Hike to the Blackshale Suspension Bridge in Kananaskis

Hike to the Blackshale Suspension Bridge in Kananaskis on Where Rockies

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We had some gear to test out, so we decided to go on a hike. With so many options right at our doorstep, where did we decide to go? To the Blackshale Suspension Bridge. Despite its fame on certain social media channels, neither of us had been there before, so it was the perfect place to check out while putting some mountain wear to the test.

Standing on the Blackshale Suspension Bridge in Kananaskis Country

The bridge is actually part of the High Rockies Trail, which is part of the greater TransCanada trail. But that doesn’t mean it’ll take all day to reach it. There are two popular ways to reach the bridge: the “official” trail is to access the High Rockies Trail via the Black Prince Day Use Area. From here, the hike is about 3 km to the bridge. The trail is lovely, wide, and rolling but not too steep as you gain elevation. It’s perfect for a family with kids who want to hike, but maybe aren’t ready to tackle anything too difficult just yet. We loved the way the sunshine filtered through the trees on this trail, creating a mosaic of light and shadow as we hiked along.

Light speckling through the trees on the High Rockies Trail

We loved the way the sunshine played with the shadows on the trail.

The “unofficial” way to reach this trail is via the bypass. Because the suspension bridge is closed during the winter, Alberta Parks created a bypass trail that allows users to access the High Rockies Trail in all seasons. This bypass ventures from the High Rockies Trail down to the Smith Dorian Highway, and back up to the trail. People often use this as a shortcut to visit the bridge. While the trail is steeper, it’s only half a kilometre, making it a quicker option if you’re just looking for a few photos. There are no signs for this trail since it’s not actually a trailhead. Also, there is no parking lot to access this unofficial trail, so parking is at your own risk.

Trailhead for the High Rockies Trail leading to the Blackshale Suspension Bridge in Kananaskis

The official trailhead leading to the Blackshale Suspension Bridge in Kananaskis

We took the official trail from the day use area to the suspension bridge and beyond. The trailhead is buried in Kananaskis Country on the Smith Dorian Highway. It’s takes 47 minutes to drive here from the Stoney Nakoda Resort and Casino, but the beauty of the mountains make this drive pleasant the whole way. The day use area has outhouses and parking. It wasn’t busy, but we were there on a weekday with a questionable forecast.

Mountain view from the Blackshale Suspension Bridge in Kananaksis

The view is spectacular.

From the Black Prince Day Use Area, backtrack to the highway and you’ll see the trailhead on the other side. The first uphill is as steep as it gets, and afterwards it’s a rolling walk the whole way. It’s about 3 km to reach the bridge, meaning an out-and-back would be 6 km. It takes just over an hour to do the out-and-back, or you can continue further as we did and enjoy more of the High Rockies Trail with fantastic mountain views.

Some specs about the Blackshale Suspension Bridge hike:

Drive Time: Just over an hour from Canmore and about an hour and a half from Calgary.

Hiking Time: About a half hour to reach the bridge from the parking lot. Maybe longer if you have little ones coming along.

Difficulty: This hike is pretty easy. The trail is well marked, it’s wide, and it has gently rolling terrain with some elevation gain.

Users: Watch out for hikers, bikers, and trail runners. Check out this article about sharing the trail with other users.

Safety: Always bring bear spray! Also, this trail does not have cell service, so be prepared with a satellite communication device if you’re worried about safety. We recommend being prepared for any backcountry adventure. Check out this article for some suggestions.

Photos: The bridge is photogenic on its own, but taking images from below the bridge will show how high it really is. For that extra pro shot, cross the bridge and take a photo from the other side to include the spectacular mountain ranges in the shot.

Kate Barker