Stones Gully (Canmore)
During regular early springtime Ha Ling hike I noticed skiers track down deep gully between Miners Peak and Lawrence Grassi (photo). Later bit of poking on Internet identified this gully as "Stones Canyon" or "Stones Gully", and it is apparently quite popular as advanced skier descent. (It must be quite a task carrying skis in plastic boots up ~800m of Ha Ling trail, but that's another story). What intrigued me is lower part -- one can see from Canmore it is not likely to be able to ski all the way down; this means some sort of descent trail made by skiers must exist. In mid-to-late springtime, there is lots of water cascading down; I am big sucker for waterfalls, so this warranted a look! Bottom line: There is trail on both sides of Stones Gully starting from Highline Trail; and they converge about halfway up, above upper waterfalls.
From Quarry Lake (parking not free anymore, if not local) I followed Highline Connector; within 10 minutes it crosses Highline Trail, then almost immediately there is split. Both ways work, but right (west) is much faster. This part is very popular with mountain bikers! After some switchbacks trail intersects Highline Trail in about 25-30min. Stones drainage is immediately left. I was not sure which side to go up; left (east) looked more logical, but there was fairly well trail on right side so I went up that way. It is steep and I regretted not bringing hiking pole, but I improvised with tree branch I picked up along the way. Within 30 mins from Highline I came to lower waterfall, with some trashing it was possible to get down. I continued for another ~20min passing couple more cascades, before "trail" dipped down to canyon bed. This is apparently point where skiers must get of skis coming down and start hiking, which was also sign for me to make it turnaround point -- I came up much higher that anticipated anyways. I refilled water in the gully and just as I was about to retrace my steps, I noticed fairly well defined trail on other side. It took bit of effort to reach it as I had to cross couple of moats, but after that it was easy. East side trail is better and less steep; it also has some flagging, which tells me it is used more. Photo story:
[Trailhead Table by Quarry Lake Parking Lot. Stones gully is just left of center]
[Powerline Trail junction ~10min above Quarry Lake, still on Highline Trail connector; keep straight]
[Highline Connector split; both directions will work, but right - as shown on photo - is much shorter. Beware of cyclists!]
[Lower Stones Waterfall, following trail on climber right side. For shorter trip It is possible to drop to the waterfall here, then pick up descent trail above far side bank]
[Above upper waterfall where trails on both sides converge (note trail lower left) as skiers can't continue on skis further. Crossing can be tricky under snow cover with moats softened by melting snow]
[Upper part of Stones gully above point where skier descent trails at both sides converge. Miners Peak right, Lawrence Grassi center]
[Crossing Stones Gully above upper Waterfall with views of Canmore; Quarry Lake below]
[Upper Stones Waterfall from east side descent. It is fairly obvious why skiing down is not feasible anymore]
[Nice view of lower Stones Waterfall from east; trail on the other side is visible in trees upper right]
Took about 3 hours for whole loop, with ~400m vertical and 5km distance return. Recommended quick hike very few people are aware off. Map and Elevation Profile (from Quarry Lake);
Alternate report as usual on personal web site with GPS download link here
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