As I drove through downtown Canmore, I couldn’t take my eyes off the surrounding mountains. In particular, one pass caught my eye, and I was determined to find out if there was a road that would take me there. As it turns out, there is a dirt road that runs between Chinaman’s Peak (Ha Ling) and the southern end of Mount Rundle (the north end of Rundle looms over Banff). That road then continues on to Spray Lake and Kananaskis Country, a collection of provincial parks and recreation areas.
By the time I made the climb out of Canmore and into the mountains, the weather was looking pretty rough. Rain was pouring, and the clouds were dark. I was faced with a dilemma: should I try to hike in the rain, or keep driving? There are several trails in the area, including one that scales partway up Chinaman’s Peak. But the weather would, no doubt, make it a miserable slog.
I sat and watched it rain for a few minutes, before making the decision to drive, instead of hike. The weather eased up a bit, but still drizzled.
After the initial ascent from Canmore into the hills, the first stop is this reservoir. It’s actually just one part of a chain of canals and reservoirs that run along the side of the road. From this lake, some of the water spills over the hillside, creating a waterfall that can be seen from Canmore. The rest…
… is funneled down to a hydroelectric plant at the bottom of the hill. In this picture you can see the city of Canmore in the distance, and on the right, there’s a water tower — part of the city’s power and water system. Check out the next page for a different view of this area.
I decided to continue heading away from Canmore on the dirt road — even though I didn’t know exactly where I was going.
The road turns south, and runs through the valley between two lines of jagged mountain peaks. Along the way, it crosses over the canal, giving you a nice place for a picture (although it would be a much prettier scene on a sunny day).
Even though it isn’t paved, the road is wide and well maintained, so it was easy to speed along at 60 or 70 km/hour (40-45 mph).
Eventually, I reached the northern end of Spray Lakes Reservoir. Before turning around, I took a few more gloomy pictures, then I drove back to Canmore. Had I gone further, I could have continued down the dirt road to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, which makes up part of the Kananaskis Country area. Then, I could have taken Alberta Highway 40 north, back to Trans Canada 1, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Canmore. It would have been a long detour, but it would have been worth it, if the skies had been a bit more blue.
Here’s the time-lapse dash-cam video of the drive from Canmore, into the mountains to Spray Lake, then back again: