Alberta, Canada is home to an incredible suspension bridge located in the heart of Kananaskis, which is just outside of Banff National Park! The bridge is easy to visit, as it is a short hike to get there, and the best part is that it is free to visit! Keep reading to find out how to visit the Blackshale Suspension Bridge, and important details to help you plan your trip!
General Information About the Suspension Bridge:
When Not to Visit: In the heart of winter
After heavy snowfall or just as snow accumulates throughout the winter, the suspension bridge becomes unsafe due to the amount of snow on the bridge. There were signs when we had first tried to hike to the bridge in February warning of high snow levels and stating that the bridge is closed, so we decided to revisit once the snow had melted and it was safe to visit again in June.
Best Time to Visit: Summer or early Fall
The trail to the Blackshale Suspension Bridge will (hopefully) be dry, the weather will (hopefully) be nice, and the bridge will be cleared of snow and safe to visit! If possible, try to visit in the early morning or evening to avoid crowds during the peak of the day.
Where is the Suspension Bridge Located?
The Blackshale Suspension Bridge is located off the Smith – Dorrien Highway in Kananaskis, Alberta. It is just over an hour drive from Canmore and around a 1 hour 40 minute drive from Calgary.
How do I Get to the Blackshale Suspension Bridge?
The trailhead to the Suspension Bridge is only accessible by car. There is no public transport that drives this road, therefore, driving yourself is really your only option.
There are 2 trailheads you can take to actually get to the suspension bridge – one is longer and one is a lot shorter.
Option #1: Park in the Black Prince Parking Lot (longer)
- Take the Smith Dorrien Highway and turn into the Black Prince Parking Lot to find a parking spot
- Walk back out to the Smith Dorrien Highway and cross the road (watch for cars)
- You will see a sign that kind of blends in with the trees – this is the trailhead for the High Rockies Trail
- This trail is the longer route and will take you to the suspension bridge!
Option #2: Google map “Blackshale Creek Suspension Bridge Trailhead” and park on the side of the road (although this is technically not recommended or allowed)
- This is the shorter route and this is the route I did to visit the bridge
- Follow the Smith Dorrien Highway and watch google maps closely – this trailhead is unmarked on the trail, so the only real way you will know you are there is by watching your map until you pass the marker for the trailhead online
- You may see other cars pulled over, but don’t rely on this as sometimes there is no one else there, or the cars may be parked near other unmarked trailheads
- Once you arrive, pull over on the side of the road and you should see a small valley with two dirt paths on either side of the valley
- This trail is a circuit (circle), so you can take whichever way up you want, and it will lead you to the bridge!
- This option takes around 10-15 minutes to hike to the bridge (maybe a little less)
What are the Road Conditions Like?
The Smith-Dorrien Highway alternates between paved sections of the road and gravel sections. It’s not a bad road, it can just be bumpy at times!
Where Should I Stay?
As long as you’re in the area, you can stay wherever you like! Canmore is the closest town, but the drive will take just over an hour to get there.
Another great option is to stay in the Kananaskis area. There are a few hotels in and around Kananaskis:
- Mount Engadine Lodge
- Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel
- Kananaskis Mountain Lodge
- Crosswaters Resort
- Sundance Lodges
- Mount Kidd Manor
Another option is to reserve a campsite on Alberta Parks. I did this because it is a cheaper option (if you have access to the camping gear). I would highly recommend booking Elkwood Campground – it is around an 11 minute drive to the suspension bridge from there and the sites are large and nice!
Things to Know Before You Go:
- Cell phone reception and data is very limited in Kananaskis. Make sure to download offline maps before heading into the Kananaskis area, and screenshot any important information you might need
- Wifi can be found at the visitor centers in Kananaskis
- You now need to purchase a permit if you are stopping in Kananaskis at all. The permit costs $15 per day, or you can pay $90 for a year pass. These permits can be purchased online, or at the Kananaskis Visitor Center when you first arrive
- There are limited gas stations in Kananaskis, so plan accordingly to ensure you don’t get stranded!
- Parking on the side of the Smith Dorrien Highway is not recommended or technically allowed, so use your discretion if you are planning to do this & do so at your own risk
- Kananaskis is home to bears and other wild animals! Stay bear safe, don’t hike alone, and carry bear spray with you as a precaution
- The closest washrooms are at the Black Prince Parking Lot
Is There a Picnic Area Near the Blackshale Suspension Bridge?
If you are looking for a place to have a picnic before or after visiting the bridge, I would recommend the Black Prince Parking Lot picnic tables. Another option would be to drive 5 minutes to the Peninsula Day Use Area for a nice lake view while you eat.
Other Resources to Visit the Blackshale Suspension Bridge:
So there you have it! Hopefully this guide on how to visit the Blackshale Suspension Bridge helped you plan your trip or gave you some inspiration!
Have you visited the Blackshale Suspension Bridge before? Let me know about your experience!