Jura Creek Trail is a really fun kid-friendly, winter hike near Canmore. Located just minutes east of Exshaw, the Jura Creek hike features two short, beautiful slot canyons with a scenic mountain canyon hike in-between.
To be honest, I had no idea that we had such cool slot canyons in Alberta. Watching our kids run excitedly through the first Jura Creek slot canyon reminded me of one of our favorite kid-friendly hikes near Palm Springs. Even if you only visit the Jura Creek Trail just for the first slot canyon, it’s worth the trip (although we recommend the whole winter hike).
Jura Creek Trail
- Jura Creek Hike Highlights
- Jura Creek Trail Location
- Jura Creek Trail Stats
- Jura Creek Trail Map
- Hiking Jura Creek Trail with Kids
- Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
- Jura Creek Hiking Safety Tips
- Jura Creek Trail Logistics
- What to Bring for Hiking Jura Creek
- Jura Creek Hike Footwear Recommendation
- Jura Creek Hike in Summer
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Jura Creek Hike Highlights
The Jura Creek Trail begins through a thin forest, offering nice snow-capped mountain views in all directions. This section of the Jura Creek Trail has a southern exposure and gets a lot of sunshine, so the hard packed snow of this popular winter hike can get icy and slick. It’s a good idea to put on your microspikes here.
At the 0.6km mark, the Jura Creek Trail merges into the wide, rocky riverbed of Jura Creek. Kids will love running through the riverbed rocks or ‘exploring’ through the sparse trees along the side of the trail.
The fun on this Kananaskis winter hike really begins at 0.8km, when you enter the first Jura Creek slot canyon. The slot canyon is so tight you can often touch both sides at the same time.
The Jura Creek Trail twists left and right through the slot canyon in rapid succession – kids won’t be able to resist racing through. There’s fallen trees and huge boulders to climb on and fun little water erosion caves to hide in. Our kids literally yelled “Wow!” as they turned each corner.
While your kids race through the slot canyon, take the time to appreciate the raw power of nature on display. All throughout the Jura Canyon you’ll see where swirling water has eroded the canyon rock away. After contemplating the powerful water currents which rush through this slot canyon, you’ll realize why the Jura Canyon hike should be approached cautiously in summer.
After the first Jura Creek slot canyon ends, you enter a very scenic, wider canyon for the next 2.5km. While it’s not as showy as the slot canyon, the winter walk through this leg of the Jura Canyon trail features a snowy evergreen forest all around, with large boulders and fallen trees scattered on the canyon floor.
The snow-covered evergreens along the very tall sides of the Jura Creek Canyon obscure most mountain views, but on occasion reveals very nice views of Exshaw Mountain (1,783m) and Loder Peak (2,088m).
The water in Jura Creek continues to flow throughout winter. In the right conditions, this winter hike turns into the Jura Creek ice walk in the spots where the creek has frozen overtop the hiking trail. Traction devices are highly recommended for these stretches of the Jura Creek ice walk. Walking on long stretches of smooth, blue ice is always a thrill for adults and kids alike.
At 3.6km, the Jura Creek Trail narrows into a second slot canyon, every bit as fun and beautiful as the first. You can venture up into the second Jura Creek slot canyon a little ways, but there is a rock wall barring the way which will be too high for most to climb. At this point, turn back and look for the bypass trail which goes around the slot canyon – it should be on the left near the entrance to the canyon.
The second Jura Creek slot canyon is shorter than the first and soon you’ll arrive at a trail junction. This is where the Jura Creek Trail ends for most Kananaskis winter hikers. A dramatic rock wall to the top of Exshaw Ridge looms large overhead, making this a great spot to have a break before turning back.
The final highlight of the Jura Creek trail comes on the return trip just as you leave the bottom slot canyon and enter the wide creek bed. The views of Heart Mountain, Mt. McGillivray and other mountains across the Bow River and Lac des Arcs are incredible.
Jura Creek Trail Location
The Jura Creek parking lot is a few minutes east of Exshaw on Highway 1A across from the Graymont gravel plant. It’s a one hour drive from central Calgary to Jura Creek and only a half-hour from Banff.
The Jura Creek trailhead is at the northwest corner of the parking lot. If you hike Jura Creek in winter, don’t be fooled by the trail in the snow which follows the power line. When you reach the power line, the real Jura Creek trail crosses the power line about 30 feet to the left.
If you feel up to it, the Grotto Canyon Ice Walk Trail is another kid-friendly Kananaskis winter hike which is a few minutes west of Jura Creek on Highway 1A. The Grotto Canyon ice walk is very popular and if its parking lot is full, Jura Creek often serves as a back-up Kananaskis winter hike.
Please keep in mind that if the Jura Creek parking lot is full that it is illegal to park on the side of Highway 1A. Between the popularity of Jura Creek, Grotto Canyon and skating on Gap Lake, the residents of Exshaw are fed up with illegal highway parking. The RCMP has started ticketing illegally parked cars along Highway 1A aggressively.
Jura Creek Trail Stats
How Long is the Jura Creek Hike?
