The Green Monster hike is one of the most scenic and rewarding winter hikes in Kananaskis Country. After a few kilometres of winter hiking through a beautiful snow covered evergreen forest, you’ll start following the Evan-Thomas Creek into the heart of a river valley to a series of spectacular frozen waterfalls and ice falls, including the namesake Green Monster frozen waterfall.
Green Monster Trail – Quick Details
Trailhead: Green Monster Trailhead
Distance: 12 km to the Green Monster falls and back
Elevation: 550 m total elevation gain to the Green Monster and back
Green Monster Winter Hike
- Green Monster Trail – Quick Details
- Green Monster Hike Highlights:
- When to Enjoy the Green Monster Hike
- Green Monster Trail Statistics
- Green Monster Location
- Green Monster Trail Map
- Best Traction Devices for the Green Monster Trail
- Recommended Gear for Green Monster Hike in Winter
- Green Monster Safety
- Green Monster Trail with Kids
- Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
- Hiking the Green Monster with Dogs
- Green Monster Logistics
- Essential Kananaskis in Winter
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Green Monster Hike Highlights:
Stage 1: Begin on Old Baldy Trail
The Green Monster hike begins from the Evan-Thomas parking lot in Kananaskis Country. You’ll officially begin on the Old Baldy Trail, which is a nice & wide mixed use winter trail at the start, often with a groomed ski trail (single track) on one side. The trail is slightly uphill and stays this way for most of the Kananaskis winter hike.
At first, your only scenery is the snow-covered evergreens, with light green old man lichen flowing in the wind, providing some color to an otherwise white landscape. You may even see or hear a hearty chickadee or two flying from tree to tree.
At the 0.5 km mark of the Old Baldy Trail, the summit of The Wedge (2,667 m) appears through the trees ahead, reminding you that you are in the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
A few hundred meters later, the trees start to thin on the right as the Old Baldy – Green Monster trail meets up with the Evan-Thomas Creek. With fewer trees you’ll enjoy beautiful scenery with spectacular mountain views to the southwest, including Limestone Mountain (2,180 m), Mt. James Walker (3,035 m), The Fortress (3,016 m) and Mt. Kidd (2,958 m).
There are a few unmarked trail junctions along the Old Baldy – Green Monster trail. Stay left when you reach the first unmarked trail junction at 1.1 km. Then go right at the second junction 700 m later, which is where you officially leave the Old Baldy Trail. (The trail to the left is an unmaintained trail up to the summit of Old Baldy Peak).
Stage 2: Evan-Thomas Creek Route
After the Old Baldy Peak trail junction, the winter trail is still 4 people wide with a groomed ski trail, but it’s now downhill for a short distance as you descend towards the Evan-Thomas Creek.
You will reach the Evan-Thomas Creek at the point where the large bridge washed out in July 2021. The washed-out bridge is still there on the other side of the creek, where the Wedge Connector cross-country ski trail ends. With few trees along the river banks, the Rocky Mountain views here are stunning.
Stage 3: Evan-Thomas River Canyon towards the Green Monster
As you are standing on top of a frozen Evan-Thomas Creek, the trail turns sharp left to follow the creek upstream. From this point onwards, try to stay on the well-trodden, packed snow trail as the snow can get deep quickly off the trail and there can be freezing cold, open water at any point.
The winter hike up the Evan-Thomas Creek trail to the massive frozen Green Monster waterfall can be different from day-to-day depending on snowfall, temperatures etc. There’s usually a well packed trail (or two) to follow – watch for messages or directional arrows written in the snow to indicate which way you should follow. I recommend using an activity tracker (like AllTrails) to track your route, just in case you need to backtrack.
After a few hundred meters of walking on this beautiful frozen Kananaskis creek, you’ll pass the first of many towering rock walls of the river canyon. From here on, you’ll trade mountain vistas for impressive canyon walls.
Keep one eye open for animal tracks in the snow. There’s a surprising amount of life going on despite the frigid Canadian winter weather. The rabbit tracks are easiest to spot, but if you look closely, you’ll see tiny footprints in the snow too.
