In the Bow Valley, the month of July is busy with tourists and locals playing in the national parks and Kananaskis Country, making the most of their holidays. As a resident, I like to hit the road to some lesser-known areas outside of the parks that offer stunning scenery and abundant recreational opportunities but with much more solitude than back home in Canmore. Here are some of my favourite hikes for intermediate to more experienced hikers.
Folding Mountain - Hinton Area
Hinton is nestled east of Jasper National Park on HWY 16. Nearby Folding Mountain was my objective at 16.5 km (10.25 mi) and a highpoint of 2,122 m (6,962 ft).
I camped at Wildhorse Lake Provincial Recreation Area. With walk-up tent sites alongside the lake, I was looking forward to watching the sunrise over the water. As I set off up the trail, a steady breeze made the rapid elevation gain go by quickly and I was rewarded with a ridge walk among vibrant wildflowers before the final climb to the summit. I met a family out geocaching and learned that over 10 caches are on this trail. When reaching the summit the sun had begun to lower, turning the landscape into golden tones of yellow. I enjoyed a stunning panorama of prairies turning to foothills, then mountains before descending.
I reached my campsite before dark and in the morning a clear and calm sunrise over the water didn’t disappoint.
Allstones Lake – Goldeye Lake/Bighorn Backcountry
Goldeye Lake Campground is a few minutes’ drive west of Nordegg off the David Thompson Highway (Hwy 11). With its proximity to the trail head, it served as my basecamp for this 9.5 km (5.9 mi) half-day hike with a highpoint of 1,954 m (6,411 ft) to Allstones Lake.
After an hour of winding through forest, the trail opens to views of both Abraham Lake and Mount Michener. A few short climbs and one downhill lead me to the water’s edge where I hiked along the shore and up a slope to enjoy a view of the lake and surrounding mountains. I met a family on their way out after a successful morning of fly-fishing for brook trout and look forward to coming back here with my own fly rod.
Table Mountain – Castle Crown Wilderness
Located in the southwestern corner of the province, just north of Waterton National Park and west of Pincher Creek is a lesser-known area of the Rockies called the Castle Crown Wilderness. Its 1,040 sq km (402 sq mi) is made up of grasslands, foothills, forests and mountains and definitely qualifies as off the beaten path.
With the trailhead minutes from the Beaver Mines Lake Campground, I decided to spend the weekend camping at this quiet spot. At 11 km (6.8 mi) with a highpoint of 2,234 m (7,329 ft), I made this trail a day hike. It starts in an aspen forest and quickly reaches a beautiful viewpoint of the Continental Divide. This area is geologically intriguing, with rocks of vibrant purples and greens. Upon reaching the ridge you are rewarded with a view of prairies on one side and mountains on the other. I met a marmot sunning himself on a rock and a few families were out exploring the ridge to the summit.
Turtle Mountain – Crowsnest
Turtle Mountain became a part of western Canadian history in 1903 when its northeast side let go, partially burying the town of Frank below. I added this 7.8 km (4.8 mi) day-hike with a highpoint of 2,209 m (7,247 ft) into my Beaver Mines Lake camping weekend.
The trailhead at the hamlet of Blairmore off the Crowsnest Highway (Hwy3), climbs steeply and rapidly to the south peak with a complete view of Frank Slide, Crowsnest Mountain and Seven Sisters. I met a large family from the area who frequent this trail to this point. I continued on via basic route finding to scramble to the higher south summit.
I finished my day with a stop in at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre learning more about the equipment that monitors the potential for another slide.
Belmore Brown Peak + Peak #403471 – Bragg Creek / Powderface Trail
In Kananaskis Country, it was exciting to hit the gravel road known as the Powderface Trail to get to the trailhead for the Belmore Brown Peak hike. It’s a 12 km (7.5 mi) day hike with a highpoint of 2,448 m (8,031 ft). With some areas of Bragg Creek being notoriously busy on weekends, it was heaven to have this trail all to myself.
The hike starts along an old logging road that follows a creek bed to a slope that led me to Belmore Brown Peak. When I gained the summit I was hit with views of so many peaks that I didn’t have enough maps with me to name them all. With a summer dusting of snow up high, I spent a while at the second summit of Peak #403471 enjoying the wrap around vistas and the warm sunshine.