The distance of the Jura Creek trail can vary, depending on how far you wish to go. There are three main iterations of the Jura Creek hike:
- Many people only hike the first 1km of the Jura Creek Trail to the end of the first slot canyon. Scrolling through reviews for Jura Creek Trail on AllTrails, these people describe the remainder of the trail as “boring”. I respectfully disagree, especially with a second slot canyon still to come, but to each their own.
- The official Jura Creek Trail ends just past the second slot canyon at the trail junction with the more difficult Door Jamb and Loder Peak Trail. It’s 3.45km one way to this point, for a total round trip Jura Creek Trail distance of 6.9km.
- Pack a lunch (and probably dinner) if you want to follow the Jura Creek Trail all the way to the end, which is approximately 14km one-way to the summit of South Ghost Peak.
How Steep is the Jura Creek Trail?
The total elevation gain you’ll encounter along the official Jura Creek Trail is 300m. This may sound like a lot, but in reality, the incline along the Jura Creek hike is quite gentle the whole way.
The only time I noticed any incline on the Jura Creek Trail was along the bypass trail for the second slot canyon. It was as steep as a set of stairs, but it was also very short. For the rest of the winter hike, chances are you’ll barely notice you are hiking uphill at all.
How Hard is the Jura Creek Hiking Trail?
The Jura Creek trail is a popular kid-friendly hike in Kananaskis. On any given day, you’ll see many families enjoying this beautiful winter hike near Canmore. One of the many reasons Jura Creek Trail is so popular is that virtually anyone who is in reasonable shape can enjoy this hike.
There are a couple of hills along the Jura Creek Trail which are a little steep, but they are short. The steepest hills are through or around the slot canyons, so chances are that you’ll be having so much fun, you won’t even notice them.
We rate the Jura Creek Trail as “easy”.
If you would like to try a more difficult slot canyon hike, check out the McGillivray Canyon Trail. It’ only 15 minutes away…
How Long Does It Take to Hike Jura Canyon?
It should take a typical adult roughly 90 minutes to walk the full round-trip distance of this easy Kananaskis winter hike.
If you hike the Jura Creek trail with kids, expect it to take longer, especially if they stop to play in the snow or on the ice walk sections of the trail. We recently hiked Jura Creek with our kids (aged 5 & 7) and they stopped to play so much that it took us around 3 hours.
Jura Creek Trail Map
The Jura Creek hiking trail is pretty easy to follow; simply begin at the trailhead and stay left across the power line until you reach the riverbed of Jura Creek. At this stage, simply follow the trail all the way up the Jura Creek Canyon until you reach the trail junction just past the second slot canyon.
We used the AllTrails app while hiking the Jura Creek Trail, but to be honest, you won’t need it for navigation purposes. 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.).
To find the Jura Creak hiking map on AllTrails, simply search for “Jura Creek Trail”. Being so close to Exshaw you should have cell service prior to entering the Jura Canyon, but it will be spotty at best after this point. It’s always a good idea to download the Jura Creek trail map onto your phone ahead of time just in case.
Hiking Jura Creek Trail with Kids
The Jura Creek hike is a popular kid-friendly hike in Kananaskis in winter. If you visit Jura Creek on a weekend during the winter, chances are the parking lot will be full by the time you return to the trailhead.
Jura Creek Trail is a fun Kananaskis winter hike for kids. It’s a short and easy hike near Canmore which follows the semi-frozen stream of Jura Creek into a slot canyon and beyond. On any given trip to Jura Creek in winter, you’ll find tons of happy kids playing in the deep snow or making a slide from the snow-covered smooth rocks on the canyon walls.
All along the Jura Creek Trail, there are large boulders or fallen trees for kids to jump on, crawl under etc. And, of course, what kid doesn’t love sliding down a frozen waterfall on their bums?
The best part of hiking Jura Creek with kids in winter is the slot canyons. There’s something about a slot canyon which inspires kids. Watch your kids race ahead through the tight twists and turns, climbing over fallen trees and boulders, laughing and smiling all the way. As if this wasn’t fun enough, the slot canyons have lots of small little caves from water erosion for kids to duck and hide in.
If you are looking for something fun to do in Kananaskis with kids in winter, hiking Jura Creek Trail is a great option. It’s also an especially good back-up if the Grotto Canyon ice walk parking lot is overflowing.
Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
There are no picnic tables or benches in the Jura Creek parking lot or anywhere along the trail, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a family picnic.
If the wind isn’t too bad, a great spot to lay down your winter picnic blanket is along the shore of Jura Creek, downstream of the first slot canyon. The extra-wide riverbed of Jura Creek offers 270° of Rocky Mountain scenery. This is a good place to stop as you are ending your hike.
The Jura Creek Trail runs through a mountain canyon with a lush evergreen forest setting. If you’d like, there are many places along the hiking trail where you can sit down on a rock or log and enjoy a break.
The best place to stop for lunch on this easy Kananaskis winter hike is at the end of the Jura Creek trail. A huge rock wall rises to the top of Exshaw Ridge on the west, while you’ll enjoy views of the jagged Loder Peak to the east. Thanks to debris from the rock wall, there’s plenty of large rocks around to sit on.