At the 2.6 km mark of the Green Monster hike, Fisher Peak (3,053 m) comes into view ahead. Meanwhile, a tree-capped rock wall towers overhead on the right.
Depending on recent weather patterns, you may enjoy a variety of scenery along the frozen Evan-Thomas Creek. There’s often large patches of open water in-between large mounds of fluffy snow. You’ll often pass large tree stumps or boulders which have found a semi-permanent home in the river bed.
If you are hiking to the frozen Green Monster waterfall in the morning, bring your sunglasses as the sun will be low in the sky and right in your eyes. It doesn’t last though – eventually the sun disappears behind the canyon and stays gone for the remainder of the Green Monster hike. (You’ll notice the pictures from here onwards are darker due to the deep shade from the canyon walls).
Stage 4: Frozen Waterfalls
At the 3.3 km mark of the Green Monster hike you’ll reach your first frozen waterfall of the day. This one flows through a crevasse in the canyon wall on the right.
The towering canyon wall along the Evan-Thomas Creek continues until you reach the second frozen waterfall at 4.1 km. The second frozen waterfall seems to be the highest one along the Green Monster trail. Due to its height, the second frozen waterfall is popular with ice climbers. If you want to see the ice climbers in action, there’s usually a trail leading into the forest leading to a nice viewpoint.
You’ll pass yet another frozen waterfall on your way to the next trail junction at the 3.9 km mark of the Green Monster hike. Here you can follow a short trail to the right to see a small waterfall in the Evan-Thomas Creek before turning back to the main Green Monster trail.
Stage 5: Chain and Rope Sections
At this stage, the nature of the Green Monster winter hike fundamentally changes. To this point, it’s been an easy, slightly uphill winter walk. It changes dramatically at this point.
From the junction, the Green Monster trail goes left up a steep hill leading you up and over the waterfall from the end of Stage 4. The steep trail is almost always snowy (or worse icy), so having effective traction devices on your winter hiking boots is highly recommended.
Near the top of the steep hill, there is a precarious drop off to your right, so there is a safety chain bolted into the canyon wall. The first safety chain is quickly followed by a much longer second safety chain. The hiking trail along the chain section is often only one foot wide with a steep drop off down.
What goes up, must come down. Once you reach the end of the Green Monster safety chain section, you’ll need to descend down a very steep hill, again with slippery snow or ice. This time there are a series of knotted safety ropes to help you maintain control during the descent.
The Green Monster hike is a there-and-back winter hiking trail, so you’ll be doing the rope section and the chain section in reverse in your way back to the Evan-Thomas parking lot.
Stage 6: Even More Evan-Thomas Creek Waterfalls!
Beyond the ropes and chains, the Green Monster hike continues along the bottom of a canyon so narrow it seems like a slot canyon. You can hear the sound of rushing creek water below the snow covered ice. The pools of open water here look so beautiful, but on the cold Canadian winter day, we found ourselves fantasizing about them being natural hot springs!
Beyond the Green Monster rope and chain sections you’ll pass at least four additional frozen waterfalls. There’s an amazing number of partially formed frozen waterfalls too – many are a beautiful collection of large icicles which haven’t yet reached the canyon floor.
Stage 7: The Green Monster Waterfall
After passing an incredible 8 frozen waterfalls along the Green Monster hike on Evan-Thomas Creek, you’ll reach the star of the show at the 6 km mark. You’ll instantly know why they call it the Green Monster waterfall. This massive frozen Kananaskis waterfall has a multitude of colours in the ice. Personally, I think it’s more of a yellow monster, but hey – the name Green Monster sounds cooler and perhaps slightly less gross!
The Green Monster waterfall is also popular with ice climbers, making it a fun place to stop for lunch and watch the climbers. You can also walk behind the waterfall in spots, but unless you are wearing a helmet, we wouldn’t recommend it.
When to Enjoy the Green Monster Hike
As much of the Green Monster hike is either alongside or directly on top of the Evan-Thomas Creek, you’ll need to wait until there has been sufficient time for the creek and waterfalls to completely freeze over. Attempting the Green Monster winter hike too early would likely result in wet feet or needing to turn back before the end.
