (or walk) up the Canyon Creek Road for about 6 km. Pick up the hiking trail on the right. Gain elevation in a north west direction. Keep an eye on the vertical cave opening, and head for that. At cave, put on helmet and headlights. Return the same way.

Parking and Trail Head

From Highway 66, turn north onto Canyon Creek Road. The parking lot is on the right (east side), prior to the road barricade.

This is the start of the Canyon Creek Road, just off Highway 66.
The road is blocked off. The parking lot is on the right, with two entrances.
From the parking lot, there is a side exit for bikes. There is a lot of mountain biking in this area in the summer, and my friend Shannon spent some time scouting options on our way back.

From the parking lot, we continued biking down Canyon Creek Road.

Heading out. Left to Right: Shannon, Sonya, Mike’s bike, and Alisen. I am giving a big shout out to my good buddy Jacquie for lending me her super sweet mountain bike. We nicknamed the bike Jacquie for the day, and I was happy to have her.

Main Trail

The road is wide and gravel. It might be tempting to just put your head down and ride, but this is one picturesque road. Do take your time to admire the intensely beautiful rock formations carved out from the creek over the centuries.

While snow was in short supply, we did find quite a bit of it on the road. Snow and frozen snow was fine to ride. There were three patches of solid ice, and we walked our bikes over those. Overall, riding was way faster than walking.
At around the 3 km mark, just around the big bend to the left, is a bridge where the road crosses Canyon Creek. From here, the uphill is more noticeable.
Gorgeous rock formations loomed over us as we biked along. We found several spots of bolted sport climbs.

While the road does trend upward as we biked north west, the high point is at the 5.2 km mark.

Nearing the high point. The cave is above us, but in shadow.

Once past the high point, there is a short but steep downhill. At the bottom, we crossed Moose Mountain Creek, and another access road around the 5.4 km mark.

At the base of the hill, there is a road on the right side. Just past this, another 500 m or so, is the start of the hiking trail.

At approximately 6 km in, the start of the hiking trail is on our right. We stashed our bikes in the trees, got out our hiking poles, and walked up the trail.

Sonya pushing her bike up into the trees. This is the start of the hiking trail, which goes up and to the left. We were the first ones to arrive, but by the time we left, we saw about eight people on the hiking trail, and another six or eight on the road walking in. Only one other person biked.
The bike portion is approximately 12 km return. I’m not a fan of a long and drawn out approach, so to have a lovely gravel road to bike was ideal.
The road grade is fairly level, with the high point near the start of the hike, around the 5.2 km mark. It’s a fun and fast ride back to the parking lot.

Canyon Creek Ice Cave Hike

From the Canyon Creek road, we hiked up the obvious trail on our right. There is another entrance to the hike a bit further down. Just keep going straight up through the trees.

The trail splits here. Just keeping going up to the right. The left fork leads back to the road.
The cave entrance is visible from the trail. When in doubt, just keep hiking in the direction of the cave.

At the beginning of the rock slide area, the trail splits. Both trails are strong, but keep going in the same northwest direction (left) instead of going straight up (right).

Sonya is marking X for No Go. The trail has to cross this steep rock slope before continuing up to the cave entrance.
Shannon is marking Y for Go on this trail. The cave entrance is visible in the upper right hand side of the photo.
The trail is strong through the rocks. Even with some snow, we could easily find and follow the trail.

Just below the cave entrance are some giant rock steps. Then it’s a quick straight up to the cave entrance.

Shannon on the rock steps.
Just below the cave entrance.
Alisen, Shannon and Sonya on the pinnacle just inside the cave entrance. Prairie Mountain is peaking through the background.

Ice Cave

At the mouth of the cave, we dropped our packs and poles, and put on our helmets and head lights.

The cave is pretty cool, both in terms of temperature and atmosphere. This is a great place to be on a super hot day in the summer. Water seeps down and creates the interesting ice sculptures. Unfortunately, humans suck. Many times the ice has been broken off.

The cave has a massive opening, and it narrows the further back you go. The light from the opening does not reach the back of the cave. While back there, we turned off all our lights, and were in pitch darkness. Please have a back-up light, as stumbling out in the dark will really hurt.

This ice sculpture was broken off by some human, while another wrote ‘danger’ on the cave. Photo credit: Sonya Laing.
Interesting ice plug at the back of the cave on the right side. Photo credit: Sonya Laing.
The giant blocks fell from the roof of the cave. Helmets won’t save me if one of these falls on me. However, a helmet is good for smaller rock fall and bumping my head on the low ceilings the further in I hiked. Photo credit: Sonya Laing.
Alisen illuminating the very back of the cave. It was a wall of ice behind me. I am using a very powerful light used for night bike riding. Photo credit: Sonya Laing.
Mike heading back out. Without our lights, it’s pitch black in here.
Light at the end of the tunnel.

