Friday, July 24, 2020

Mockingbird Lookout - Family Hiking in Kananaskis

The Mockingbird Lookout is an active fire lookout with a house perched at the top. This means you'll be rewarded with a great 360 view in all directions and you can expect easy hiking on the same road that the lookout attendant drives to reach his house.

The Mockingbird Fire Lookout in Kananaskis

Why you Need to add the Mockingbird Lookout to your Family Hiking List

  1. You only gain 355 metres of height on this hike, making it a great option for young children or for the whole family to enjoy together.

  2. Hiking to a fire lookout gives you a "summit" type experience and most children will feel like they've reached the top of a mountain.

  3. The hiking is easy on a wide gradual road the whole way to the lookout. It's also perfect for physical distancing (plenty of room for passing other groups.)

  4. The lookout is located in the Ghost Public Land Use Zone, a lesser visited area of Kananaskis. As long as you stay away from the random camping areas and leave your ATVs at home, hikers can expect a greater degree of solitude on hiking trails in this area than you would in other areas of Kananaskis. 

  5. This is a great opportunity to explore a new area of Kananaskis. Leave the hikes along Highway 40 for another day and enjoy checking out a more remote corner of Kananaskis.
Great views from the Mockingbird Lookout

Stats for the Hike

Distance: 5.8 km return

Height gain: 350 metres

Time it took us to complete the hike: Approximately 3.5 hours including a stop for lunch at the top.

Rating: It is an easy trail.

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

All Trails Link - Mockingbird Lookout

Mockingbird Lookout, Kananaskis 

Trailhead Information for the Mockingbird Lookout

I suggest downloading the All Trails route for this one to help with finding the trailhead. You'll have to purchase the premium version of the app to do this, but I'm finding it very useful these days as we go in search of more remote (less crowded) hikes.

Without the app, here are my best directions to find the trailhead:

  • From Calgary, take the Highway 1A past Cochrane until you come to Highway 40 North. Turn right here.

  • Drive through Waiprous Village and keep going.

  • Turn left on Waiprous Valley Road (Google maps can help you here)

  • Drive past Camp Mockingbird (which shows up on Google maps and is reached in approximately an hour of driving from Cochrane)

  • Continue past Camp Mockingbird following signs for Camp Chamisall. Turn right just before the final stretch to the camp, staying on Waiprous Valley Road. Here's the google map route from Cochrane to Camp Chamisall.

  • Once you've made that final right hand turn, start watching for the fire lookout road on your right hand side. There should be other vehicles at the trailhead. 

If you don't want to download the All Trails route before you go, I suggest at least looking at the route before you leave cell coverage and you'll have a good idea of where you're going

Total driving time will be just over an hour from Cochrane and know that you'll be on gravel roads. Have a spare tire, know how to change a flat (trust me on this one,) and be prepared for some rough driving at the end once you turn onto Waiprous Valley Road. It's doable in a car if you drive slow.

Following the easy road up to the fire lookout

Hiking to the Mockingbird Fire Lookout Site 

There's not much to say here other than to follow the wide road all the way to the lookout. You'll know you're getting close when you see signs reminding people that somebody works/lives there and that you should not be firing guns.

Then you'll see the actual lookout sign and the short trail up to the top.

Note that the lookout attendant has a dog and he's often off leash (just letting you know in case you have children scared of dogs.) It's a lovely dog, but he could be scary to young children if they aren't prepared to have a dog running down to greet them on the trail.

Since this is an active fire lookout, please respect the lookout space. The outhouse is for private use only and you should ask permission to approach the house or the helicopter pad. There is a picnic table that is open for the public to use.

The attendant up there is very friendly and will often come out to chat with hikers.

Reaching the official lookout sign

Recommended Reading 

First Summits for Families in the Canadian Rockies - a complete guide from easy lookouts and viewpoints to intermediate challenging scrambles. I update this guide annually. 

Friday, July 17, 2020

First Summits - Jumpingpound Mountain, Kananaskis

This hike had been our list for a while, and we finally tackled it this summer. We checked off another family summit, and it was an easy one! This is the perfect "first summit" for families wanting to get that "we just climbed a mountain" feeling without a lot of effort or a huge time commitment.

