Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country - Hiking Alberta

 

Moose Mountain is a solitary monolith guarding the front range of the Rocky Mountains.

 

 

Moose Mountain is about 40 KM (25 miles) west of south Calgary, Alberta, Canada on Highway 22x which becomes the Elbow Valley Trail, aka Hwy 66, into Kananaskis Country.  

The sprawling, ‘upside down’ mountain peaks out at 2,437 M (7,995 ft) and was created many thousands of years ago when a giant tract of land was overturned, trapping huge forest reserves underneath.  The mountain is full of gas.  

The drive west passes the exit to Bragg Creek and a few kilometers later turns right through the open gate onto the steep, gravel, Moose Mountain Road which will ascend 7.5 KM (4¾ miles), along the top of Moose Mountain Ridge, to the small parking area at the end.

 

Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta

 

 

Along the way there are several turnouts with excellent views across Canyon Creek Valley to the west, and east to the Calgary city skyline.  Prairie Mountain is smaller but prominent on the other side of Canyon Creek Valley.  The drive on Moose Mountain Ridge passes above the top of the Ice Caves.

 

Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Initially the hike follows an old supply road which rolls up and down through forest with the occasional clearing that provides increasingly dramatic scenery as the relatively gentle ascent gains elevation.  After breaking the tree line, a short detour is taken to observe a monitoring station before continuing across the first saddle to the daunting switchbacks.

 

Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Achieving the top of the false summit is always a bit of a psychological setback because the true summit is directly ahead and the ominous climb on tired legs appears unattractive.  The additional ascent distance is not as bad as it looks and there is a relatively flat, short and exhilarating side trip available to the left on the second saddle, to the edge of an outcropping which overlooks Canyon Creek

The vistas and sensation of height are breathtaking.  It is wise to choose a big boulder and sit for a few minutes to absorb the ambiance and rest legs before making the final assault on the summit.

 

Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The remaining stretch begins steep, then levels on good scree trail around the side of the mountain top to the fire lookout.  Because the mountain is isolated, the vistas are absolutely spectacular.  With the fire lookout closed for winter, there is a unique opportunity to relax on the fire lookout deck to have lunch and sip warm chai tea from the thermos as the sun continually modifies creeping shadows.  The experience seems very civilized and peaceful in the fresh, cool breeze with surrounding patches of snow at the mountain summit.

 

 Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

With side excursions, return distance hiked is about 14 KM (9 miles) with gross elevation near 750 M (2,460 ft).   An allowance of 3½ hours up and 2½ hours down is a reasonable pace but in good weather, extra time is justified to relax and absorb the natural aura and extend the enjoyment of the experience.

 

Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

This mountain has been scaled many times with others as well as solo.  It is like an old friend.  The fire lookout is active during the summer months and, if you are extremely courteous, the presiding lookout tenant may extend an invitation for a look at the inside of his dwelling and an interesting explanation of how a fire lookout functions.

 

Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

On previous memorable hikes to the summit of this mountain, there have been 110 KM winds, gusting to 130 KM, where it is necessary to lay down on the ground to avoid being swept off your feet.  The keeper and and I, on one occasion, struggled to lower the plywood covers over the windows so the glass would not be blown out.

In the winter time the summit can be buried under 8 M (25 ft) of snow.  It is a good idea to stop at the Elbow Valley Visitor Centre for current conditions.  The Rangers, if necessary, can provide a host of less exposed alternatives.  Moose Mountain is an excellent, early season conditioner.  The mountain is popular with hikers and cyclists. It is best to avoid weekends in the summer and to be aware of running and cycling events which are good reasons to choose a different mountain. 

 

Moose Mountain - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

For a longer, full day, and increased elevation, the summit bid can begin from the end of the road through West Bragg Creek.  Check your map.  Veer right at the trail fork.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Good question. The Gem Trek map shows no route but my 3rd edition of Volume 2 of the Kananaskis Country Trail Guide shows a link from Jumpingpound Ridge south along the top to the summit of Jumpingpound Mountain, then east on route 334 to the north peak. Not established trail. I have not hiked this route but in my experience, route finding could be an issue, so experience goes a long way. Consider finding someone who has done this hike. There are straighforward ways to summit Moose Mountain from West Bragg Creek Road (consrtuction - check on this) or from the main route off Elbow Falls Trail (Hwy 66). Thank you for your comment, Mike. There is a more current edition of Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Country Trail Guide. I should get that.

is it possible to get to moose mountain from Jumping Pound Ridge? I hiked up there today and can see Moose Mountain. I see it hooks up with Cox Hill. What do you think?

My first impression is that it may be possible you are being a bit conservative. Not a criticism, better than too aggressive. Moose Mountain summit, from the top of the road off Hwy 66, can be done round trip in about 6 hours at a reasonable pace with a break for lunch. As I write, there is a higher than usual snow pack at upper elevations. At present, it is possible there may be snow in a couple of sheltered spots and/or dips in the old fire road. Likely there will be some sloppy spots with drier trail fully exposed above the treeline. You should be fine for the entire distance in August. Please carry one more layer than you think you will need. Moose can be windy. You should stop into the Kananaskis Visitor Centre on the way in to discuss trail conditions with the Rangers. It is always a wise thing to do. If you are feeling good at tree line, I would encourage you to hike the switchbacks above the tree line up and over the false summit for the expanding views. Off to your left (south) you can take a short walk to a fabulous view of Canyon Creek and beyond. The trail to the true summit continues on. It looks a lot worse than it is and it is worth the time and effort if you are still feeling good. The great thing about mountains is, like true friends, they will be there another day. I suggest you enjoy the day as much as you choose. Moose Mountain is an excellent choice for a new hiker. You still have time to do some preconditioning hikes of gradual elevation increase to increase confidence on Moose Mountain. The Kananaskis Country Trail Guide Book will give you a variety of options of distance/elevation ratio to help you get ready. It can be done on Calgary inner-city paths.

I am fairly new to hiking and i am in fair shape, would you recommend this location for myself. Now i should add i would be accompanied by a very experienced hiker and climber. I was not thinking of attempting a summit but exploring up to the upper tree line around the mountain in august. We are considering a couple of days worth of hiking.

The Moose Mountain hike for this particular post was done in January 2006 where conditions were unusual for that time. Such is the way of the mountains. I chose this trip because the photos were best representation of the hike. I have made an attempt on this mountain in April when the snow was impenetrable. The best and most predictable time to go is in late Spring and Summer but the trail will be busy. On this off season hike, Ewa and I owned the mountain. It is always best to check in and out at the Ranger Station. They will help with high altitude weather and forecast and it is always important that someone knows where you are. You are right. High wind can be very exciting. You get a five year supply of fresh air in just a few minutes. At altitude I am always checking the sky. If clouds begin to darken quickly and ceilings drop in weather headed our way, the decision is always to abandon the mission and retreat to lower altitude below the tree line. If the wind is accompanied by horizontal rain or, worse, hail, it can become dangerous. This has happened to me a couple of times and the only thing to do is hunker down in the shelter of a big boulder or whatever you can find. It has never ceased to amaze me how rapidly weather can change in the mountains. It often stops as quickly as it started. You get to tell exciting stories. A bit of embellishment is allowed. Thank you for your interest. I hope this diatribe answered your questions.

You are braver than me - 130km/hr gusting winds?! You'll need weighted boots for something like that! Did you do this hike recently? Just wondering what season(s) the trail is hike-able in...

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