Jewell Falls - Kananaskis Country - Hiking Alberta

 

Jewell Falls is a gem, accessible from the Barrier Lake Dam in Kananaskis Country.

 

 

The 65 kilometer (41 mile) drive west from Calgary, beneath overcast skies on the TransCanada Highway, turns south onto Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40) at the intersection hosting the Stoney Nakoda Resort and Casino.  Trail-head parking is a well-signed right turn past the Barrier Lake Visitor Centre across Kananaskis Trail from Tim Horton Children's Ranch to park near Barrier Dam

Ceilings are still high but insufficiently dark to generate rain in the near term.  Maybe. Today, the hike to Jewell Falls on the Jewell Pass trail, which stretches North-South between Barrier Lake and the TransCanada Highway east of Heart Mountain near Lac des Arcs, will begin by hiking across the 'S' shaped earth dam which interrupts the Kananaskis River to create Barrier Lake.  There are several other access options and there is wisdom in carrying and referring to a hiking guide and trail map.  A tangled labyrinth of confusing trail occupies this popular area.

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada Mount Baldy across Barrier Lake in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada Bow Corridor Mountains past the end of Barrier Lake as viewed from the earth dam

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada The S-shaped earth dam which creates Barrier Lake in Kananaskis Country

 

The hike west over the dam to the service road beneath power lines to the Jewell Pass trail-head is about 4 kilometers (2½ miles) long, one-way, and very beautiful with mountains surrounding Barrier Lake on one side and spring-green forest buffering the glacier-carved and sheer rock walls of McConnell Ridge on the other.

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada The powerline access road on the north shore of Barrier Lake

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada A bridge of little consequence

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada The Jewell Pass trail-head - Kananaskis, Alberta, Canada

 

Note: This hike to Jewell Falls is substantially modified by June, 2013 floods, however, the Kananaskis Trail Crew and the Friends of Kananaskis Country have worked very hard to reopen and improve the trail.

The trail-head on the right is clearly signed and initial progress gradually gains elevation above the rapid white water of Jewell Creek echoing through the valley against massive rock walls on Heart Mountain.  Recent rain has magnified the aroma of evergreen forest punctuated by a multitude of deciduous green colors on newly budding trees.

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada Gaining initial elevation on Jewell Pass Trail - Back side of Heart Mountain on photo left

 

The gain in elevation above the creek is followed immediately by a steep drop to creek-side where twisting, cascading rapids capture the attention.  Undulating trail is good, occasionally damp and varies between evergreen needle soft and rustic rocky. 

The roar of Jewell Creek is the sole companion so yelling 'Yo' or 'Yo, bear', louder and more frequently than normal is expedient adjacent to fast, noisy water in case any animals need to be aware of my presence.  The loud water will mask their ability to hear the same way it does mine.

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada View from Jewell Pass Trail back to Kananaskis Valley
 
Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada Over the top and down to Jewell Creek in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada
 
 

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada Wooden plank bridges cross back and forth over Jewell Creek

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada Typical Jewell Pass trail beside cascading Jewell Creek

 

The objective for this day is Jewell Falls about 2 kilometers (1¹⁄₃ miles) north from the trail-head.  This hike will not continue to Jewell Pass on this day but crossing sawn log bridges, back and forth, over fast, white water in Jewell Creek is a sensory experience.  Proximity to Jewell Falls is confirmed when trail is obliterated by snow over ice.

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada Ice on the trail, Jewell Falls is nearby

 

When waterfall flow runs faster than creek water flow the creek freezes first and water from the waterfalls pours over the top of the creek until everything finally succumbs to the winter freeze.

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada Jewell Falls from the Jewell Pass trail

 

The waterfall is tucked into a rock-bound alcove on the west side of Jewell Creek and, for the next half hour, scrambling over dead fall and difficult terrain rendered slippery by ice and moss is required to capture photographs satisfactory to share. 

The large horizontal chunk of ice at the base of the fall, which was recently the vertical ice fall, has tumbled down when rocks warmed and greater spring flow pushed it away.  The residual ice will soon be gone so timing is fortunate.  In the late summer and fall the waterfall may be a trickle or dry.

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada Approaching Jewell Falls

 

The waterfall is just a few meters off trail, and about 20 feet (3 meters) tall, but it is making plenty of noise today.

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada Jewell Falls

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada Jewell Falls

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada Jewell Falls - Horizontal chunk of waterfall ice has fallen from warming rock walls

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada Jewell Waterfall - Runoff from Heart Mountain

 

On the return hike via the same way taken in, a hike off-trail from the power line access route is exercised to photograph the base of McConnell Ridge where glacial rock monoliths accentuate the landscape and large, difficult-to-access cave openings high up on the face of the ridge capture the attention.

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada Typical Jewell Pass trail on the return hike to Barrier Lake

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada Large glacial deposited stones - Caves in McConnell Ridge

 

Accessing the broad shoreline on the return will shorten and flatten out the return hike.  When Barrier Lake is full, this alternative will not be an option.  Today it is a pleasant stroll, predominantly over sand with a border of water on one side and tons of driftwood on the other.  Heavy weather is forming up but intermittent sun mixed with an occasional drop of rain that evaporates quickly is thoroughly enjoyable.

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada Hiking the shoreline of Barrier Lake on the return hike to the car

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada A shoreline view of Mount Baldy across Barrier Lake in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada Crossing the top of S-shaped Barrier Dam on the hike back to the car

 

Jewell Pass - Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada Power plant and Kananaskis River on the outlet of Barrier Dam in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

This is a relatively short and easy hike of about 8 kilometers (5 miles) round trip with minor elevation and a wide variety of amazing scenery along good trail.  This hike will appeal to hikers with a bit of experience who can effectively reference a hiking guide and map.  The hike can be lengthened substantially by continuing to Jewell Pass and the scenic Barrier Lake Lookout to form a circuit back to Barrier Dam and the parking area.

 

 

 

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Comments

Well, Leigh, I would rate Jewell Falls from Barrier in the spring forest, running water, pre-season conditioning category; about 12 K round trip, 260 m gain, max 1,630 m. Just a nice walk. It would be more aggressive coming in from the north off TransCanada just east of Heart Creek. It would make it more aggressive hiking up and over Jewell Pass but never above the treeline and probably a bit sloppy near the top. Heart Mountain will give you a good workout with a minor scramble and a great view of Heart Creek in the valley and the waterfalls on Mount McGillivary. The back side of the mountain may still have snow in the forest near the top. Up and Back on the mountain from the Heart Creek trailhead will be about 8 K with gain of 930 m and max elev of 2,150 m. There are a lot of possibilities but beauty is in the eye of the beholder; a good workout for one person is a cake walk for another. There is a lot of water running late this year so I might be reluctant to plan anything with a river crossing like Forget-Me-Not in Kananaskis. I have not been out there recently. Sorry I cannot be of more specific help.

This looks like an interesting early season hike. I'm heading to Calgary this weekend and hoping for one day of hiking. What hike would you suggest at this time of year - where you get a good workout with great scenery?

Thank you for your comment D. It was a great day and I am looking forward, in the near term, to a hike up Porcupine Creek just south of Mount Baldy. This summer will be revisiting a series of hikes I have done before, but will be new to my blog. There is still a formidable snow pack at higher elevations which will feed waterfalls well into the summer. It will be like renewing acquaintances with old friends not seen in a long time.

Great day out there! Low water on Barrier makes for a nice shoreline hike, like that at times on the Upper Kananaskis Lake too I recall from a few years back. Wonderful images of Mt Baldy. That is a neat scramble with a traverse over its three summits if you want. Brings back some memories... D

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