Late September as the fall colors began to paint the mountains in shades of red, orange and yellow we headed back to the Rockies for a couple of day hikes. The first was in Kananaskis Country, a park system situated one hour west of Calgary, made up of 11 provincial parks. Prairie View Trail begins at the Barrier Lake Dam, switchbacks uphill on an old forestry road to an open meadow with expansive views over Barrier Lake. This lake holds a special place in my heart, it’s where we scattered my Mum’s ashes in 2007 ❤ Continuing along the meadow ridge the trail becomes very steep, with a short section at the top climbing over large rocks before reaching the summit. From the summit the views of Barrier Lake, Mount Baldy and the surrounding area are spectacular. When we lived in Calgary over 18 years ago this was a regular trail I used to ride on my mountain bike…I cannot imagine doing this now!! The round trip distance for this hike was 11.2 km taking us 2 hours to reach the summit and just 80 minutes to descend. We started hiking around 9:30 am on a weekday and did not see any other hikers on the way up. The only people we ran into were a couple of bow hunters at the start of the climb, decked out in full camouflage gear, scouting for moose. They had seen some fresh bear scat, fortunately not on the trail we were going up 🙂 Enjoying our lunch at the summit we reminisced about how many times we had been up here and how breathtaking the views are every time. The majority of the hike is in the forest but when you pop out at the meadow the views are worth the climb. As we headed back down the mountain we saw just over a dozen hikers making their way up, still a quiet day on the trail.
Once finished the Prairie View hike we went deeper into K-Country for a brief visit to Wedge Pond. Wedge Pond is a slice of fall paradise and a photographer’s dream with towering mountains surrounding the lake on all sides. On a calm autumn day, the golden larches are reflected against the water of the pond. Any given weekend you will find the shoreline filled with camera-toting visitors so it’s best to get there early.
Hike #2 was the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail starting at the Chateau Lake Louise, usually crowded with hundreds of tourists looking for the perfect photo. The trail is an out and back hike of just over 13 km round trip, beginning along the shore of Lake Louise. At this point, the trail is wide and flat. Reaching the end of the lake we arrived at the Lake Louise Delta, created by glacial runoff carrying silt deposits from high in the mountains. This silt gives the lake its famous turquoise color. From there the trail narrows and the forest thins quickly as you climb above the treeline, offering views down to Lake Louise and the valley below. The trail continues its ascent along a rocky cliffside then through a barren rocky moraine reaching high into the mountains. The Plain of Six Glaciers hike has an elevation gain of 385 meters (1,263 ft) between the lake and the teahouse so is considered moderately difficult. The final two switchbacks are especially steep before reaching a lovely backcountry teahouse surrounded by stunning glacier views. Our reward at the teahouse was a steaming mug of hot chocolate as we soaked in the surrounding scenery. The teahouse is beautiful and quaint, serving tea, coffee, scones, soup and sandwiches in addition to hot chocolate. There was a slight dusting of snow around the teahouse as the cold winds blew down the mountains, foretelling that winter is not far away! The Plain of Six Glaciers hike is very popular and in the summer months can be very crowded. We did this hike in late September with a group of 4 friends and the trail was definitely more enjoyable than during the peak summer season.
Despite being “grounded” due to the worldwide pandemic, we have made the most of our time in Calgary. The outstanding summer and fall weather gave us the opportunity to explore the abundant hiking trails surrounding the city. It’s not hard to see why the Rocky Mountains are a world-famous destination with majestic views at every turn.