Exshaw Mountain Loop

May 27, 2022

My buddy Sonya was in training for an eight day bike pack trip. She had just done 7 rides in 6 days, and had two more massive gravel rides to come. I needed to find a hike that ticked these boxes: a short hike, close to home, and dry. With the late spring and heavy snowpack this year, we didn’t want to add to trail erosion. Exshaw Mountain was the answer.

Once we started hiking, we quickly realized that this is an active mountain biking trail. Not a problem! We only saw two cyclists heading up, and two coming down. While hikers technically have right of way over cyclists, as we are cyclist ourselves and know just how hard it is to start after stopping on an uphill grind, we had no problem pulling over and letting the cyclists go by.

Gear

Hiking boots, poles and regular day pack kit. If going in the winter, add in gaiters and microspikes.

Overview

From the trail head, hike straight up the mountain. At the T intersection, either turn left for the longer, laid back traverse approach, or turn right for the shorter, straight up approach. I went right. At the summit, we traversed across the top of the ridge, and descended on the alternate traverse trail to make a loop.

Parking and Trail Head

Parking is NOT at the trailhead. There is a sign asking people to please park at the Royal Canadian Legion. This is not a day use area. Instead, we stopped at the Jura Creek parking lot and used the toilets there.

While there is a wide road right next to the trail head that looks like a good parking spot, the town of Exshaw wants you to instead park at the Royal Canadian Legion, right at the entrance to town. Please be respectful of this small community. If the Legion parking is full, then you’ll have to move on and find somewhere else to park and play. Please note that parking on the road is a fine, and this area is patrolled.
We stopped at Jura Creek day use area prior to reaching Exshaw, which is the mountain right in front.
The Royal Canadian Legion in Exshaw. There is parking here, and across the street.

From the Legion, we walked down a side street, directly towards Exshaw Mountain. We entered the first trailhead we found, and then turned left to parallel the road. We could have stayed on the road and entered the trail a bit further on.

We walked down a side street, towards Exshaw Mountain. The trail head is directly ahead.
This is looking back towards the trail head.

Main Trail

Once the trail starts ascending, it doesn’t let up. We chose to take the direct, steeper route up, and the mellower traverse back down. Why? It’s easier on the knees to come down a less steep slope, and Sonya has her dog Pyro, who pulls on the downhill.

Soon after we started hiking, we came to these slabs. You can hike around to the left, but it’s more fun to go straight up. We could see where mountain bikes had come down here.

The main route decision is at the T intersection, about 1 km from the Legion parking lot. Left is the mellower ascent, and Right is the steep and quick. We went right. This area is flagged, and well signed, including a helpful note that it takes about 1 hour to reach the summit going to the right.

The T intersection. To the right is the steep direct route that we took. The left is the mellow traverse that we came down. Both routes are lovely, with about the same amount of time in the trees.

From the T intersection to the summit, it was one long uphill push, and it was all in the trees except for one open spot. Be sure to turn around here and admire the view, because it’s the best spot, even better than the summit.

It’s now a grind up to the top, with almost no views. The trail is flagged.
Pyro accidentally knocked over a cairn with her leash so Sonya had to put it back together πŸ™‚
Yup, it’s that steep. Standard practice for unofficial trails.
For an unofficial trail, it has cairns at key points or slabs, and carefully placed deadfall kept us on the right track.
When we finally came to a clearing, we took advantage to look up at the remaining ridge above, and to also turn around and get some views across the Bow valley. I’m glad I stopped and admired the view here, as the summit views were a bit obscured by trees.
Mountains left to right: Engagement, Barrier/Yates (behind) and the Heart Mountain traverse.
Still quite a bit of snow in the mountains for late May. It was an epic snow year. Looking across at McGillivray and Pigeon Mountain (right).

All of a sudden, we came across the famed shovel and summit cairn. There was a freshly placed summit register. While it wasn’t pink, it still had the unicorn and rainbow stickers, so I can only assume it was Ephraim Roberts.

The famed shovel and summit register box filled with goodies. Photo credit: Sonya Laing

Distance to summit from the Legion parking lot is 2.6 km. Elevation gain was 480 m and time to summit was 1 hour 10 minutes.

I didn’t realize Sonya was videoing this!!! Lots of great stuff in the summit register box.