Canyon Creek Ice Cave Return

When we got back to the entrance, we had a surprise waiting for us. A pair of ravens decided to open our packs to see what we had to eat. Sonya’s lunch was strewn out and all the good stuff was eaten. These crafty birds even dug out and opened up our hand warmers!

Sonya’s pack has been thoroughly ransacked by the ravens. Anything that could be eaten, was. They even opened the package of hand warmers. As we exited the cave, the birds had the gall to screech at us. Thanking us? Or asking for more? Who knows πŸ™‚ Lesson learned? Use a hard sided container for your lunch. Photo credit: Sonya Laing.

After cleaning up the mess, we returned the way we came.

Looking down from the cave entrance to Canyon Creek below.

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, join my FaceBook page Al’s Adventurers, or follow me on Instagram.

Alisen

Totals – Tracked on Gaia, displayed on Strava

Date: February 11, 2022
Group:Β  Four (Alisen, Mike, Sonya and Shannon)
Distance:Β  13.4 km (total bike and hike return distance)
Elevation:Β  289 m (953β€²)
Time:Β  4 hours (includes lunch & breaks)

This is only the map of the hiking section. The biking section is above.
This is the elevation profile for the hike up to and inside the ice cave.
Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Adventures, Cycling, Hiking
25 comments on “Canyon Creek Ice Cave
  1. We did this a couple of years ago in the summer, with bikes, when the ice in the cave was still intact. I thought it was an easy cycle and climb. Great fun!

  2. Great adventure. Love the photo at the cave entrance.

  3. Oh great idea. I had heard about and then forgotten about this cave. Looks like a great day despite the crafty ravens! Maggie

  4. Fascinating looking caves – good you could see the ice-icles intact. And the ravens! We were rafting the Grand Canyon and had to post a β€œcamp guard” when we went on hikes to keep those birds from making off with any interesting small stuff. They seemed to have weakness for toothpaste tubes. πŸ™„πŸ˜ƒ

    • alisendopf says:

      Toothpaste! Who knew? Thanks for that. I’ll ensure mine is packed deep for my next overnight trip. I have friends in the US who rafted the Grand Canyon a few years ago. I did the Green River out of Moab with them, and the Tatahenshini-Alsek in 2018. Good times!

  5. Diana says:

    The cave part looks neat but ravens stealing the food is quite a bummer. Crafty little things.

    • alisendopf says:

      Crafty for sure. They were smart – they didn’t make any noise to alert us they were around when we got there. My friend Sonya had to do a trail run after that with no food. She’s allergic to everything so I couldn’t give her any of my food. Live and learn – bring a hard-sided food container!

  6. This looks like such a neat cave to explore, especially in the winter with all the ice formations. I had no idea that ravens were so sneaky and could even open up a backpack. Sounds like they had quite the feast.

    • alisendopf says:

      Oh yes! While backpacking or even skiing, we make sure to cover our packs if we leave them behind to say, go climb a peak. They can open zippers no problem.

      These birds were so smart! They actually hid from us as we hiked in! Ravens are quite loud, but they didn’t say a word until we left and had no more food for them.

  7. Widdershins says:

    Another splendiferous adventure. πŸ˜€

  8. What an amazing adventure! I love a good snowy mountain trail and with the added bonus of that awesome looking cave. What a treat. Good on you! πŸ‘πŸ» I know how treacherous they are to climb to the back of too. I had a similar experience in Thor’s Cave in the White Peak. Really enjoyed this post. πŸ™‚

    • alisendopf says:

      Awww. Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed. It’s definitely out of the ordinary. Thor’s Cave – now that sounds amazing!!!

      I did some intensive caving a few years ago with my kids. We were down there for hours. It was basically climbing below ground. Some of the squeeze moves were definitely unnerving. We had to commando-crawl down a tight passage, and then turn around in a very tight ball. I was SO done after that.

  9. Interesting except for the cave part!

  10. K. Joseph says:

    Cool adventure! I believe that ravens are considered quite smart at figuring things out.

    • alisendopf says:

      They most definitely are! I really like the ravens. They have such personality and are very territorial. There are a pair on the 93 North that I’ve been able to train to NOT squak at me. Meanwhile, we have signs at the Lake Louise Ski Resort to not leave your packs left out because the ravens will help themselves.

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