Jumping Pound / Cox Hill

photo: Saul Greenberg

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Location. Between Calgary and Canmore, in the Kananaskis

Maps. Access, Ride Maps, and Elevation Profiles (PDF File)

GPS. GPS data.

Type. Mountain bike trip appropriate for cross-country riders. Sections of this are also popular for hiking.

Distance. 36.4 kms: 17.6km on gravel road (or bypass this by car-shuttle) and 18.8km of single track.

Time. ~5 - 7 hours without shuttle, ~3.5 - 5 hours with shuttle. (My time was 5 hours without shuttle.)

Elevation gain (see profiles included in map) ~1100m if no car shuttle.

  • Gravel road: gaines 361m elevation on gravel road over 13.3km, then drops 141m over the next 5.2km.
  • Single track: gaines 511m to Jumping Pound Summit over 6.4km, then drops 285m over 4.1km, then gaines 246m over 2km, then drops 710m over 6.2km

Trailhead (see access map above):

  • From Canmore, AB: take Highway 1 East to Kananaskis turnoff onto Highway 40 for about 10 minutes until you reach the Highway 60 turnoff. Turn left onto Highway 60 (good quality dirt road). Continue over a wooded pass until it opens up onto fields. You will see a good quality gravel road on the right called the Powderface Trail. Although it says cars go at their own risk, its in very good shape. Go down this road around 10 minutes until the Dawson Creek Parking Lot.
  • From Calgary, AB: take Highway 1 West to the Highway 68 turnoff. Follow that until you get to the Powderface Trail gravel road mentioned above.

I think this is the best cross country trail around Calgary! Lots of high value stuff in it. It goes through forest onto a lovely broad ridge, lot of meadows above tree line, hits two summits, has great views of the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies, and is a perfect length for a fun day out. The riding is exhilarating. The uphills will get your heart racing (steep, but all ridable for those who are fit except for the odd few steps here and there), the flats on the meadowed ridge are just beautiful to ride through, while the downhill (especially off of Cox Hill) are a blast. Technically and physically strong cross country riders will really enjoy this by trying to stay on their bikes up those hills, and by blasting fast downhill. Those less fit will still find it fun, but will walk more on the steep uphill sections and will likely go slowly on the rocky downhill bits. Yowza!

Shuttle or bike from Dawson Creek to Canyon Creek. From the Dawson Creek Parking Lot, you can bike the road (about 17km) to the Canyon Creek Parking Lot. It takes about 1.5 hours and gains elevation as mentioned above. While not particularly lovely, its a good warm up if you have the time. Alternately, if you have two cars you can just shuttle to Canyon Creek or, if its a busy weekend, you may even be able to score a ride from other riders there (but don't count on it!). Your call.

Bike Canyon Creek to Dawson Creek. It is all good quality, mostly wide single track with a mix of smooth bits and rocky bits. You really don't need maps or detailed directions, as its all pretty obvious with signed junctions. But for your peace of mind, here they are.

Follow the Canyon Creek trail for a short ways (~.7km) until you reach a junction. Go left, and grind up the steep uphill track until your heart pops out of your chest. You'll eventually be cycling on the treed ridge line, and you will see a very short trail on your left leading to a rocky lookout. Stop here. Pretend to admire the views (which are lovely), but what you really want to do is get your heart rate down. Continue up the trail until the ridge flattens somewhat. You will still be in the trees, with occasional views. At this point, you will think that you have done the hard bit. Unfortunately not. The trail descends somewhat into the thicker forest, and then continues across a rooty and rocky section until gaining the summit ridge again a while later. Less technically competent riders may find it challenging to stay on their bikes through the rocky bits. You'll eventually reach a trail junction with the Summit Trail (which descends back to the road: use this as an emergency exit if needed) that you can use as an emergency exit if needed). Continue on the summit ridge. Shortly before the summit, you will reach a junction that tells you to go left. You can drop your bike here and take the right fork to the summit, or you can ride your bike up the right fork to another trail junction that drops back to the main trail.

After having lunch on the summit of Jumping Pound (admire the views of the trail going to Moose Mountain), return to your bike and race through lovely meadows. At the end of the Jumping Pound ridge is the junction to a 2nd trail that you can use to descend to the road if you need another emergency exit. But you will likely stay right, where you will bave a fun descent through woods to the col between Jumping Pound and Cox Hill. Catch your breath, and grind up steeply through the trees until you suddenly reach treeline. Cox Hill summit is in sight, but you will have to grind a bit more until you get there.

From the summit of Cox Hill, descend over 700m all the way to the Dawson Creek Parking Lot. This is a fun, fun section! The faster you do it, the more fun it will be, but there are rocky and rooty bits with small drops. At the bottom, there is a junction. Go left, and you will be back in the parking lot in a few minutes.

Note: I have not ridden either of the two exits. I don't know if they are rideable, but you should probably be able to hike-a-bike it. But just guessing.

Image created by Saul Greenberg within Google Earth