Exshaw Mountain Return

We decided to do the loop, and continued past the Summit Shovel along the top of the ridge. Here we found a little clearing with benches. When I checked my GPS, this was likely the ‘true’ top of Exshaw.

There was this clearing with benches, plus another one further along, that marked the highest point on Exshaw, but both are in the dense trees.

As we traversed across the top of the wide ridge, the trail was rather faint in spots. Indeed, there are two routes up here, and I we were on the upper, less used one. There was some flagging, plus good old fashioned dead reckoning to stay on target. There was one quick ‘down and up’ section.

The ridge top was wide, and the trail was sometimes faint. Again, excellent flagging by trail volunteers.
This is Sonya and Pyro coming up from the short ‘down and up’. Beyond this, the trail faded a bit, and I had to backtrack a few meters to pick it up again as the trail made a hard right hand turn.
Looking across at what I think is the second hump on Ankelbiter Ridge.
Nice rock formation here. Looking across the Bow Valley to Wind Ridge.

We finally hit an open spot, and found the best trail signs evah! This is where we left the ridge, and started the descent on the long traverse back to the trailhead. It takes a bit longer, but A) it saved my knees, and B) we found some awesome artwork.

I absolutely love it when people take the time and effort to create in the mountains. Bless you, whoever you are. We had just come from the right – “Exshaw Summit Hike”. The other sign says “Dog Daze Ridge Climb”.
Shortly after the creative trail signs, we took the trail descending into the forest. This is the alternate, low angle traversing trail.
If you’re in doubt that this is a mountain bike trail, you only have to check out the artwork!
So creative! Don’t throw away those old worn out bike parts, people!

It was here, on the descent, that I finally saw Sonya crack. After riding for 6 days straight, and practically running up Exshaw mountain, Sonya was Done. She sat down and refused to move until she had a good snack and a drink.

I can’t really take credit for tuckering out Sonya, even though she insists I did. She said I was her “Sixth Sticky Bun”. Ready for this??? Okay. Here goes. When you go for dim sum, you can eat 5 sticky buns, but not get full. It’s only when you eat the 6th sticky bun that you finally feel full. However, without the previous 5 sticky buns, the 6th is meaningless. So, while Sonya worked her butt off all week (which are the 5 sticky buns), this hike was her 6th Sticky Bun that finally tuckered her out πŸ™‚

We had one final navigation decision when we came to our second big T intersection. This time, we went left. We were now on the trail that would take us back to the original T intersection. We turned right there, to continue the descent to the trail head.

It felt like we were being pulled too far to the right, but as soon as I saw this ginormous intersection, I knew we had not missed anything. We turned Left to continue the traverse back. When we came to the original T intersection, we turned right (downhill) to continue the short trek back to the trailhead.

Exshaw Mountain was the ideal quick hike. It was close by, and nicely dried out when other mountains were still snowbound.

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: May 27, 2022
Group:  Two (Alisen and Sonya)
Distance:  8.1 km (measured from Legion parking)
Elevation:  480 m (1,584β€²)
Time:  2 hours 45 minutes (includes the “6th Sticky Bun” break)

This is the loop of Exshaw Mountain. We took the direct, steep route on the right, and descended the less steep traverse on the left.
The elevation profile tells the story. The ascent was straight up, while the descent was a gradual elevation loss.
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Posted in Adventures, Hiking
11 comments on “Exshaw Mountain Loop
  1. I enjoyed this post very much. The photos are gorgeous! What a beautiful place!

  2. Tanooki says:

    Another beautiful trailπŸ‘€πŸ’• It’s such a nice excursionπŸ‘

  3. Widdershins says:

    ‘Sticky bun break’ πŸ˜€ … for a moment there I read that as ‘sticky bum break’, and wondered what she’d sat in! πŸ˜€

    • alisendopf says:

      Ha ha!!! Let’s just say “been there, done that” too 😭

      I was thinking of you when I wrote about the Sticky Bun. Thought you’d enjoy the roundabout explanation πŸ˜‰

  4. Butterfly says:

    Nice post🀠

  5. Of course you would opt for the more challenging route that’s steeper! I’m with you though, I’d rather deal with the steep sections on the way up than down. I loved your reaction to the contents in the summit register.

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