If you want to hike to the Kananaskis Green Monster icefall early in winter, I’d advise reading the recent trail reviews on AllTrails first to get a sense for current conditions.
In recent years, the Green Monster hike has been in good enough condition by late-November too early-December. But, as the weather changes from year-to-year, so will the trail, so check the conditions before you go.
Green Monster Trail Statistics
Aside from the short chain and rope sections, the rest of the Green Monster hike is an easy winter hike in Kananaskis. The requirement to navigate the chain and rope sections along with the 12 km distance makes this a moderately difficult Kananaskis winter hiking trail.
How Long is the Green Monster Hike?
The round-trip distance of the Green Monster trail is approximately 12 km.
How Steep is the Green Monster Trail?
Every stage of the Green Monster hike (except the ropes and chains section) are really quite easy, with just a slight, but consistent uphill slope. For example, over the first 4 km of winter hiking, you’ll only gain 100 m of net elevation for a slope of roughly 2.5% – not very steep at all.
You’ll gain another 100 m of elevation during the next 400 m, where you’ll be using the safety ropes and chains. This is a significantly steep section which beginner hikers may have difficulty with.
The overall elevation gain of the Green Monster hike is approximately 550 m. Aside from the steep rope and chain section, I barely noticed the incline.
How Hard is the Hike to the Green Monster Icefall?
The only two things that winter hikers may find difficult about this beautiful Evan-Thomas Creek waterfalls hike are the distance and the ropes & chains. If you are reasonably fit and have the proper gear with you, almost everyone should be able to enjoy this special Kananaskis winter activity. Keep reading for our winter hiking gear recommendations.
How Long Does the Green Monster Hike Take?
The length of time it will take a typical adult to complete the Green Monster hike is about 3 hours and 45 minutes.
We enjoy a lot of winter hiking in Kananaskis, so when we hike to the Green Monster without kids, we can often complete the hike in under 3 hours. When we hike to the Green Monster waterfall with kids, our time increases to about 4 hours.
Green Monster Location
The Green Monster hike is located along Highway 40 in the Spray Valley Provincial Park in Kananaskis Country, just a few minutes south of Kananaskis Village and the Nakiska Ski Area. It’s easily accessible location makes it an ideal outing for anyone visiting Kananaskis in winter.
You’ll find the Green Monster trailhead in the Evan-Thomas Day Use parking lot. Thankfully, it’s a large parking lot, but due to the popularity of this Kananaskis winter hike, the parking lot fills early on weekends and holidays.
If the Evan-Thomas parking lot is full, do not park along Highway 40. Alberta Parks has become increasingly vigilant about ticketing illegally parked vehicles in the past few years, especially at the very popular winter activities such as the Grotto Canyon Ice Walk, the Jura Creek Ice Walk, or even wild ice skating on Gap Lake.
Green Monster Trail Map
The winter hiking trail to the Green Monster waterfall is quite popular and is relatively easy to follow, although it is not well-signed. The fact that the trail is not actually called the Green Monster Trail doesn’t help either. To get to the Green Monster waterfall, you start along the Old Baldy Trail and then transition to the Evan-Thomas Creek Route. Neither of these trails are well signed either.
We’ve used the AllTrails app while on the Green Monster hike, and we found it quite helpful to know where to turn at unmarked junctions. We use AllTrails for all our adventures in the Canadian Rockies and hiking with kids around the world. In addition to helping stay on the trails, we like the ability to track our stats (distance, elevation gain, etc.).
A few cautions regarding AllTrails though:
- Be aware that the actual trail through the snow can change from year-to-year, and perhaps from snowstorm to snowstorm. The current trail may not always match the trail in AllTrails.
- Alberta Parks has issued a warning for all hikers not to solely rely on AllTrails, as a disproportionate number of rescues have resulted from the use of this popular hiking app. Alberta Parks recommends you “Read guidebooks, look at satellite images, study your GemTrek topo map and check official trail reports on AlbertaParks.ca before you go.”
