Nordegg is a hidden gem located along the David Thompson Corridor in Alberta. If you are searching for an off the beaten path destination and a quieter alternative to Banff or Jasper National Park you will find that Nordegg is ripe for exploration.
Nordegg is a three hour journey from either Calgary or Edmonton if you drive through the prairies on Highway 2 passing rural towns and vast farmland.
Alternatively, the route through the mountains along the Transcanada Highway or Highway 2 will add an additional hour of driving. Be warned though, there are numerous viewpoints along the mountain roads and you will inevitably stop to take in the views.
Visit the Ghost Town of Nordegg
The town of Nordegg was birthed in 1914 following the discovery of oil and the subsequent need for mining workers. In the following decades, the town grew in population and prosperity, peaking in the 1940s. In 1955, the town saw the lights go off after the closure of the coal mine. The abandoned houses and buildings still standing have a particularly eerie feeling at dusk.
These days you can visit Nordegg Heritage Center to gain a glimpse into the past or participate in a guided tour of the Brazeau Collieries Historic Mine Site. Tours are only available in summer so if you visit Nordegg out of season (like we did) you have a valid excuse to return to the David Thompson corridor. If as there weren’t already enough reasons!
Nordegg is not your typical ghost town. The historic town site is kept separate from the tiny active community residing in Nordegg that is (slowly) growing. Amenities in the town are basic with one gas station, general store, liquor store, and a motel with a restaurant and pub.
What To Do Around Nordegg
Frozen Methane Bubbles at Abraham Lake
Abraham lake is a manmade lake that showcases a stunning natural phenomenon in the ice each winter when the lake freezes over. Below the frozen surface of Abraham Lake lie frozen methane bubbles that vary in size and shape.
Keep in mind that the bubbles are not found everywhere on the lake and recent snowfall will obscure their position. Exercise caution when stepping onto the lake as the ice does not exhibit uniform thickness throughout the lake.
We located them at the Preacher’s Point Staging Area!
Bighorn Canyon Viewpoint
Either before or after visiting Crescent Falls, ensure a stop at the Bighorn Canyon lookout point. After turning onto the Crescent Falls Campground Road off the David Thompson highway, drive for 3.5km until you reach a small parking lot. You’ll feel small as you peer down the deep gorge and watch the flowing water of the Bighorn River.
It is possible to hike from this viewpoint along the canyon to Crescent Falls. However it is not recommended as people have fallen and died off the ledge here. If you choose to do so it is at your own risk.
Crescent Falls are a set of two cascading waterfalls that flow down the steep slopes of the Bighorn River Canyon. There is a viewing platform above the first waterfall. For the more adventurous, continue past the railings and follow a path descending down to view the second waterfall. There is a rope to help you down and is particularly helpful in winter if you’re not wearing ice cleats.
Getting there: Drive 18.1km West of Nordegg and take the first turnoff after you pass the Bighorn Gas Station. You will enter a windy forested road and drive 6.1km until you reach the Crescent falls parking lot. 3.5km in make sure to stop at the Bighorn Canyon Lookout point!
Allstones Creek Hike
Allstones Creek hike is an easy 5.4km excursion through a gorgeous canyon finishing at a waterfall. The waterfall itself is not the main attraction, the beauty of the hike lies in the journey through the gorge.
In late Fall we found ourselves slipping and sliding on ice of variable thickness over Allstones Creek. Occasionally we would step through a patch thin ice and submerge our boots in water.
We returned in winter where we pleasantly found the ice had formed a thick, solid layer. As a bonus, the recent snowfall had formed a nonslip surface above the slick ice which provided us with traction. This time we walked with ease; simply soaking in the impressive and dynamic geologic structures found throughout the gorge.
Getting here: The parking lot for the hike is 31.1km South of Nordegg. There will be a turnoff on your left, just before the ‘Allstones Creek’ sign, into a small parking lot. Cross the road, hug the railing, then walk down the hill into the canyon.
Coral Creek Canyon Hike
The Coral Creek Canyon hike takes in dramatic views of the Cline River and the namesake Coral Creek canyon. The area is fabulous for hikers to explore in all seasons though naturally the landscape and atmosphere is completely different in winter than in summer. In winter ice climbers arrive to climb the wide sheaths of ice that cling to the steep slopes of the ravine below, there are few hikers or snowshoers and there is a stillness in the air. This is an easy venture in the Bighorn Backcountry area approximately
Getting here: The trailhead for the Coral Creek hike is 47.6 km West of Nordegg Townsite along the David Thompson Highway. Once you see the Rockies Heli Canada building, continue South for 750m than make a right turnoff. If you go over the Cline River bridge you’ve gone too far.
Look for the sign ‘Coral Creek White Goat Staging Area’.
Lower Siffleur Falls Hike
The hike to Lower Siffleur Falls offers two scenic river crossings utilizing a suspension bridge and a wooden bridge. The hike is pleasant and ends at an impressive, steep sided gorge and the first of the trio of Siffleur waterfalls. It’s an easy 8km round trip hike to the Lower Siffleur Falls with approximately 150m elevation gain. Continuing along the trail, the distance to Siffleur Falls and Upper Siffleur Falls are 2.5km and 4.0 km further, respectively. This is a popular and noisy trail in summer and fall but we opted for a winter hike and found it to be a superbly beautiful and quiet experience.
Getting there: The Siffleur Falls Trailhead is 62.7m from Nordegg or 27.4km from the intersection between the Icefields Parkway and the David Thompson Highway.
Where To Stay
Hotel: The townsite of Nordegg offers basic accomodation with an attached bar and restaurant at the Nordegg Lodge hotel .
Camping: There are plenty of camping opportunities in the area along scenic creeks and lakes with mountain views. The campsite closest to Nordegg is the Upper Shunda Creek Campground. For information on other camping spots along the David Thompson Corridor, Westbound Campgrounds is a helpful resource.
Cabins: Numerous cottages are available for rent branching off the Range Road 152A for those seeking more privacy and comfort.
Hostel: We stayed at the Hostelling International Nordegg hostel, otherwise known as the Shunda Creek hostel. Located at the end of the Shunda Creek road, this cozy wooden cabin is a lovely communal place to meet active and friendly people interested in the outdoors.
Winter conditions: When visiting in the winter make sure to have winter tires on or at least mud and snow rated tires as the road conditions are variable and you will want traction.
Books: I would recommend buying the David Thompson Highway Hiking guide by Jane Ross and Daniel Kyba. You’ll find an extensive list of hikes for all level of ability and trail lengths.
Wildlife: Bring beer spray in the summer, spring, and fall. Watch out for bighorn sheep either on the road or beside the road.