Coliseum Mountain

September 19, 2021

I hiked Coliseum Mountain as a punctuation mark on a full week of mountain adventure. I had spent five full days hiking and scrambling in Tonquin Valley, drove home, did a quick load of laundry, and then left early the next morning for the Nordegg area. It was a girls weekend away, and we climbed The Fox via ferrata on Saturday, and then hiked Coliseum Mountain on Sunday. What a week!

I like to think of Coliseum as the Prairie Mountain of Nordegg. It’s the first mountain coming out of the prairies, with epic views of the more massive mountains to the west. It’s close to town, and it’s an easy, well graded trail. If Coliseum was closer to Calgary, it would be mobbed year round.

It’s not hard to figure out where Coliseum Mountain got its name. I thought it was pretty poetic that less than a month after climbing Coliseum Mountain, I accidentally ended up in Rome and got the see the real Coliseum. Good thing the Canadian version has a much less gruesome history.

The Coliseum in Rome. I had no plans to visit Italy, but ended up here by chance when the weather in the Austrian alps took a turn for the worse. I was here about a month after hiking the Canadian Coliseum.
The summit block of Coliseum Mountain. It’s rare that mountains in Canada are named after something relatable. I’m glad this one got a fun name.

Gear

Hiking boots, poles and regular day pack kit.

Overview

From the Coliseum parking lot, take the trail on the east side. Follow the trail to the base of the switchbacks. Gain 80% of the elevation on the switchbacks. We popped out onto a ridge, with a great view of the arcing traverse to the summit of Coliseum. Return the same way, or run your young knees straight down to beeline the parking lot.

Parking and Trail Head

From Highway 11, turn north onto Shunda Creek Road. At the Y, turn right onto Eagle Drive. Follow to the end, which is the parking lot. Nordegg knows people are coming, so they have made a nice parking lot, the trail has great signage, and there’s even a bonus biffy on the trail!

Coliseum Mountain as seen from Highway11. Photo credit: Erin Bailey.
From Highway 11, take Shunda Creek Road to Eagle Drive. Follow to the end.
There is a large parking lot, with pit toilets. The Coliseum Mountain trail head is well marked on the east side of the lot.

The trail immediately enters the trees from the parking lot, and didn’t emerge again until we crested the high point above the switchbacks. For this, I’d save Coliseum for a smoking hot summer day, when shade is at a premium.

Shortly after entering the forest, we came to a well-marked junction. We continued heading east on the main trail.

The junction with the Ranger Station. Other than this, just keep on the trail.

Main Trail

At around 1.5 km, we came to the start of the switchbacks. We spent the next 4 km steadily gaining elevation, in the trees, with nary a view. I suggest you do what I did – bring interesting and chatty friends πŸ™‚

Our uphill slog was broken up by one massive rock outcrop. We enjoyed this a lot.

The trail goes right past these beauties.
We played on the rocks for a bit, and encouraged other people’s kids to take a go as well. If you want your kids to hike with you, then it’s SO important to take time to do side trips that are actually fun for kids. Photo credit: Sonya Laing.

At the end of the switchbacks, the trail backs way off. There is a fairly sizable flat area, which sports an outhouse!!! It’s rare for a trail to have a biffy on it. Way to go Nordegg!

The flat area at the top of the switchbacks. Good place to catch your breath.
I made use of the biffy, for no other reason than it was there.

Shortly after the big flat spot, we left the forest and entered a giant rock pile. This is the best part of the trail. We now had our first full view of the summit of Coliseum, and the large arc traverse to get over to it.

I love the rock formations up here. It is so unlike anywhere else. Aura, Keiran and Erin find spots to relax. We ate a snack here, before continuing along the same elevation to traverse across to the summit, which is the big flat area on the left. Photo credit: Sonya Laing.

Several people were calling it quits at this point, including several families with young children. It is an ideal spot for a snack or lunch. Distance to this point is about 4.5 km of the full 7.5 km (one way).

