Buried deep in the heart of a Rocky Mountain, Heart Creek Bunker is one of Alberta's hidden gems offering an adventure suitable for all ages year-round. Located under an hour from Calgary, it's easy-to-follow path leads to the cave-like interior. It's made up of a series of two main tunnels and can be explored relatively quickly, depending on how adventurous your crew is.

Heart Creek Bunker

Heart Creek Bunker is a man-made structure located within Heart Creek Canyon that was built during the Cold War era as a potential bunker for government officials. Abandoned before completion, the mysterious atmosphere is thick with history as the passage of time whispers through the stillness. The eerie tranquility is only broken by the occasional drip of water from the ceiling and the crunch of your footsteps. Listen. Take a deep breath and smell that dankness. It's an out-of-this world, unique experience right here in our backyard!

Summary of Heart Creek Bunker Hike

  • PERMITS: Ensure you have a Kananaskis Conservation Pass, available for purchase online or at the Kananaskis Visitor Information Centre. Day-use permits cost $15, while an annual pass for three vehicles at the same address costs $90.
  • DISTANCE: The Heart Creek Bunker hike spans approximately 4.0 km (2.5 miles) round trip, with an elevation gain of 235 m (771 feet).
  • DIFFICULTY: Rated as an easy hike, it typically takes 1 - 2 hours for the return journey. You can choose to take your time and enjoy the scenery, or turn up the pace and use it as a trail run.
  • ATTRACTIONS: A cave that's accessible in all seasons!
  • PARKING: Eastbound from the Dead Man’s Flats overpass along the Trans-Canada Highway (9.3 km east of the Canmore Centre exit), continue a further 5.7 km to the east end of the guardrail along the lengthy rock cut on the right side of the road (Lac des Arcs is on the left side).
  • SERVICES: If, like us, you often run off caffeine to fuel your adventures - restrooms are available in the parking lot. Be warned, like all the Alberta Parks washrooms, the toilet paper is one-ply and requires patience and finesse to whittle enough together for wipage!
  • FAMILY/DOG FRIENDLY: Kid-friendly terrain, and on-leash dogs are allowed. If you're planning to lug your toddler into the Heart Creek Bunker trail, try to convince someone to tag along for the adventure and share weight of your heavy, wiggly backpack!
  • PLANNING: Prior to setting off, download a trail map and check the trail reports for the Heart Creek Bunker hike.
  • ALL SEASONS: In winter, carry microspikes and hiking poles to navigate icy sections. Hiking in bear country always requires easy access to bear spray, even in winter.

Heart Creek Bunker History

According to Ben Gadd, the Heart Creek Bunker story begins in 1969, a time overshadowed by the tensions of the Cold War. Rocky Mountain Vaults and Archives, spearheaded by the visionary Rokosh brothers, embarked on an ambitious venture to carve out a sanctuary within the ancient Palliser limestone of Mount McGillivray. Their mission? To construct a subterranean fortress capable of withstanding the wrath of nuclear conflict, a refuge where precious documents would find safe haven amidst the chaos of uncertain times.

Heart Creek Bunker Trail

The Heart Creek Bunker trail doesn't start off the main parking lot (the one with the washrooms). There's a second, smaller parking lot to the left - the trailhead starts on the left of that parking lot and goes towards Canmore, Alberta. The majority of the trail to the cave is essentially a road and relatively easy to follow. Anytime you meet a crossroads, head up to the left!

It climbs steeply through trees with one big downhill, and eventually intersects the switchbacking access track to the tunnel. Follow the track uphill about .5km (this distance is along the gentlest line rather than taking any of the various shortcuts) to the entrance at the base of the cliff just left of Kahl Crack.

Cool summer vibes

Bring lights and helmets, and in summer a sweater or light jacket, for the temperature inside is like that of natural limestone caves in the area, about 5 degrees Celsius.

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