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.
Hiking boots, poles and regular day pack kit.
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!
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.
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 🙂
Our uphill slog was broken up by one massive rock outcrop. We enjoyed this a lot.
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!
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.
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).
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.
Once through the scree, the trail enters and exists the forest a few times, always staying on the ridge top.
Coliseum has one of those ‘sneaky’ trails, with a drop in elevation for no other reason than to make you work for the summit 🙂 The trail curves around to the left, and drops down into the forest.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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