My friend Sonya offered to feed me this weekend, as I only had about 16 hours turn around time from my Tonquin Valley Trip to Nordegg. Sonya had this homemade bread, which she offered to me in the campground. Sonya is deathly allergic to everything – it’s shorter to list what she can eat. Anyhoo… At snack time, I pulled out this lovely homemade bread only to have Sonya tell me, quite bluntly, that this was her ‘special’ bread and the only reason I had any was because I just happen to see it at camp, otherwise she’d NEVER have offered me any. I laughed so hard. I just love blunt people, and no one is blunter than Sonya. Thanks for the laugh buddy πŸ™‚

After snack time, we started on the traverse. The trail winds through the rock pile, and then skirts along the lower ledge of the cliff band. There is only one spot where the trail really gets narrow, with a nice long run-out were you to slip.

The trail goes through the rocks, and then veers left to go on the outside of the cliff band.
The trail follows the base of the cliff band. In the hollow ahead, at the low point of the trail (not seen), is the narrow part that’s a bit iffy. Erin and Sonya are both mountain bikers, and they were saying it was rather narrow for them to ride comfortably.

Once through the scree, the trail enters and exists the forest a few times, always staying on the ridge top.

Hiking along the ridge. The summit is still a ways off. Photo credit: Sonya Laing.

Coliseum has one of those ‘sneaky’ trails, with a drop in elevation for no other reason than to make you work for the summit πŸ™‚ The trail curves around to the left, and drops down into the forest.

The trail wraps around this high point, then descends into the trees. When in doubt, the trail must head towards the summit.

When the trail popped out of the forest again, we were now at the base of the summit block. There was a steep bit, and then a surprising large ‘lawn’ at the top as we hiked to the summit cairn.

The trail wraps around to the right, and then ascends the rock wall at the weakness straight ahead. Alisen is being bossed around by Sonya, who wanted the perfect photo πŸ™‚ She’s telling me exactly where to stand.
Two mountain bikers on their way down the steep bit. We pulled over and watched them go.
While hiking up Lineham Ridge, my buddy Erin commented on the nice ‘lawn’ we found up there. Now I can’t look at a grassy plain without thinking of it as lawn πŸ™‚ The large summit cairn is ahead.
The massive summit cairn, like the one Prairie used to have. Looking back as Sonya and her son Keiran hike up the last little bit. Behind them is the large arc of Coliseum.
The summit register boxes aren’t just for kids πŸ™‚ Alisen, Erin, Keiran and Aura dig in to see what treats we can find. Thanks Ephraim Roberts. Photo credit: Sonya Laing.

Time to summit was 2 hours, 30 minutes (including snack time). Distance was about 7 km. Elevation gain was 751 m. Ephraim Roberts strikes again with his pink summit register shell boxes full of goodies.

Aura is from Mexico. Her partner Rosalie was training for a big bike race, and didn’t want to screw up her legs.
Looking west towards Abraham Lake. Such a beautiful landscape, made even prettier with the golden fall foliage.
Shunda Mountain is across the way, with the towers and fire lookout. Photo credit: Erin Bailey.
When friends feed you for the weekend, you don’t have much choice in HOW you are fed πŸ™‚ Photo credit: Sonya Laing.

Coliseum Mountain Return

I chose to return the way we came, which is a respectful way to treat knees that have seen way too much elevation over the years. There is an alternate descent, which is straight down the ridge, once you leave the summit block. Be sure to stay on the ridge top, and don’t get sucked down to the eastern side as there is a cliff. Maybe when I’m really old and I get a new set of knees, I’ll be up for tackling some more straight down descents…

This is the return route at the base of the summit block. If you want the steep and direct route, it is to the right. This trail leads back into the forest for the loss of elevation.
From the top of the bump, after regaining our elevation. Looking across as the trail wraps around the side of the mountain.
This is a view of the trail through the scree, where it gets a bit narrow. I actually enjoyed doing the traverse there and back. It’s interesting rock and a nice trail.
We missed this … sculpture … when we hiked in πŸ™‚ The rock pile where we ate lunch is right around the corner, on the left.
This is looking across at the alternate summit descent. From the base of the summit block, be sure to stay on the ridge and don’t accidentally be drawn down the eastern side as there is a big horseshoe shaped canyon.

After the rock pile, it was an uneventful trip back through the forest. After a few switchbacks, we wished we would have counted them like we did at Sulphur Mountain. This is definitely an easy way to keep kids entertained. If you go, please count the switchbacks and let me know how many there are.

