Grotto Mountain
2706m (8878ft.)

Located in the Bow River Valley northwest of Lac des Arcs. Fairholme Range, Park, Alberta
Latitude 51; 05; 00 Longitude 115; 16; 00, Topo map 82O/03

Panorama viewpoint: Harvie Heights. Can be seen from Highways 1 and 742

Named by Eugene Bourgeau in 1858. James Hector wrote of visiting a large cave in the mountain that featured a high arched roof which is narrow at the mouth. Official name.

Photo: Looking northwest to Grotto Mountain from the Trans-Canada Highway
More photos

Other Information
Photo: Looking west-northwest to Grotto Mountain from Lac des Arcs

In August, 1858, James Hector and Eugene Bourgeau of the Palliser Expedition followed a creek up the slopes of the mountain to beyond the timberline. During their exploration they found a large cave and chose the name, “Grotto” for the mountain. Hector wrote that they entered the grotto and, following a steam, scrambled up 300 vertical feet to a point where they found, "a trickling fall several hundred feet in height, splashing in a clear pool with geen mossy bank." In this they performed their, "morning ablutions."

Named a Provincial Historic Site in 1986, Rat's Nest Cave near Canmore, Alberta, extends for approximately 4 km beneath Grotto Mountain. A cave guide entitled "Under Grotto Mountain: Rat's Nest Cave" by Chas Yonge not only examines the natural history of this fascinating system of subterranean passageways, but also explores 2000-3000 years of human occupation.

In his book, "Canadian Rockies Geology Road Tours," Ben Gadd points out that the cliff bands part way up the southwest facing slopes were formed after rock slides broke away below them. These were initiated after the steeply dipping layers were left weakened by glacial undercutting as the "U-Shaped" valley was being formed during the last major glaciation. Ben goes on to note the huge quarrying operation is doing more of the same thing.

Dr. Chas Yonge earned a PhD in geology at McMaster University and has published several papers on cave science in academic journals. He has caved extensively in Canada and internationally. In the Rockies, he has explored some of Canada's longest and deepest caves, discovering several new cave systems. Chas owns and operates Canmore Caverns Limited, a cave touring company.

The book was published in 2000 and is available through

*A hiking route to the summit is described in Gillean Daffern’s Kananaskis Country Trail Guide Volume 1.

For a panoramic view from the summit of Grotto Mountain visit

Scrambling Routes
Easy to moderate scramble depending on route Kane, Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies page 74 Direct Route
The shortest and steepest route takes a direct line from base to summit, following close to the right edge of a massive gully system draining the southwest slopes.

Northwest (ACC) Trail
An alternate ascent (or descent) route lies more toward the northwest end of the mountain. In the summer of 1995, volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Section of the Alpine Club of Canada completed a nicely-graded trail that cunningly dodges all cliff bands.

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