Arethusa Cirque Hike

Arethusa Cirque Hike

A Sense of Familiarity Amongst Nature


Trail type



The Ticks-All-The-Boxes Kananaskis Hike You’ve Never Heard Of

There’s a sense of familiarity one gets at a hiking trail that’s clearly marked and maintained with amenities such as outhouses or paved parking lots made available by the regular maintenance. It gives one a sense of calm, that there’s nothing to worry about, you’ll make your way up the path and back, with some views and exercise for a day well spent. On the flip side are paths that aren’t officially maintained, where staying on the trail requires a more power of observation. These trails create a greater sense of adventure, like you’re a pioneer, one of the first to explore these parts. We hike to get a little more connected to nature, and these adventurous, largely untamed paths give us an even greater bond with an untouched nature, ever more rare.

Where Is It?

Arethusa Cirque is one such hike in Kananaskis. Located 1.3km south of perhaps the most popular hike in K-Country, Ptarmigan Cirque (68km south of the TransCanada/ Highway 40 junction), this hike delivers much the same thrills but with a greater sense of untouched wilderness and fewer crowds. This is largely because of its status as an unofficial trail that isn’t maintained, save for some flagging tape here and there.


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Right or Left?

The off-the-beaten-path vibe starts right from the beginning, as the trail isn’t marked from the road and the parking lot is more a sandy opening rather than a dedicated lot. However, you will notice it on the left shortly after Ptarmigan, so keep your eyes open. Having parked, you will spot the trail starting off into the woods. From there is a gentle climb for about 700 meters, which opens onto a meadow. You will then come upon the proverbial fork in the road (path); we suggest you stay right as it is easiest to follow the loop in a counter-clockwise fashion. However, if you are at Arethusa in late-September to early-October, we suggest to go left, as that is the direction in which the golden larch phenomenon is best viewed. This direction turns the loop into a simple out-and-back trail.

Navigating the Wilderness

Once you have chosen right, follow the creek and talus slopes to the end of the cirque, where you will come across a waterfall, a natural marker to let you know you’re on the right path. You will need to cross the creek twice, first to the left, then to the right and then the trail will begin to ascend a steep slope. Hiking to the top of the slope, take a left turn and you will discover a well worn rocky trail that keeps going left until it meets a grassy ridge. Watch for some flagging tape, at which point you will head left down the hill, where, at the bottom, you will meet the trail where the original fork was, leaving you 700 meters from your vehicle.

All along this rugged path, hikers will be treated to staggering views of jagged mountains, wondrous rock formations, peaceful alpine meadows, towering coniferous forests and for a few weeks in early autumn, the splendour of golden larch trees. Regarding the latter, Arethusa Cirque captures much of the larch splendour of Ptarmigan Cirque, with the added bonus of experiencing this all on the much less-trafficked trail!


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Our Little Secret

Arethusa Cirque is the rare hiking trail that combines the scenery and attraction of “official”, maintained paths, with all the wilderness left unspoiled by human intervention. It’s the kind of path where when you’re on it, gazing upward at the Cirque or across the panorama of green blanketing the forest or bathing in the unique golden larches moment, you wonder to yourself, “why aren’t there more people on this trail?” But between you and I, let’s not shout its attributes too loudly; every now and then, we might want the little Arethusa secret to ourselves, right? 😉


This area can be a bear habitat during hiking season. As Arethusa Cirque is less trafficked than other trails, it is even more important to stay bear safe. Bring bear spray or noise makers to scare our forest friends off.