If there is a fire look out on a top somewhere you know the view will probably be pretty good. At least it holds true for Barrier Lake Fire Lookout. This hike will give you views over mountain and prairie, all in one hike. It is also at fairly low elevation in a dry area and is a perfect early season hike. We did this hike June 6th our first year in Canada and there was no snow left, so you could probably easily do the hike in May as well.
The hike starts at the beautiful, but sometimes windy, Barrier Lake in Kananaskis Country about an hour west of Calgary. K-Country is the lesser known ‘little brother’ of Banff National Park. The drive from the city is shorter and you don’t have to pay the park entrance fee. The trails are often not as busy in this area ‘where the locals hike’.
Shoreline of Barrier Lake with the Fire Lookout in the background
Beautiful Barrier Lake is actually a reservoir
The hike starts at the parking lot in the east end of the reservoir and you walk along a gravel road that crosses the Barrier Dam. You pass a couple of junctions the first kilometres as there are some trails going parallel to the lake, but you are going continuing straight uphill (north). After about 3.5 kilometres from starting the hike, after climbing some switchbacks, you’ll get to the McConnell Ridge. At this point the trail opens up to give you a view, the hike has been mostly through forest up to this point.. The trail turns toward south-west and you are heading towards Prairie View Lookout.
Prairie View Lookout
Curious little fellow
I am not sure why this lookout point is called ‘Prairie View’ as it is really Barrier Lake and the surrounding mountains that dominate the view, but it is beautiful. For many this is the end of the trail and they turn around here, or continue on west down to Jewell Creek and down to Barrier Lake again making it a loop. But from Prairie View it is just a short hike up to the Fire Lookout, not more than 500 meters I would estimate. There are lots of smaller trails leading up to the Fire Lookout, but whichever you choose you can’t miss it.
Happy hiker that made it to the top
When you get to the Fire Lookout you get the real Prairie View in my opinion. Anyone is allowed to use the rest area on the summit, but there are signs asking to respect the privacy of those working at the fire lookout that is still active. Up here you have views over the prairie to east and the Rocky Mountains to the west. And if you are lucky to have someone who don’t mind carrying a bit of extra gear you can enjoy a cup of freshly brewed coffee while enjoying the view.
Beautiful view with snow capped mountains
Hubby is boiling water and preparing the french press
Length: 8 km roundtrip
Elevation gain: 625 m (2,051 ft)
Duration: 3-4 hours
I can’t wait for the spring to come, there are still so many hikes I want to do in Kananaskis and in the Rockies. If you have any suggestions for a great hike in the Rockies we can’t miss please let me know. Have you started planning you hikes this season yet? Comments are much appreciated, I would love to hear what you think.