June 9, 2019. An easy hike to a waterfall in the Crowsnest Pass. Perfect for young kids.
Distance: 1 km one-way from the parking area to the best views of the waterfall
Total elevation gain: Approximately 90 m
Star Creek Falls is a picturesque waterfall accessible by a short trail. There’s actually a loop route that you can do – and following that route had been my intention, but I ended up doing the beginning and end of it, as I’ll explain. My 7 year-old daughter was anxious for a one-on-one hiking trip with me, and I decided that this was a worthy objective.
This waterfall seems to be reasonably well known – but it’s in the Crowsnest Pass, meaning that you need to find your own way there. Nobody is putting up signs to help you. Access is via a gravel road – 54 Street in Coleman, Alberta. Getting to it is mildly convoluted. Ask Google Maps to drop a pin here: 49°37’48.9″N 114°32’35.1″W and follow the directions provided.
The road abruptly rises and becomes very rough at around this place. Serious 4×4 vehicles with good clearance can carry on, but we pulled off and parked in a small cleared area and started to walk. First we climbed up the hill and then followed the road as it veered sharply left and descended. Star Creek sits at the bottom of this broad path, and two evident routes set off to the right from there, one nearer to you as you descend and one farther down the hill – right on the creek. Either can be used, since the route can be done as a loop, but I learned that it’s best to start off down by the creek. It gets you to the best waterfall views the quickest.
Not knowing this, I ended up taking the first right and following it for a ways. It was a pleasant enough climb through trees. The creek was audible to our left at first. This trail is also an ATV route, and there were places where signs directed ATV drivers along a slightly different path. We carried on following this trail until we could no longer hear the creek or waterfall.We’d ascended a reasonable amount by then and I kept expecting a leftward bend in the path and eventually a bridge crossing over to the other side of the creek, but it didn’t come. After a while, I decided I didn’t want to exhaust my daughter’s good will, so we turned around and went back to a clearing where the waterfall noise was most prominent. There we followed a trail that headed directly towards the sound and found ourselves descending a narrow, steep trail to a small precipice overlooking the canyon with a partial view of the waterfall.
This was a neat little area, but a little nerve-wracking for my daughter. We stayed well off of the edges and were perfectly safe. Hikers with an instinct to go right to the edge of the precipice would likely be fine – but a slip and fall (or a collapse of the rock on the edges) from that spot could lead to a death fall.
We returned to the start of our trail, then descended to the creek for a lunch break. My daughter was still up for more hiking, so we started following the path along the creek. In very short order we encountered a sturdy (and seemingly newly built) wood bridge. We followed this over the creek and then followed a steeply ascending, switchbacked dirt path through the woods. This path soon joined a broad path heading off to the right towards the waterfall. Going left at this point would follow a broad rocky trail descending to the level of the creek – presumably the site of a former bridge or commonly used fording point.
A bit more climbing from this point got us back to the area of the waterfall. We could see across the canyon to the precipice we’d recently been perched on. A party of hikers that we’d seen head up our present route were over there, clearly indicating that there was a loop route that could be used.
We spent some time enjoying a variety of views down to the waterfall. I inquired as to how my daughter’s legs were feeling. She was still in good spirits, but I got the impression that I’d pushed this as far as it could go. We descended the way we’d come and went to the Old Dairy Ice Cream Shoppe in Bellevue for a cold treat.
This was a great day out with my daughter, and I think kids would really enjoy this area. A one-way distance of 1km to get to nice waterfall views is reasonable for young hikers. My 7 year-old did the equivalent walking and climbing that would be involved in doing the full loop without a problem. Proceeding in a clockwise direction (rather than my attempt at counter-clockwise) would likely result in the loop route being more evident. At some point I’ll return and do the full loop so I can make a proper report.
Click on the pictures below for full-sized images.