We agree with Alberta Parks. Although we love the AllTrails app, it isn’t always 100% reliable or perfectly accurate. In this case, we recommend that you use AllTrails for big picture navigational purposes (trail junctions, directions, etc.), but also rely on markings in the snow and talking to other winter hikers.
The Green Monster trail map can be found in AllTrails under the name, “Evan-Thomas Creek to Falls“
With this blog post, you won’t need a guidebook, but we highly recommend the Gem Trek topo maps mentioned by Alberta Parks. We own the entire set of these excellent Banff and Kananaskis hiking maps. They are exceptional 3D topographic maps which we love looking at for hiking inspiration.
The Green Monster trail isn’t actually in any Gem Trek maps, but the area is found in the “Canmore & Kananaskis Village” Gem Trek map. It’s a good idea to tuck away your Gem Trek map along with a compass in your day bag as an additional safety layer.
Best Traction Devices for the Green Monster Trail
This is kind of obvious, but your biggest risk on the Green Monster hike is slipping on the ice during the ropes and chains section. Having good quality traction on your winter boots is essential. Winter hikers to the Green Monster have several options for traction devices:
1. Traction devices we do not recommend for the Green Monster Waterfall:
Snowshoes: The Green Monster hike is such a popular thing to do in Kananaskis in winter that the snow is almost always hard packed from foot traffic. Therefore, you will not need snowshoes in the traditional sense to manage deep snow. In addition, it would be downright unsafe to use big, bulky snowshoes on the ropes and chains sections where nimble footwork is essential.
There are a lot of incredible snowshoe trails in Kananaskis, but the Green Monster trail is not one of them.
Steel Button Traction Devices: Our first ever purchase of winter traction devices was a steel button contraption (similar to these ones) we found at Costco. They were effectively useless on ice, so we threw them away and never tried this style of traction device again. This was quite a while ago (shortly after we moved to Canmore), so perhaps technology has improved, but I just don’t see them being effective for traction on the Green Monster hike.
2. Decent Traction Devices for Green Monster Hike in Winter
Yaktrax Traction Device: Yaktrax are a popular multi-purpose traction device used in Canada for winter walking or running. They are popular as they are very comfortable for walking on winter hikes or snow-covered walking trails around Kananaskis or Banff. The lack of spikes makes them comfortable to walk on, but not great for ice walking.
3. Best Traction Device for the Green Monster Winter Trail
Kahtoola MICROspikes: Take a look at the steel spikes on the bottom of the Kahtoola MICROspikes and you’ll see why we love these traction devices so much. They are a scaled-down recreational version of the crampons you’ll see on mountain expeditions.
We’ve owned Kahtoola MICROspikes for many years and are very happy with their effectiveness and sturdy construction. We frequently use them in place of snowshoes while enjoying popular winter hikes around Banff. They allowed us to hike up the slippery chain and ropes section with confidence due to the excellent traction they provide.
If you are looking for good quality traction devices to use for a variety of winter activities around Banff and Kananaskis, we highly recommend Kahtoola MICROspikes. We’ve used them every single time we have enjoyed the Green Monster hike.
Trekking poles are a very popular winter hiking accessory in Banff and Kananaskis. It makes sense… winter hiking on snow or ice in the mountains is often very slippery and trekking poles add two more points of contact with the ground, thus greatly reducing your odds of slipping.
To be honest, you won’t need hiking poles for the Green Monster hike as it’s not steep enough for almost the entire winter hike. The only section which is steep enough has ropes and chains, which require two hands to use, so you’ll need to put your hiking poles away anyways.
Recommended Gear for Green Monster Hike in Winter
If possible, wear waterproof or water-resistant winter boots on the Green Monster hike. The water in the Evan-Thomas Creek continues to flow all winter long. There are a few creek crossings to contend with, usually with big rocks for steps, which could lead to your boots getting wet.
In addition, although you can usually trust a well-trodden winter trail, you never know where the ice beneath the snow will be thin. If your feet break through, you’ll want water-resistant winter boots!
Also, keep in mind that you will be hiking in a narrow canyon in the middle of winter. This means the walls of the Evan-Thomas Creek canyon will block the sun for most of the day. The shade, coupled with the increased humidity from being so close to running water, make it feel 5-10 C colder than the forecasted temperature. We recommend dressing in layers and having a good daybag to store unused layers in.
