OverviewHeart Creek crosses the TransCanada in Kananaskis Provincial Park before you reach Canmore and the National Parks coming from the east. It forms a canyon that narrows as it winds its way to the backside (north) of Mount Lorette. Its name is derived from Heart Mountain which borders Heart Creek to the east. Heart Mountain has a heart-shaped thick layer of limestone at the summit that is angled such to be easily viewed from the TransCanada, particularly traveling east. Kananaskis Provincial Park encompasses over 4,000 square kilometers of foothills and mountains bordering Banff National Park in the central Canadian Rockies.
The climbing is as diverse in Heart Creek as any of Canmore’s local climbing scenes. Over 130 routes line 15 different walls along a 1.2km trail that meanders south back and forth across the creek. The ratings vary from 5.4 on Bunny Hill to 5.13c further in on the Bayon Wall. The majority of routes are rated 5.10-5.11. There are also ice climbing routes at the southern end of the canyon. As in all canyons in the Canadian Rockies, chasing the sun can be quite the challenge on cold days. First Rock and Jupiter Rock get the morning sun. Golden Arch and Upper Heart Slab are good for early and/or late season. This website, sponsored by our local climbing gym, has gone through the painstaking task of putting together quite the print friendly topo climbing maps showing all the routes. These maps are more beneficial than our local guide book, Sport Climbs in the Canadian Rockies, but I recommend you take both into the canyon.
The parking area for Heart Creek, along side the TransCanada, is one of the best (and only) viewpoints for Mount Fable to the north. Whichever route(s) you chose, start the day off right at the most popular local climbers hangout, the Summit Café on Cougar Creek Drive off of Benchlands Trail in Canmore. It is the best coffee shop in town and serves breakfast and sacked lunches. Ask for Steve.
Getting ThereThe TransCanada Highway runs from Calgary through the Rocky Mountain Canadian National Parks on its way to Vancouver. Right before you enter Banff National Park, there are the towns of Canmore and Exshaw. The official parking area is at the southwest corner of the Lac des Arcs exit off of the TransCanada. Most climbers however, just pull off onto the south side of the freeway at the creek itself. There is a large parking area established at this location. Whether officials prefer people to use it or not, it appears to be quite tolerated. Two trails start along the creek: the Heart Mountain scramble trail, and the sport climbing trail which runs along Heart Creek itself.
Red TapeHeart Creek is located in Kananaskis Country. There are no permit requirements to enter, climb and/or park in Kananaskis. I do advise checking with the park website link provided above for possible trail closures, although Heart Creek is rarely if ever closed.
All camping is regulated. There is also a backcountry permit required if you plan on spending a night in the backcountry versus the town campsites. This can be obtained via the Kananaskis website which is included in the camping section below. There is no official camping allowed back in Heart Creek.
When To ClimbAs with most rock climbing in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. Virtually no one rock climbs in Heart Creek during the winter months.
CampingThe closest camp site would be back in Canmore at the town campsite located at the information center off of the TransCanada. The Alpine Club of Canada’s national office is located in Canmore and also serves as a hostel, a recently renovated one at that.
You cannot camp outside of the marked specific camping areas in Canmore or Kananaskis. Refer to the Kananaskis Provincial Park website for more information regarding backcountry camping. Of course there are tons of lodging options in Canmore from 5 star spas to cheap motels.