The Highwood Pass area in Kananaskis Country is our all-time favourite area for hiking. We’ve now placed a total of 5 geocaches to encourage others to come out and explore the Arethusa Cirque “trail”.
While you won’t attain any of the 360 degree views typical of a ridge walk or summit, this 5 km loop requires only about 300 meters gain to enjoy 2 waterfalls; a beautiful meadow that's carpeted with wildflowers well into late July / early August; and a great variety of ancient ocean bed fossils. The trail passes the entrance to 3 different cirques (only the middle cirque - Arethusa - is named) and provides access to the base of Little Arethusa and Mount Arethusa should you wish to hike to a summit (or possibly over into Ptarmigan Cirque). You might be interested to know we regularly spot (or hear) moose while hiking this area.
Little Arethusa and unnamed cirque
Dramatic upthrusting peak (unnamed)
This is a fairly easy hike for kids and they'll enjoy the multiple creek crossings, waterfalls, pond, walking along the edge of the creek / talus field and spotting fossils.
Creek that runs through meadow after you emerge from forest
Most difficult creek crossing
The trail is not maintained, but basic route details can be found in Kathy & Craig Copeland’s “Where Locals Hike in the Canadian Rockies” and Gillian Daffern’s “Kananaskis Country Trail Guide Vol 2.” We’ve also submitted this trail to the Calgary Area Trail Maps project. If you decide to explore this area before the next release of maps, contact us via e-mail and we’ll send you a .gpx or .gbd file to aid in your route-finding. We have also provided several additional waypoints to assist with navigation.
Access is via Highway 40, a few km southeast of the Highwood Pass day use area. Parking is not marked and there are no outhouse facilities. Highway 40 to the trailhead is closed from December 1 through June 15 each year. The posted coordinates are for the parking area. Coming from the north, drive a few hundred meters past the parking coordinates and you will see a turn off across the ditch into the parking area / meadow. Rocky Mountain Sheep frequent this meadow. From the parking area walk along the edge of the forest and look for the unmarked trail heading into the trees, about 30 meters south of the creek, to start your “Arethusa Adventure”.
This multi-cache series is comprised of three, stand-alone micro caches plus this final regular cache. Each micro contains one stanza of the poem “Arethusa’s Adventure” - an original and unique version of a lesser known Greek myth featuring Arethusa as the main character. If your quest sparks an interest in the original subject matter, you might enjoy reading Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Arethusa”.
The coordinates for the final cache can be found in 3rd Stanza - Arethusa Adventure. If you aren’t quite up to completing the loop and are willing to settle for just 3 smileys, the coordinates are also on the inside of the lid of GCXATF Fav. Hike #1 – Arethusa Cirque. But if you take this shortcut, you’ll miss out on the middle two stanzas of the poem!
The final cache does not contain any ancient Greek coins featuring the image of lovely Arethusa (too bad!). However, when hidden the final container (a camo-painted, regular-sized Lock’n’Lock) did contain more a recently minted ‘coin, along with an assortment of geocaching and hiking related swag, log book, etc.
Between the trees and the surrounding mountains, GPS reception at the final location is quite poor. The best we could get, after averaging 100 readings, was +/- 7 meters accuracy, which accounts for the 2.5 difficulty rating. The cache is hidden about 3 or 4 meters off the trail.