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Vault Cave Hike Kananaskis Alberta

Vault Cave Hike Kananaskis Alberta


The Vault Cave Hike | Heart Creek Canmore Alberta

The Vault opening Mount McGillivray Kananaskis
Rumors seem to swirl around the strange hole dug into the side of Mount McGillivray. There are grandiose tales saying this man-made opening is a Diefenbunker, an emergency fallout shelter for government personal in case of a nuclear war. Well others are saying it’s a nothing more than the start of a mine shaft.

The Vault mount mcgillivray cave
However, none of these rumors are correct and it seems that truth really is stranger than fiction! This fabricated cavern is the brain child of two men; Joe and Stan Rokosh who thought it would be a good idea to create a mountain strongbox to hold valuable documents and other precious items at the height of the cold war. They claimed their Vault would have been impenetrable to fire, floods, wind, rodents, insects, earthquakes or God forbid a bomb! A tall order to fill but a lucrative one; or so they hoped.

Newspaper clipping for the vault mount mcgillivray cave
We decided to see for ourselves what these two gentlemen had created. Our hopes were high as we arrived at the Heart Creek day use area, just off of the Trans-Canada Highway. The skies begun to clear and the day use area was light with traffic.

Vault hike kananaskis- Mount McGillivray cave by Heart Creek - Looking West
From the parking lot area we took the path leading West. Putting our backs to the outhouses & information board and facing west towards Canmore, we could see a trail leading off into the forest. You can read about the Heart Creek Canyon Hike we did after this one. That trail heads East from the same parking lot.

Vault hike kananaskis- Mount McGillivray cave by Heart Creek
It’s a short 2 km hike up to the Vault. Making this friendly little hike a 4 Km round trip with nothing too hard to tackle. There were a couple of hills and a washed out creek bed left behind from the 2013 floods, but the path is an easy one to traverse.

The Vault Mount McGillivray cave hiking trail

The Vault Mount McGillivray cave hiking trail
We followed the path west until we seen a Trans-Canada Trail marker and a definite path leading off to the left.

Vault hike Kananaskis- Trans Canada marker

Turning left at this marker, we continued along the well-worn path until we encountered a junction with another Trans-Canada Trail marker. Again we headed left.

Vault hike Kananaskis- Mount McGillivray cave by Heart Creek - 2nd Trans-Canada trail marker

The path then meanders up a set of switch backs until you reach the Vault opening.

Vault hike Kananaskis- Mount McGillivray cave hike after second left
Vault hike kananaskis- Mount McGillivray cave by Heart Creek

At the opening we readied ourselves to enter; flashlights out, coats on and camera flashes ready!
The first part of the tunnel has dripping water from the cave roof and a bit of standing water in the form of puddles on the caves floor, however nothing too unpleasant to walk through.

Vault hike kananaskis-Mount McGillivray cave hike by Heart Creek

As we entered and let our eyes adjust we realized that this opening the brothers had dug into the earth is quite large. The tunnel you enter continues about 100 feet into the mountain then dead-ends with an interesting set of boar-hole patterns on the back wall.

Vault hike kananaskis-Mount McGillivray cave hike. Boar holes
About half way into the tunnel you will encounter a junction were another passageway veers off to the left. (This should have been called the “stay left young man” hike.)

Junction in the Vault Cave kananaskis-Mount McGillivray

This second channel opens up into four larger dug out areas, which I can only assume were intended to be used as private storage space units.  We then rambled the last 200 feet into the heart of Mount McGillivray, were the tunnel again comes to a dead end. Perhaps, proof that the ambitious plan to design a vault in the belly of a mountain was a costly one.

Vault hike kananaskis-Cave art
The Vault caves are full of interesting cave art; from the dancing shadow people overlooking the fire pit to eerie alien space craft warning you to “turn back or die!”

Vault hike kananaskis-Cave art

Vault hike kananaskis-Cave art

There is evidence everywhere that the locals regularly use the Vault as a party location. However, the only locals we encountered were to rock climbing rodents’ intent on getting away from us and the dogs.

Vault hike kananaskis-Packrat
Although the Rokosh brothers and their Rocky Mountain Vaults and Archives Company never completed the venture it is still an interesting walk through Canada’s recent past.

  • Date of the Journey: August 3rd 2016
  • Location: Heart Creek Trail / The Vault -8 miles East of Canmore
  • We Parked at:  Heart Creek Trail Day Use Area in the parking lot
  • Distance: 4.3 Km round trip
  • Highest Point: 1385 m
  • Height gain cumulative: 179 m
  • Things to watch for: Nil, maybe falling rocks outside the cave entrance

Below is an interesting archived newspaper article from 1970 we stumbled across while looking for more information on this place.

first page of vault newspaper

The Vault Mount McGillivray Canmore AB

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View of Moraine lakes deep blue colour from the rock pile

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