Just over the BC Border you will find Kananaskis Country. A vast recreational area accessed from several points in Alberta. The nearest town to the trailhead is Bragg Creek. If you have the extra time to do some other rides, Bragg Creek has a huge network of well-maintained mountain bike trails. This route follows a network of old forestry roads and horse trails through some magnificent country with no shortage of dramatic Rocky Mountain views. This route was inspired by the now out of print guide book by Doug Eastcott: ‘Backcountry Biking in the Canadian Rockies’.
About 3 km south of town you take Highway 66 (Elbow Falls Road) Southwest into Kananaskis Country and the trail starts at the end of this road, at the Little Elbow Campground. Park in the designated public parking area just before you reach the campground.
After navigating through the campground (on the road or trail paralleling the road & river) and passing the junctions to Nihani Ridge and Nihani Creek, you will come to the river where a bridge was washed out in the 2013 floods. Ford across the river and continue on the South side.
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The trail descends steeply towards Tombstone Campground where you will look for the junction for the Big Elbow Trail heading in a northeasterly direction. After a few kilometers of blissful singletrack the trail becomes rougher and is washed out from the floods in 3 or 4 sections. Navigating through the flood zone can be tricky and involves some hiking sections on steep side hill terrain. Fear not…as long as you follow the creek bed, you will eventually get back to the trail. After another river crossing where there used to be a bridge, the trail becomes doubletrack again for the next 6 km until you reach the junction with the Threepoint Mountain Trail. This junction is not obvious so make sure you are looking for it.
This would be a good time to put on your rose coloured glasses because you will be schlepping your bike up a steep, loose horse trail for the next 2 km. There is potential for a nice climbing switchback trail here, so we can always hope for that in the future. Just as you start to feel defeated, the views will open up and the beautiful high sub-alpine meadows will make you almost forget the torture of pushing your bike. This was nearly the half way point so we decided to camp in an open section of meadow along the trees. Signs of old comboy camps and wild horses in the trees reminded us we weren’t the first ones to spend a night here. Wandering the meadows after dinner we stumbled across a moose antler shed that made for nice scale of the surrounding peaks in the evening light. The riding improves from here but still expect a bit of hike – a -bike, although it does level out and then descend to the Volcano Creek Trail (the views continue to be astounding through much of this terrain).
Once you hit the Volcano Creek trail, you will be back on the bike after a short steep rocky hill. The Volcano Creek Trail is a pleasant ride through forest and meadows which eventually opens up to some spectacular views of Threepoint Canyon. Be aware of some washed out areas that are tricky to navigate along the way.
Once you get to the end of the Volcano Creek Trail, look to the left (Northwest) for a sign that says Wildhorse. From this point you will end up on some recently built logging roads that were not shown on our map or google earth. The navigation can be confusing through the next section. The recently built logging road crosses Wildhorse trail at several points and is not signed, we followed the logging road until we found the trail, then followed the trail for a while. Eventually it dumps you back on the road which you follow until it comes to a junction. Go right and descend until you find a sign saying ‘Caution: Trail Crossing’. This is where we gladly got back on the Wildhorse Trail for a fun short section of uphill, followed by a fast and flowy singletrack descent that was the “icing on the cake” of an amazing K-Country ride. From this junction take a left (west) and ride through nice meadows and rolling trail along the Little Elbow River. Follow the trail that parallels the river right back to the suspension bridge crossing at the Little Elbow Campground.
Distance & Elevation
Distance: 80 km/ 50 miles
Elevation Gain: 1586 m/ 5203 ft
Elevation Loss: 1587 m/ 5206 ft
- Pavement 0% 0%
- Gravel 25% 25%
- Doubletrack 39% 39%
- Singletrack 30% 30%
- Hike – A – Bike 6% 6%
On a scale of 1-10
Overall Rating: 6.5