Thursday, July 04, 2019

First Summits - Pigeon Mountain, Kananaskis

Continuing with my "First Summits" series, we've reached the top of another mountain as a family and this one was a great hike with no technical scrambling or extreme experience required. Pigeon Mountain will crush you though if you don't work up to it (So don't use it as your first training hike of the season!)

Why You Need to Add Pigeon Mountain to your Hiking List 

Wildflowers on the Pigeon Mountain Hike
  1. If you time your visit for early summer you'll be rewarded with an amazing display of wildflowers blooming in the meadow you'll climb to the summit (something I appreciated as a distraction from the steep hike.)

  2. It's hard to find summits without technical scrambling that still offer a good challenge in terms of distance and height. Pigeon is an ideal choice for a long day hike for families who don't want to have to worry about bringing a rope, helmets, or other safety gear.

  3. Route finding is minimal on this hike.

  4. This trail rarely feels crowded. The distance is long enough that everybody spreads out and we even had the summit to ourselves (on a Saturday in the peak of wildflower season.)

  5. The trailhead is close to Calgary so you won't be driving more than you actually hike.

We had the summit all to ourselves on Pigeon Mountain

Stats for the Hike

Distance: approximately 15 km round trip 

Height gain: approximately 1000 metres 

Time it took us to complete the hike: 6 hours round trip 

Rating: Technically it is easy. For distance + height I'd rate it as a more advanced hike. The trail is also very steep as you climb to the summit

Best Guide Book: Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, Volume 3, Gillean Daffern - Amazon affiliate link

All Trails Link - Pigeon Mountain hike 

Climbing the steep trail up to the summit of Pigeon Mountain

Trailhead Information and Finding the Trail for Pigeon Mountain 

The parking lot is at the Skogan Pass Trailhead at Dead Man's Flats off the TransCanada Highway. See the Google Maps Link here. 

From the parking lot, start hiking up the Skogan Pass Trail following the powerline. If you climbed all the way to the top of the pass, you'd be able to descend the other side to Kananaskis Village around Troll Falls. (for reference.)

The Skogan Pass Trail quickly comes to a junction with the Centennial Ridge Trail but you want to stick to the Skogan Pass Trail which weaves in and out of the trees, often following right under the powerline. 

Hiking up the Skogan Pass Trail from Dead Man's Flats 

There is one other junction on the Skogan Pass Trail where you'll see a sign directing hikers to the left rather than following the powerline straight up (which is where service vehicles would go.) 

Other than those junctions, it is straightforward hiking up the Skogan Pass Trail until you reach a side trail on your left with a sign that says "Living with wildlife means respecting their space." This is the turnoff for Pigeon Mountain. The sign also reminds hikers that the trail is closed to human use from December 1st to June 15th.

The Pigeon Mountain Trail where it leaves the Skogan Pass Trail

Hiking to the Summit of Pigeon Mountain

Forest trail from the Skogan Pass junction
It took us 1.5 hours to reach the actual Pigeon Mountain Trail and then another 2 hours to reach the summit for a total of 3.5 hours up. 

By comparison, it only took us 2.5 hours to hike down.

From the junction of the Skogan Pass Trail you have another 2.8 km to hike and still have 535 metres of height to gain. This is where you also start hiking very steeply uphill.

The trail starts out through the forest but you quickly come to a wide open meadow with a dirt trail heading straight up. This is your life for the next hour or two (depending on how fast you hike.)

I was struggling with blisters and legs that didn't think 1000 metres of height gain was fun for a second hike of the season. Without me, my boys could have easily conquered the hike through the meadow in an hour I'm sure. 

Fortunately, the hike through the meadow is beautiful, the flowers are incredible if you time your hike right for late June/early July, and there are many rounded grassy bumps to rest on.

Rest break while climbing through the meadow to the top of Pigeon Mountain

The grade levels out as you reach the ridge until the final summit push where you turn left towards the double pyramids. The summit is the second one. 

The Summit as seen in the background from the ridge
Hiking along the ridge towards the summit
It gets steep for the final summit push but you're almost there!

The Summit! 

We enjoyed that we had the summit to ourselves but didn't stay very long because we knew we still had at least 7 km of walking ahead of us before we'd reach the car. 

My mighty hiker, age 10 

Hiking Down 

It still took us another 2.5 hours to reach the parking lot on the way down and I realized how steep the trail was as we descended the meadow. (I couldn't walk down the stairs in my house the next day.)

I took a lot more photos on the way down since I wasn't forced to concentrate all my effort on breathing!

The trail is exceptionally pretty 

A look back up the steep trail through the meadow

Lots of rest breaks
One tired hiker by the time we reached the Skogan Pass Trail again

Recommended Reading 

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