Nihahi, Nahahi, Nahali, Tahini or whatever you want to call it (I lost the bet by the way), is one of the most interesting hikes in Kananaskis. This is one that you will remember for sure. This is a 13.2K out and back hike but according to my GPS it was 14.66 but we included many side detours, ridge hikes and we rarely hiked in a straight line. Our total hike time with 2 kids aged 4 & 7 was 5 housr and 35 minutes with an elevation gain of 343M.
The hike starts at the Little Elbow parking area just south of Forgetmenot pond. The area is relatively large with parking for around 60 cars or around 40 jacked up diesels. There are also around 20 drive through parking spaces for motor homes. The Forgetmenot pond area is busy and it’s not uncommon to see cars lined up the side of the road during busy weekends.
The Niahahi Creek hike starts from the parking lot area and through the Little Elbow Campground area. You can hike the road or there is a small side trail that runs parallel.
Around 600M from the parking lot you will pass the suspension bridge. If you are hiking with children you are going to go back and forth over this bridge most likely several times. Once good times have been had you can continue the hike through the Little Elbow campground.
Once you reach the end of the campground you will see a visitor board and a large gate. This is the area marked trail head on the map above. Continue through the gate and along the Little Elbow Trail.
IMO – this is a kid friendly hike but it takes nearly 5K to hit the Nihahi Creek trail head. If possible bring the kids bikes and they will have a much easier time on the mostly flat but beautiful journey to the Creek trail head.
Around 2.3K from the parking area you will see the trail head marker for Nihahi Ridge – Do not take this. Continue hiking the Little Elbow trail for another 2.4K to reach the Nihahi Creek Trail Head.
This is where all the fun starts. If you brought your bikes you can lock them to the Nihahi Creek trail head sign or to a nearby tree. Another 1.9K will take you to the top of Nihahi Creek.
You can enter Nihahi Creek from the top and work your way down or you can enter from the south and hike through it both ways.
To access the south entrance you leave the trail around 200M before the top and hike down a small ridge to enter the south entrance.
The carved out limestone creates a sort of adventure playground for kids and adults alike. There are a few areas that require a bit of balance and easy technical climbing but overall the hike is easy and a ton of fun. The worst that could happen would most likely be a couple of wet feet and embarrassment but not any serious injury.
If you venture further down the creek bed you will find an impassable 50ft dry waterfall. We were thinking we could bring a giant 6ft thick foam stunt mattress and you could slide this thing for sure – the kids were happy chucking rocks and waiting for the sound at the bottom – clunk. After you are done dreaming of ways to slide down the waterfall and chucking rocks you can either hike back up the creek bed or hike a short but steep scree slope around 75M north or the waterfall to the ridge top and meet the trail again.
Once you are up and back on the trail, start towards the trail head and once you see the creek bed again take a detour and hike up to the bottom of the dry waterfall. You will hike around an impressive 15 foot vertical wall and then up a notched log perched on the side of 10 foot crevice to the base of the waterfall.
My DW claims that this was not the bottom of the waterfall pictured above but some other secondary falls. This is where the second bet comes in that I’m about to win.
You can see the gap that clearly indicates the top and bottom of the dry falls as well as the scree shortcut connecting to the Nihahi creek trail. The top is also the bottom. GPS doesn’t lie. Lost one, won one. Pro Tip – if you ever find yourself at the bottom of these falls watch out for kids chucking rocks. Sorry about that.
Remember during the spring runoff, Nihahi creek will be filled with water and will be inaccessible. Enjoy your hike!