Just off of Highway 1A, the Old Coach Road, near Canmore and tucked quietly within the Rocky Mountains is Grotto Canyon. Accessible only by foot, the short hike into the canyon is well worth the journey and effort. The canyon itself appears to be an ancient river-bed whose river has mysteriously disappeared, leaving behind only a narrow runoff channel that guides you up the canyon itself, towards a delicate waterfall at trails end. Sounds pretty cool eh?
When you enter the canyon you are actually entering a valley that has been carved smooth by the action of running water, leaving behind walls of finely polished limestone. As you continue to hike into the canyon, the walls grow higher and higher around you and, if you have a keen eye, you might see the ancient Hopi pictographs that were painted thousands of years ago by these native visitors from the Arizona region. For years these magical rock paintings have mystified scientists and hikers alike, why did the Hopi peoples travel so far from their home and leave their mark in this canyon, and what do they mean? Although they are faded and have been badly damaged by years of touching and picture-taking by curious canyon visitors, their presence is a moving reminder of an age long past.
If you are planning a trip to the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, be sure to stop at Grotto Canyon and visit the pictographs. Please be respectful and do not touch them, so that others, for centuries to come, may also discover their magic and mystery. In a world where more and more of nature is being destroyed to build mini-malls, it is important to try to preserve the past!