Green Monster Safety
Taking care of your foot traction and winter clothing isn’t your only safety concern on this popular Kananaskis winter hiking trail:
- No matter what activity you do in Kananaskis in winter, it’s always a good idea to check the trail report before you go to check for any area closures, dangerous animals in area, etc. There isn’t (yet) an official Alberta Parks Green Monster trail report, so we suggest checking the Evan-Creek Fire Road (Winter) trail report as a proxy.
- If it’s cold enough for thick ice on Evan-Thomas Creek, then bears should be hibernating. But that’s not a reason to let your guard down as wolves, cougars, elk, etc. still provide a safety risk to Kananaskis visitors. Take a few minutes and read “Living with Wildlife” by Alberta Parks.
- This Kananaskis winter hike ventures into a canyon nestled in-between Volcano Peak (2,554 m) and The Wedge. Any time you venture towards the base of a mountain in winter, you need to personally assess the avalanche risk. Avalanche.ca is an excellent resource for assessing your Kananaskis avalanche risk.
Green Monster Trail with Kids
Hiking the Green Monster trail with kids is a super-fun family activity in Kananaskis in winter. The novelty of seeing ice climbers and the thrill of using ropes and chains makes this a very exciting Kananaskis winter trail for kids. In fact, shortly after descending the ropes, our youngest (7 years old) said that the Green Monster is “the funnest trail ever!”
As described above, the vast majority of this Kananaskis winter hike is easy and safe, but there are some legitimate safety concerns. Before hiking the Green Monster with kids, be sure they are physically capable of the distance and to handle the chains and ropes section.
Before going on the Green Monster hike with kids, be sure to have a plan for your foot traction. For the adults, it’s very important to have excellent traction with the ability to move quickly in case you need to go help a little one who slipped. We personally use and highly recommend Kahtoola MicroSpikes.
Small kids should wear children’s microspikes. Kahtoola doesn’t make microspikes for kids, but you can often find smaller versions by other manufacturers. Our kids have High Stream Gear Ice Cleats for Kids, but these are often sold-out on Amazon. There are other traction devices for kids – just watch the sizes carefully as many of these products are for bigger kids.
Looking for an easier kid-friendly activity in Kananaskis? The Troll Falls Trail is another nearby fun winter activity for kids.
Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
With 8 frozen waterfalls along the Evan Thomas trail to the Green Monster, there’s no shortage of spots with beautiful scenery to stop for a snack or lunch break.
The most popular spot is obviously at the base of the Green Monster waterfall, as it’s so beautiful and exciting to watch the ice climbers. The downside with this spot is that it’s not very big and it can feel awfully cramped.
A better option would be to find a beautiful spot at the base of one of the other 8 frozen waterfalls to stop for your break. It’s fun to watch the ice climbers on waterfall #2.
As mentioned, the sun disappears behind the canyon wall mid-morning. The shade and humidity from the creek make it feel much colder than the forecasted temperature. You’ll be happy to have a winter picnic blanket to sit on when you’re already cold. Hot chocolate in a Thermos is always a nice touch in the winter!
Hiking the Green Monster with Dogs
On-leash dogs are allowed on Kananaskis hiking trails, and there are a surprising amount of dogs on this trail. I’ll be honest, if you plan on going all the way to the Green Monster waterfall, I think bringing your dog is a bad idea.
It’s a wonderful, easy and pleasant winter walk with your dog all the way to the ropes and chains. But, every single dog I’ve seen in the middle of the ropes and chains section looks has looked scared and was generally hating life. If your dog is nervous and jittery, they present a safety risk to you and the other hikers.
Unless you and your dog are seasoned winter hikers in the Canadian Rockies, I’d recommend turning back at the rope section or leaving your furry friend at home.
Green Monster Logistics
- There are Porta Potty toilets near the trailhead.
- There are many picnic tables around the parking lot as well.
- There are no drinking water facilities at the Evan-Thomas Day Use Area, so top up your refillable water bottles before you leave home.