Wednesday, October 28, 2015

First Summits - Barrier Lake Lookout, Kananaskis

We've been building our collection of first summits as a family over the past few years and they just keep getting bigger. As of this October, our 6 year old is occasionally faster than me on steep climbs uphill, generally keeps pace with me at a very comfortable speed, is definitely faster than me at running down mountains. One could say that he has no fear but he is actually quite cautious when warranted. He's become quite the competent scrambler on loose terrain and I'm happy to call him my favourite hiking partner.

My Hiking Buddy doing his "Mountain Man" Pose on the Barrier Lake Lookout Trail

Barrier Lake Lookout Hike

In the past month, we have done two new summit hikes, the Barrier Lake Lookout Trail in Kananaskis being the first one. It's an easy hike with little scrambling or off trail hiking, and great for fall thanks to a wide well maintained trail for most of the distance.

Quick Stats:

Elevation Gain: 616 metres

Trail Distance: 10.6 km return

Starting Point and Access: Barrier Dam day-use area on Highway 40, Kananaskis

Best Season: Spring through Fall. (bring snowshoes or ice cleats for winter hiking)

Time it took us to complete the hike: 4 hours round trip

Barrier Lake Lookout Hike above Barrier Lake

The hike starts at the Barrier Dam day use area and you'll begin by hiking around the nearest side of Barrier Lake until you come to a junction with the Stoney Trail at approximately 1.6 km. From here, you follow the Prairie View Trail for the next 3 km until you reach a ridge overlooking Barrier Lake. A bit further brings you to some awesome boulders (shown in the photo above) and a beautiful viewpoint. At this point you've hiked approximately 4.6 km and you could easily turn around.

My friend Jess and Noah looking out over the lake

We decided to continue hiking further to reach the Barrier Lake Fire Lookout House and heli-pad. It's only an additional 0.7 km to reach the lookout site from the boulders (one way) and we were feeling strong. 

Snacks on the heli-pad at the Barrier Lake Lookout

Notes RE the Fire Lookout: This lookout is actively maintained and it is a real working fire lookout. This means that if you visit in Summer, you should keep your distance from the house, approach only if invited, avoid using the outhouse, and refrain from having lunch on the heli-pad. We took a few liberties to get closer because the lookout was closed for the season. In the summer, the attendant on site will be less than impressed if you encroach on his house and his important job of watching for fires.

Noah standing in front of the Fire Lookout House

The Barrier Lake Lookout Hike was a great choice for us but it does feel long on the way down so make sure you are armed with plenty of candy and other motivational treats. Take your time, and allow for plenty of day light in this current season.

Jess and Noah hiking on the easy fire road portion of the hike up to the ridge
Autumn hiking on the Barrier Lake Lookout Trail

For a detailed route description I highly recommend picking up a good guide book for Kananaskis. My favourite is Popular Day Hikes 1 - Kananaskis by Gillean Daffern. The book covers the top 35 popular day hikes in Kananskis and is a great reference guide for families.

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