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6 to 8 hours / 42K return

Elevation Gain



Trailhead: Park at the Little Elbow Campground or Forget Me Not Pond 40 minutes west of Calgary. Note Highway #66 is closed at Elbow Falls from Dec 1st to May 15th.


Description: Elbow Loop is considered one of the best Mountain Bike trails in the Canadian Rockies. Hikers would have to allow two days. Locate the trail west of the Little Elbow Campground parking lot. You can approach the loop in either direction with the right south west approach being the favorite. I’m not sure if one direction is easier than the other. Certainly makes for an interesting debate when you’ve completed the loop.

From the Forget Me Not Pond parking lot follow the road towards Little Elbow campground for a short distance until you reach the Harold Chapman foot bridge crossing over the Elbow river. This is either the end or the start of the loop depending on your direction of travel. Here you can decide which direction you want to take on the loop. Cross the bridge for what is generally considered the reverse route or keep heading up the road towards the more favorite route.

Follow the gravel road past the campground until you reach a roadblock gate. Ride or walk around the gate and stay on the old fire road for the entire 42km loop. Note that the bridge across the Elbow River was washed out during the 2013 flood. You’ll need to ford the river. After you cross the river continue on with several ups and downs while ascending towards the summit pass that is located near Tombstone Lakes.

A short distance past Tombstone Lakes trailhead junction you’ll reach the top of the pass and the approximate middle point of the loop. Here you’ll find a nice rest area to eat lunch while and enjoying the views of the surrounding meadow and mountain ridges.

Elbow River Area Map PDF

Items Reviewed - 1

5.0Very Good
Mark Townsend

Awesome overnight backpack stayed at Tombstone backcountry campground.

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