Star Creek Falls

June 9, 2019. An easy hike around a waterfall in the Crowsnest Pass. Perfect for young kids. (Updated April 30, 2021 after I confirmed the loop-route and checked out the route up the canyon)

  • Region: Crowsnest Pass, Traditional Territory of the Tsuu T’ina, Ktunaxa, and Blackfoot First Nations
  • Distance: 1 km one-way from the parking area to the best views of the waterfall, option for a ~2.5km loop
  • Total ascent: Approximately 90 m
Screen Shot 2021-04-30 at 9.30.27 AM
Sketch of the loop route (blue) and the route up the canyon to the foot of the waterfall (red). I’d suggest going clockwise. 1 = lower bridge; 2 = upper bridge; W = waterfall; P = precipice.

Star Creek Falls is a picturesque waterfall accessible by a short trail. There’s a satisfying loop route – which I suspected during my first visit with my daughter, and confirmed during a 2nd visit on a snowy spring day. The trip is featured in Nugara’s 2021 Popular Day Hikes: The Castle and Crowsnest. His description doesn’t include the loop route, likely because the bridges making the loop possible are relatively new. There’s also the option of following Star Creek up the canyon to the foot of the waterfall itself. This is a trickier path to follow and not for little kids, but it’s popular enough that someone has fixed a chain in place to help hikers along their way.

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. Or, click here.

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 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.

Down by the creek, a path sets off along the right bank. In short order there’s a sturdy wooden bridge over the creek. After crossing the bridge, there’s a steeply ascending, switchbacked dirt path through the woods. This path soon joins a broad path heading off to the right towards the waterfall viewpoints. 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 brings the path to the edge of the canyon, above the waterfall. Across the canyon there’s a rocky precipice which can be accessed if the loop route is followed (more on that below). As the path continues, there are several places to peer down and enjoy views of the falls. Eventually the trail descends and encounters the creek above the level of the falls. Another bridge sits here at the apex of the loop route. Beyond here trail ascends a bit then intersects some ATV trails which descend back to the clearing at the start of the route. Along the way, there’s a branch of the trail that descends steeply to a small rocky precipice. This was a neat little area, but only gives a partial view of the falls. It was a little nerve-wracking for my 7 year-old daughter, though. We stayed well off of the edges and were perfectly safe. However, hikers with an instinct to go right to the edge of the precipice shouldn’t – a slip and fall (or a collapse of the rock on the edges) from that spot could lead to a death fall.

This trip 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. More adventurous hikers could also try following the creek up the canyon to the waterfall itself. This option is dependent of the state of water flow in the creek. There’s one difficult spot that requires ascending a steep area of smoothed rock to the left of the creek. A chain has been fixed in that area to help, and I was definitely glad to use it, especially on the way back down.

Click on the pictures below for full-sized images.

IMG_1412.jpg
Right where the 54 Street gravel road gets rough and starts to climb, there’s a space to park.
IMG_1416.jpg
Looking back at the top of the rise. That’s Crowsnest Mountain in the background, with the High Rock Range (including Allison Peak and Mount Ward) to the left.
Looking towards the creek from the top of the rise, you’ll be able to see the two limbs of the loop route. If you plan to do a one-way trip to the best views, just take the ascent limb out and back.
IMG_1440.jpg
Shortly after setting off along the creek, the path goes to this little bridge. The loop route crosses over here, while the route up the canyon continues straight ahead.
IMG_1443.jpg
A dirt trail rises beyond the bridge. The bridge looks relatively new, and this bit of the trail isn’t as broad or worn as other parts, but it soon joins with a broad and clearly older trail.
IMG_1444.jpg
The broad trail ascending through the woods.
IMG_1447.jpg
The first glimpse of the waterfall in the canyon. Note the hikers on the other side of the canyon. They’re on the narrow precipice on the other side of the loop.
IMG_1454
Star Creek falls, with Mount Tecumseh in the background.
The upper bridge, on a snowy spring day. The path goes right and ascends beyond the bridge.
IMG_1436.JPG
Branching from the main path, there’s an obvious extension descending towards a rocky precipice. A hiker is visible on the other side of the canyon. This was a fairly steep descent to a rather elevated spot above the canyon.
IMG_1438.jpg
The view of the waterfall from the precipice – interesting to experience since you’re perched on a rocky outcrop, but not the best view.
IMG_1460.jpg
A pretty great day for a hike!
If you follow the creek up the canyon, you eventually get to this overhanging wall. Up ahead the canyon narrows to the one tricky part of the route.
As I got closer, I realized that one wall of the narrowed area of the canyon was actually the rocky precipice that was accessible off the main trail.
A few frozen trickles emerge from the canyon walls.
The narrow area of the canyon. On this day there wasn’t a ton of flow in the creek, but there also wasn’t a lot of supportive snow/ice over the water. I proceeded with caution. The way to proceed is on the left of the water flow. The chain is visible dangling down the rocks.
The crux. This wasn’t made easier by my wet boots. The picture doesn’t quite do justice to how tricky it is to get up there. There’s a chain here for a reason. Luckily, this is sprain/minor fracture territory not a death fall.
A bit of snow, ice, water, and stone.
Looking back from beyond the crux. There’s a bit of a climb up, then some uneven rocky terrain.
Star Creek Falls, almost free of its icy winter coat.

2 thoughts on “Star Creek Falls

Leave a Reply to Jennifer Parker Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s