Jumpingpound Mountain Summit, Kananaskis 

Introduction to Jumpingpound Mountain

The Jumpingpound Summit is located along Jumpingpound Ridge off Powderface Trail, a gravel road that makes its way through the Sibbald Creek Region of Kananaskis. 

The ridge itself is 13 km long, and you can access the summit from either end of the ridge. Most people however, use a shortcut trail to reach the summit directly at the midway point along the ridge. 

The Jumpingpound Summit Trail is a short easy way to get to the top of Jumpingpound Mountain without having to traverse the entire ridge.

Jumpingpound Mountain is a gorgeous objective for a family hike!

Stats for Jumpingpound Mountain 

Height Gain: 415 metres gained 

Distance: 6.5 km return 

Time that it took us: 3.5 hours including rest breaks and a relaxing lunch stop on the summit. (2 hours 40 minutes moving time.)

Age of kids we hiked with: Two boys, ages 10 and 11 

Recommended age for this hike: Fit children 5 and up could easily complete this trip if they like hiking and have done other trails of this nature. There is nothing technical about this trail and you follow a good path the entire time.

Best Guide Book: Family Walks and Hikes in the Canadian Rockies by Andrew Nugara (Affiliate link)

All Trails Link: Follow this link to see the route on the All Trails website. I downloaded the map before our trip so that I'd know where to park. (Note you have to pay for a premium subscription to download maps.) 

Most families should have few problems reaching this beautiful summit

Trailhead Location 

Drive west from Calgary on Highway 1, passing Calaway Park and the turnoff for Bragg Creek/Cochrane. Continue for another 15 minutes and turn onto Sibbald Creek Trail (Highway 68.)

Drive approximately 20 km until you reach Powderface Trail, shortly after the turnoff for Sibbald Lake. Powderface Trail is a rough gravel road so take your time and keep your speed in check. 

Once you're on Powderface Trail, it's about 18 km to the trailhead (just a pullout on the side of the road with no obvious sign.) - Why I downloaded the route from All Trails. 

If you follow this link, I have the directions in Google Maps from Calaway Park to the Jumpingpound Summit Trail. 

Traversing open meadows en route to the summit of Jumpingpound Mountain

What to Expect from the Hike to the Summit of Jumpingpound Mountain

The first part of the trail is a well traveled path through the forest with no views, and you'll gradually gain height the entire time. This is where you'll gain 90% of your height and where you'll want candy or other motivational treats. The terrain is never overly steep, but the kids will remind you that you're going uphill.

Expect this part to last anywhere from an hour to two hours depending on the speed of your group.

Finally you reach the ridge trail though and things improve quickly! In early summer you'll be rewarded with meadows filled with wildflowers, and the walking gets easier with most of the height gain behind you. You finally get to enjoy some pleasant traversing along the wide ridge.

The hiking gets much easier when you reach the ridge

You'll turn left at a trail sign to follow the ridge trail until you come to another junction where you turn right on the final trail to the summit. One short steep push, and you're on top of the beautiful summit where you'll definitely want to spend some time enjoying the views.

Note this summit can often be very windy so choose a calm day!! Other than that, there are no technical challenges for this hike. The trail is never narrow and there is no exposure. This is purely a hike.

The final summit push on the Jumpingpound Ridge

Tips and Suggestions

Hike this trail mid-week if you want a more peaceful experience. It has become quite popular this summer. I also recommend hiking this trail when the wildflowers are out. (I've done it in fall and it was less inspiring at that time.)

As mentioned above, you'll want to choose a warm sunny day so you can hang out at the summit. This  is not a place you'll spend much time at if it's windy or cold. 

Hiking along the rocky ridge crest from the summit

Recommended Reading

First Summits for Families in the Canadian Rockies - a complete guide from easy lookouts and viewpoints to intermediate challenging scrambles. I update this guide annually. 

Parting shot on the Jumpingpound Ridge Trail