Grotto Mountain Pond: A Quick Geocaching Stop Along Highway 1A

Did you know that there are 3 distinct sections to Highway 1A in Alberta? These are not official, nationally-planned alternatives to the nearby sections of the TransCanada Highway 1, but are provincial highways that offer a (generally) more scenic, lower speed limit option to the TransCanada.

The westernmost section of 1A is also known as the Bow Valley Parkway. Running from Lake Louise to just west of Banff, the speed limit here is just 60 km and travel on some sections is restricted to between 9 am and 6 pm between March 1 to June 25 each year, in order to better protect migrating wildlife.

The easternmost section of 1A runs from Calgary to Chestermere, connecting Blackfoot Trail at the eastern edge of Calgary to Township Road 243 east of Strathmore.

Tuesday morning we drove on 1A from Canmore just about to Seebe. This stretch is part of the Bow Valley Trail section of Highway 1A, running from Canmore to northwest Calgary where it morphs into Crowchild Trail. Speed limits range from 60 – 100 km/h.

There are about 10 active geocaches located within a very short distance of the 1A between Canmore town limits and the Seebe intersection with Highway 1X. Given the current closure of sections of Bow Valley Provincial Park, this is a decent geocaching option for those wanting to earn some smileys in the area. Check the Kananaskis Trail Reports website for current trail conditions / closures.

Trailhead signage

This colourful sign at the trailhead appears to be an art contest winner, converted to a durable metal sign and posted at the edge of the parking lot. It's much more memorable that the standard white letters on green or brown signs that are more commonly used on trails in Alberta.

Our first stop was at Grotto Mountain Pond, which is reportedly populated with brown trout, channel catfish and sucker fish. In fact, Mr. GeoK spotted a young fish while attempting to photograph the skiff of ice near the shore.

Ice skiff on Grotto Mountain Pond

The fish isn't in this photo, but was spotted just under this skiff of ice near the shoreline.

Youngest GeoKid led the short walk from the parking area to search for GC1EJXT – Steve, and had the logbook in hand before any of the rest of us were even close to the posted coordinates. He was very surprised to see his first name listed on the front page of the logbook, which listed all the middle school students who contributed the original trading swag for the cache.

View across the pond

Looking across the pond to the north, you may be lucky enough to spot a train speeding along. If not, the views of Pigeon Mountain and Wind Ridge are definitely worth a look.

Heading back to the parking area

Youngest GeoKid walks across the boardwalk section of the trail around Grotto Mountain Pond. This short section, across one corner of the pond, will definitely appeal to kids!

The loop around Grotto Mountain Pond is less than 1 km, generally level and would be a very enjoyable stopping place for families with young children. For those seeking more of a challenge, Grotto Canyon Trail (approx. 4 – 5 km each way) starts at the same parking area. It’s got a total of 6 geocaches currently active, some very interesting rock formations, pictographs and other interesting sights.

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