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Cascade Amphitheatre Professional Review and Guide
"This demanding route leads through pine forest with few viewpoints before you reach the Amphitheatre. After crossing Forty Mile Creek, you see three striking satellites of the Sawback Range: Mts. Edith, Louis, and Fifi. Your destination is a fairly small high meadow surrounded by the steep slopes of Cascade Mountain. Explore the low ridge of Cascade Mountain at the south end of the Amphitheatre to get interesting views of Elk Valley. You may see mountain goat high up the slopes of Cascade. Bighorn sheep frequent the Mount Norquay Road near the trailhead."
--Don Beers, Day Hikes Near Banff (Rocky Mountain Books).
The hike to the amphitheater is a steady 2.5hrs uphill walk on a well marked, wide trail. My 13 year old son & I left the Mt Norquay parking lot at 8am and reached the amphitheater at 10.30. Lots of Berries and some Bear-scatt had us blowing our whistles every few minutes. After a 15min break we continued upwards on the right side of the amphitheater for a grueling ascent to 9983ft. Once we cleared the tree-line there was a large scree field awaiting us. We followed the inukshuk figures built by previous hikers through the scree and upwards over ledges and up though numerous shale deposits. We reached the summit at 2pm & what a view. It was breathtaking with majestic views of Mount Assiniboine, Banff Town-site, Sulpher Mountain & Lake Minawanka.
After a 30 minute break for lunch we headed downwards. This turned out to be as difficult as the ascent as our legs were fatiguing. Did I mention this was our 1st hike ever? It took us a full 5 hours to get back to the Parking lot. It's been 2 days, numerous Jacuzzis, a tub of A535 and a massage and I still can't climb the stairs at home without the aid of the banisters. A trip of a lifetime & one I would highly recommend to all relatively fit individuals visiting the Banff area for a few days.
This trail starts at the Norquay Ski area and traverses below the ski lifts and then drops downhill for 450 feet until you cross the Forty Mile Creek. Most of the trip is on a trail with very good footing and you are in the forest most of the way with only fleeting views of the local mountains.
Once you reach the height of land you walk along the meadow until you come to the Ampitheater where there is a good spot for lunch.
Form here you can scamble over towards the headwall of the Cascade Mountain.
It took our group 2+25 to reach the meadow and 2 hours to return to our car. In addition we spent about one hour exploring the very rocky route over to the headwall.
This trip was a nice dayhike which showed us that there is lots of hiking , both single and multi-day to do in the Banff area north of the highway.
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