|Trailhead||The Spray River bridge, at the entrance to the Banff Springs Hotel Golf Course, is reached by crossing the Bow River in downtown Banff and turning left onto Spray Ave. Park at the Bow Falls parking lot. The trail heads right from the golf course road, 600 m past the bridge.|
|Distance||40 km (25 mi.)|
|Elevation Gain||365 m (1,197')|
|Maximum Elevation||1,735 m (5,691')|
The Spray River fire road provides access to the south end of Banff National Park and Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park. The route is aptly described in The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide as a rather dull approach to these areas, but one which is relatively secluded and features several fine campgrounds. Indeed, the campsites are very comfortable and there is little hiker or biker traffic on what can be a hot, wearisome gravel road. The chief advantage of this route is that one can start hiking right from the town of Banff. Otherwise, it is necessary to either drive or hitch-hike into the area, e.g., via the Smith-Dorrien--Spray Trail (Hwy. 742) or the Kananaskis Trail (Hwy. 40). These highways are not served by public transportation, but you may be able to arrange a ride with one of the tour operators in Banff or Canmore.
From its beginning near the first hole of the golf course, the trail heads up the east side of the Spray, offering occasional views across the valley toward the Banff Springs Hotel. The first campsite (Sp 6) is located at km 5.8, but it is recommended to bypass this one and camp at Rink's Camp (Sp 16) at km 16. Besides it being perhaps the most attractive campsite on the trail, Rink's Camp is less likely than Sp 6 to be (ab)used by rowdy overnighters who arrive from the Banff town site.
Additional campsites are located at km 24 (Eau Claire Camp, Sp 23) and km 35 (Fortune Camp, Sp 35). Views on this section are limited to one or two glimpses of the peaks around Mt. Robertson and Mt. Sir Douglas. Eventually, the trail ends at the Spray Lakes Reservoir access road, and another 5.5 km of gravel-walking brings one to the junction of the Bryant Creek trail and the trail from the Mt. Shark parking lot. This map (58 KB), based on a Parks Canada pdf brochure, shows the trails and campsites in the area.