Two hours west of Edmonton is a hidden geological gem known as Hard Luck Canyon. About 25 minutes south of Whitecourt, Alberta, you will find this 10 minute stroll through the birch forest that opens up to a small bridge and provides views of the massive canyon from above.
Walk down the stairs where you can get a closer look at Beaver Creek Falls (where you can climb on the rocks and touch the water)!
Fun fact: the waterfall is actually named after a beaver pond that overflows in the spring and creates the water that rushes over the rocks.
As you drive down the rural country road and make your way down the trail, you would have no idea that there’s a hidden canyon and waterfall nearby.
Hard Luck Canyon is a great place to visit in Alberta if you’re in search of waterfalls other than in Banff, Jasper or Kananaskis.
The layers of sandstone are fascinating to observe on the large canyon walls. It’s like peering through a window into the distant past.
The hiking trail to Hard Luck Canyon is short (and easy to find) and is well worth it for the views.
How to Get to Hard Luck Canyon
When you find yourself in Whitecourt, turn south on West Mountain Road. On the main highway look for the blue tourist sign with an arrow telling you where to turn.
Follow this road and the signs the whole way. The first half of the road is paved, then it turns to loose gravel. After about 20 minutes from the turn off in Whitecourt you’ll see the small parking lot on the right hand side.
The parking lot has room for about 15 cars. We managed to find a spot in the parking lot, but noticed several people parked on the road.
The Hiking Trail
The hike into Hard Luck Canyon is only about 7-10 minutes from the parking lot. It’s a flat gravel trail through the birch tree forest.
Informative and interpretive signage guides you the whole way. It explains how the geography has changed over the years and takes you back further in time the closer you get to the canyon.
It’s an educational experience for both kids and adults, as the signs along the trail are meant to be ‘time markers’. They match the geological history to human history to help explain how long ago this canyon formed.
When you reach the bridge, you catch your first glimpse of the vast canyon walls. Follow the short bridge towards the series of stairs where you can descend down to the water and view the waterfall up close.
in total, there were a little less than 100 steps to get down.
In mid-July, the waterfall at Hard Luck Canyon was more of a trickle, but would be more powerful during spring runoff. I recommend visiting in April or May.
Down on the canyon floor, there are large rocks to climb on that your kids and dogs will love! Hard Luck Creek runs through the canyon and creates several shallow pools to splash around in on a hot summer day.
If you’re just passing by, you could be in and out in about 20 minutes if you’re just snapping a few photos.
Otherwise, if it’s a nice day and you want to splash around in the water and stay for a picnic, I would plan to spend a couple of hours at Hard Luck Canyon.
The total hike in and back from Hard Luck Canyon is less than 1 kilometre.
The Hard Luck Canyon hike is easy and short. The trail is flat, however the stairs to get down to the waterfall are steep, and can be very slippery when wet.
We saw people of all ages and abilities go up and down these stairs no problem (but there are about 100 steps overall).
Hard Luck Canyon is one of those hikes that’s super easy and has a great reward at the end!
Want more bang for your buck hikes? Read: 12 Hikes in Jasper With the Best Views and Minimal Effort
Amenities at Hard Luck Canyon
There are a few picnic tables tucked away throughout the looped forest trail. And the gravel parking lot also has pit toilets/outhouses.
You might be able to do some fly-fishing in Hard Luck Creek, but the water is shallow and I’m not sure if there are any fish!
There is no camping at Hard Luck Canyon.
Is Hard Luck Canyon Worth Visiting?
If you live in or near Whitecourt, Hard Luck Canyon is definitely worth visiting as it’s only 20 minutes away. If you’re from Edmonton, I would recommend visiting on your way to Jasper to make the long drive more interesting.
If you want to take the kids somewhere on a road trip on a hot summer day, this would also be a great idea. Especially since you can also visit the Whitecourt Rotary Park and play on the river slides, splash park and go fishing.
On weekends in the summer, it will be busy. We visited on a Saturday afternoon in July and there were probably 30 other people.
The trail to Hard Luck Canyon is technically closed in the winter, but you can still access it at your own risk if you want to trudge through the snow. The trail and parking lot are not maintained in the winter months.
Hard Luck Canyon is a fascinating spot in Woodlands County and is one of the most interesting geological features in Alberta outside of the mountains. I highly recommend heading out for an adventure and exploring the trails and scenery here!
Don’t Forget – Your Road Trip Packing List: 16 Items You Need to Bring
Bonus Tip for Visiting Hard Luck Canyon
If you’re from Edmonton looking for a day trip idea, you could head to Hard Luck Canyon and then drive home through Edson and stop at Apex Predator Brewing!
In the summer they have a great patio, which is dog-friendly and kid-friendly (although you’ll have to bring your own beverages for the little ones).
Want more road trip ideas and things to do in Alberta? Read these next:
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