Jura Creek Hiking Safety Tips
Kananaskis Wildlife Safety
In the dead of winter, the bears around Jura Creek Canyon should be hibernating (be careful in early winter or early spring though!) 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.
Jura Creek Trail Report
It may surprise you to know that Jura Creek Trail isn’t officially part of the Bow Valley Provincial Park, and therefore isn’t part of Kananaskis Country. Given it is sandwiched in-between Grotto Canyon and Mt. Yamnuska (both of which are in Kananaskis) many assume that it is.
There is a proposal to add Jura Creek to Bow Valley PP pending within Alberta Parks to rectify this. Given most of improvements in this proposal have been acted on (building a parking lot, toilets, etc.), I’m choosing to call Jura Creek a Kananaskis hike (as most people do).
This is a long-winded way to say that Alberta Parks does not publish a Jura Creek Trail Report. There are still several ways to get updates on Jura Creek trail conditions though. We recommend you read the Grotto Canyon trail report (5 mins away) and the recent hiker reviews of the Jura Creek hike on AllTrails before you head out. The combination of these two sources will be a good proxy for a Jura Creek trail report.
Jura Creek Avalanche Risk
This easy Kananaskis winter hike follows a canyon nestled in-between Exshaw Mountain, Door Jamb Mountain and Loder Peak. Any time you venture along the base of a mountain in winter, you need to assess your avalanche risk.
We highly recommend consulting the Kananaskis Avalanche Danger Report published by Avalanche Canada before you go. Most of the Jura Creek hiking trail would be classified as “Below Treeline”, but there are spots which may be “Treeline”, so pay close attention as there is “Alpine” territory just beyond the trees.
We are not avalanche experts, so please educate yourself and make smart, informed decisions while enjoying the beauty of Jura Creek in winter.
Jura Creek Trail Logistics
- On-leash dogs are allowed on the Jura Creek hike.
- There are washrooms in the Jura Creek parking lot.
- There are no government postings (yet) on the trailhead sign. That said, be aware there are vehicle break-in warning signs posted in the Grotto Canyon and Heart Creek parking lots – two trails which are very close to Jura Creek. Just in case, take your valuables with you on the hike or better yet, leave them at home.
- There are no drinking water facilities on the Jura Creek Trail, so fill your reusable water bottles or hydration packs before you leave home.
- You might get some cell service from nearby Exshaw when you are outside the canyon, but don’t count on it inside the Jura Canyon.
What to Bring for Hiking Jura Creek
Generally speaking, you don’t need a lot of hiking gear on short day hikes in Kananaskis. Check out our list of hiking essentials with the hiking gear and clothing we recommend to enjoy your hike, regardless of the variable Kananaskis weather and trail conditions.
It’s hard to know how to dress for winter hiking in Kananaskis. If you hike at a good pace uphill or walk in deep snow, you can generate a decent amount of internal heat.
On the flipside, the sun is low in the sky during winter, making it difficult for the sun to find its way to the bottom of Jura Canyon. Winter hiking in the shade, coupled with the wind that often rips through the canyon, can make it feel much colder than the forecasted weather.
Jura Creek Hike Footwear Recommendation
You’ll be winter hiking Jura Creek on mostly hard-packed snow, but it can get icy in spots, especially where the water from Jura Creek runs near the trail in the middle canyon section. This can be especially true in early spring, when there’s a constant freeze-thaw cycle from cold nights and warm days.
We love our Kahtoola Microspikes for winter hiking traction. Take a look at the spikes on the bottom of my boots and you’ll see why they are so great for traction while winter hiking on ice or snow. They are especially useful for the super-fun, nearby Grotto Canyon ice walk; another great activity for kids in Kananaskis in winter.
There are traction devices for kids too. 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.
Yaktrax are another popular option for winter hiking in Kananaskis. Their spike-less design makes them more comfortable when walking on pathways and sidewalks, but less effective on uphill icy trails.
Jura Creek Hike in Summer
We’ve always known the Jura Creek hike to be primarily a winter activity in Kananaskis, so we’ve never visited Jura Creek in summer. But, after conversations with some of our fellow Bow Valley locals, we have discovered that people still hike Jura Creek in the summer.
The primary reason people avoid Jura Creek in summer is the slot canyons. Water levels can be high and become especially dangerous after a rainfall. We will visit Jura Creek this summer (2021) to see for ourselves, but in the meantime, here is what I learned from the summer 2020 comments on AllTrails:
- There is a by-pass trail on the left around the lower slot canyon for people who wish to mitigate the risks of hiking through the high water.
- Many people successfully hiked through the lower Jura Creek slot canyon, but you are guaranteed to get your feet wet. Lots of people (logically) recommended wearing Keen sandals while hiking Jura Creek in summer to manage the wet / dry aspects.
- Lots of dog owners reported needing to carry their dogs through the slot canyon as the water was too deep and or too strong for their furry friends.
Interested in more easy winter hikes near Jura Creek? Check out our comprehensive list of easy winter hikes in Banff and Kananaskis.
We hope you and your family loves the Jura Creek Kananaskis winter hike as much as we do!
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