Elbow Valley - Beaver Flats - The Particulars: Trailhead is located within the Beaver Flats campground. Drive west on Highway 66 until just past Elbow Falls and the highway gate. Turn left into the campground; the traillhead is on the East side of the campground. Alternately, there is a small turnout lot just off the highway. Look for the Beaver Lodge sign.
Despite our best efforts, we didn't make it out for a Saturday hike. Too many late nights and playoff hockey led to some serious sleeping in on Saturday. But since D had a brand spanking new Rav 4 to try out, we did make it out to Banff to resample the Mexican food. Yummy! We'd planned to walk around - at least make it out to Bow Falls and take the foot path back into town... but that Mexican food was way too filling. We hit the bookstore and left. Yes, lazy. ;-)
It was packed in Banff -- I'm sure it will only get worse as spring gets warmer. Even this late, we were only able to grab one of the last parking spots near the park in downtown Banff. Even from a parking lot, there are incredible views in Banff. This is right beside the parking lot, looking West, just before sunset.
So Sunday was the only hiking day, and I think it was pretty clear both N and I were tired of Fullerton Loop and Diamond T. As in really tired. Highway 66 is closed at the Elbow Falls area until May 15 (that's 19 days from now for anyone who is counting), but there's still plenty to do. This week N and I thought we'd explore.
I know there's some options just beyond the gate. Prairie Mountain Trail is one. Sadly, I think it's a little beyond us at this point. 3 km and over 500 ft ascent in that time. Oh hell no. Not yet. Prairie Creek Trail is a lot more our speed, but it's only one way, and.... well I have no good reason for not picking that one. It was just wasn't right for the day.
We parked at the gate and started up the highway, taking the left shoulder. After only a few minutes there was a small parking lot and a sign that pointed down to the "Beaver Lodge". I'd known there was a quick interpretive walk around the area, but I hadn't been prepared enough to figure out it was there.
Beaver Flats Interpretive is the official name, though I've seen it called Beaver Lodge as well. We actually started on the "wrong" side... the trailhead sits in the campground a couple of kilometers up the road. It doesn't really seem to matter though, and in the busier parts of summer, it's probably best to park in the little lot off the road than try to find space in the campground.
It's a short walk, no real exertion and very cool. We didn't see many signs of life, but the evidence of beavers there is everywhere. If nothing else, it's very quiet and very pretty.
We returned back to the highway via the campground road and continued uphill. We could have walked along Elbow trail I suppose.... maybe next time. We made it past the viewpoint (and paused to read a touching makeshift memorial to a cycler who had died in the area), and beyond. Since the highway just keeps on going, so did we. After about an hour of mostly uphill, we turned around (we really didn't make it that far). It was fun, and now we know what is reachable beyond the gates..... lots! 19 days til the gates open, I think we'll have plenty to fill the time.
And Maclean Creek opens in 4 days! Even better.