Grassi Knob – north approach

Another secret exposed.

I’d been hearing rumours about a good trail going up to Grassi Knob from the north side, and decided to explore it today. I’m happy to report it’s there, and it’s a terrific hike. Spectacular, actually. Only one short section which might cause some consternation, but I’ll get to that later.

You’ll come to this trail marker after hiking about 1.5K on the Highline Trail from the Peaks of Grassi

Earlier this year, I discovered a route to the top of Grassi Knob starting at the eastern trailhead of the Highline trail at Hubman Landing in Canmore, which was about 10K round trip.  Today’s hike was much shorter, only 6.6K round trip. Easily accomplished in less than four hours, even with spending a half-hour at the top.

Fall is my favourite time for hiking, when it’s not too hot and the bugs are all gone. We had a perfect autumn day, with a temperature of 15° and no wind. The starting point is in the Peaks of Grassi residential area in Canmore. There’s a trailhead for the east connector of the Highline trail at the extreme east end of Lawrence Grassi Ridge. Park on the street and start climbing. After going about 1K, with an elevation of 160 metres, you’ll come to a junction with a trail marker. Continue on the south trail along the creek(on the trail marker, this section is indicated as going to Three Sisters creek).

The creek bed has some difficult sections where you need to be careful. Don’t do this hike if the creek is experiencing high water flow.

About 90 metres from the trail marker, you’ll come to a creek crossing. There is just a dribble of water right now, but in the spring it’s a torrent. Cross the creek, take 10 paces and look to your right. This is where you’ll exit the Highline trail. Head up the steep grassy slope. Although difficult to see initially, there is a trail and it will come into view after you’ve climbed about 5 metres. The next 10 minutes and 200 metres will be your most challenging section of this hike.

Seeing this ribbon in the creek bed is your cue to turn left and head up the trail on the bank. This good but steep trail will take you right to the top.

After follwing this trail for a short distance, it drops down into the creek bed. At this time of year, with little water in the creek, it’s passable, but it would be impossible to traverse this section in the spring without getting very wet, and possibly breaking a leg or twisting an ankle on the slippery rock slabs.

Making your way up the creek bed is not easy, and you’ll need to take your time and be very careful. Eventually, a rock face will stop you dead in your tracks. No problem. Look to your left where a trail will take you up the grassy bank, and spit you out above the impassable section. In the spring, these precipices create some impressive cascading waterfalls.

Some beautiful autumn colours adorn the trail

Watch for the pink ribbon which is tied to a tree on the left side of the creek bed. This is where you exit the creek bed and start up the ridge which goes to Grassi Knob. You’ll see the trail which is surprisingly good, albeit quite steep. Follow it all the way to the top. From the creek bed, there’s a net elevation gain of 560 metres.

There’s even a rest area about half way up. It’s a short section of trail which levels out, and gives a welcome respite from the relentless steep grade. As you near the top, the trees thin out, and the surrounding mountains come into view, along with the Bow River, the town of Canmore, and Quarry Lake.

The top of Grassi knob is in sight

Five minutes from the top, you’ll see the rocky outcropping, or knob, which gives this peak its name. Although it appears very tiny from the highway, there’s plenty of room and a nice level surface on which to relax and have lunch, while admiring the 360° views. The weather at the top was warm, with no wind. It was a beautiful place to be today.

Looking west from the top

Net elevation gain is 770 metres.


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