Thanks for reading! 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: September 19, 2021
Group:  Five (Alisen, Sonya, Keiran, Erin and Aura)
Distance:  14.5  km
Elevation:  ~751 m (2,478β€²)
Time:  4 hours 22 minutes (includes lunch and breaks)

The route up Coliseum goes way to the east, which allows for a generous switchback trail through the forest. This keeps the huffing and puffing to a minimum going up, and is a real knee saver on the way down.
A good 80% of the elevation gain is on the switchback section. There are a few ups and downs as we traversed across the top, which added to our overall distance and elevation gain totals.
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Posted in Adventures, Hiking
19 comments on “Coliseum Mountain
  1. oliverrani says:

    Amazing views of nature!

  2. Sounds like an action-packed week of adventure! The giant rock pile does sound like a fun part of the trail. The views from the summit look stunning.

  3. Breathtaking and you rightly said you can bike every day but can’t hike…glad you came – so true!

  4. That’s an impressive hike, Alisen. I love the rock formations and the views. The elevation doesn’t seem too bad for the distance covered. Looks like you had a wonderful day on the trail. πŸ˜€

    • alisendopf says:

      You’re good at sizing up hikes – well done! Yes, it’s a good distance to elevation ratio for sure.

      • We’re careful about not over-doing it since we’re both in our 60’s and don’t hike as much as we’d like to. We’re weighing whether the Six Glaciers Tea House is too far. May stick with Lake Agnes. We can’t wait.

      • alisendopf says:

        Six Glaciers Tea House is a completely different view than Lake Agnes. It gets you up close and personal with the …. glaciers 🀣 Sometimes they calve off while you are up there. It sounds like thunder. Impressive!

        This trail is long, but the elevation gain is gradual. It’s really pretty and doable. Take your time and enjoy the trail too, because the rock changes as you go.

      • OMG, Alisen, you just got me so excited. We definitely know how to pace ourselves. The hike sounds wonderful. 4 weeks away!

      • alisendopf says:

        Ha ha! Can I sell a hike or what? 🀣πŸ₯°πŸ€£ That’s how much I love my mountains ⛰️ ❀️

      • You’re talking to another mountain girl here. πŸ˜€

  5. Rome’s not a bad place to end up in accidentally. If you had to choose between being in Rome or climbing Coliseum Mountain, which would you pick?

    • alisendopf says:

      Now that I’ve been to Rome, I’d definitely choose to go back. I felt like I just scratched the surface.

      We were super lucky with our timing. It was a covid lull, so everything was open, no one was sick, but also no one was there. It was only locals. A few weeks after we left, Europe had another major lockdown.

      The people were so nice too. Roads get shut down because it’s a major city, and Rome was hosting some big G8 type event. Our bus was rerouted, and no one knew where to go. These two women shepherded us and a family from Spain to where we needed to be. So nice!

  6. Widdershins says:

    Thank you for another wonderful adventure. πŸ™‚ … We did the gondola at Sulphur Mountain in 2014 and then the boardwalk to the hut, that was all my knees could cope with, but oh my, the views, and the air! πŸ˜€

    • alisendopf says:

      Good for you! It’s such a thrill going up that gondola, especially because they are so rare in Canada.
      I’m glad you got to experience it.
      The Cave and Basin at the base of Sulphur Mountain is one of my favorite places. I used to wander around down there as a teenager by myself. I love Banff ❀️

      • Widdershins says:

        We soaked our toes in the hot springs there. πŸ˜€ … speaking of hot springs, have you been to Lussier Hot Springs, just south of Canal Flats, in Whiteswan Provincial Park? It’s a natural spring that flows out from the rock and into the Lussier river.
        I’m a bit of a hot springs junkie. πŸ™‚ … they’re good for the spirit as well as the aches and pains. πŸ™‚

      • alisendopf says:

        Yes I have!!! They are so nice. It was closed over covid to anyone outside of BC, which the locals absolutely loved. There’s a love-hate relationship between Alberta and BC. The Albertans come over the border and act like yahoos, yet the BC folk love to sell us stuff 🀣

      • Widdershins says:

        Heh. πŸ˜€ … sounds about right. πŸ˜€

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