It is often called Barrier Mountain but that is not correct. It is actually a high point at the north end of McConnell Ridge. The summit hosts a little house clearly visible from the TransCanada Hwy. This is the Barrier Lake Fire Lookout.
The north-east face of McConnell Ridge from the corner of TransCanada Hwy and Kananskis Trail looking across Morley Flats
The drive west from Calgary, under clear skies, turns south at Morley Flats onto Kananaskis Trail. Morley Flats is on the western edge of the Stoney Nakoda Indian Reservation at the intersection of Bow Valley with Kananaskis Valley. Twenty thousand years ago, the front range of the mountains was encased in glacial ice 2,000 ft (610 metres) deep. The glaciers receded about 10,000 years ago.
A view towards the objective on McConnell Ridge from the trailhead at the Barrier Dam
The trailhead begins near the Barrier Dam at an elevation of 4,545 ft (1,385 m) and the trail to the top is 4.0 miles (6.4 km) in length one way with an elevation gain of 2,000 ft (610 m).
Mount Baldy – 7,190 ft (2,192 m) from the northwest corner of Barrier Lake
The flat hike across ‘S’ shaped Barrier Dam heads directly towards McConnell Ridge and offers incredible views of Kananaskis Valley mountains to the south and Mount Baldy rising prominently over the east side of Barrier Lake. Prior to 1984, Mount Baldy was named Barrier Mountain. The confusion begins.
The road over the dam veers left through a maze of offshoot roads until a trail sign on the right clearly marks the Prairie View Trail crossing Stoney Trail and leading onto good road over a steady grade on switchbacks to the former site of Pigeon Lookout. Pigeon Lookout, partway up McConnell Ridge was replaced by Barrier Lake Lookout at the summit in 1982. The Pigeon Lookout, resident on McConnell Ridge overlooking Barrier Lake from 1960 to 1982, was returned to near its former location where this building had served as Guard Tower # 8. Pigeon Lookout never did have anything to do with nearby Pigeon Mountain but it certainly adds to the ongoing confusion.
The Wild Rose is the Province of Alberta official flower
Prairie View Trail is an old road, well graded on broad switchbacks with a straight-line, steeper alternative
The trail levels a bit on the approach to beautiful views over Barrier Lake and Mount Baldy.
Barrier Lake from the abandoned location of the Pigeon Lookout – i.e Guard House # 8
The view from old Pigeon Lookout down the Kananaskis Valley
The ongoing kilometre-long (.625 mile) trail to the top is substantially more rustic with short, steep sections until arrival at the large metal repeating station screen used for bouncing radio signals around corners. A short diversion offers more amazing views of Barrier Lake, the Bow Valley Corridor and surrounding mountains in the Kananaskis Valley.
Steeper, more rustic trail continues to fabulous vistas from the repeater station
Spring flowers are late-blooming but in abundance on this early summer day
Vistas of Barrier Lake and surrounding mountains expand as elevation is gained aggressively
Looking to the east over Morley Flats
The steep rocky approach to the repeating station and a new set of amazing vistas
The large metal screen, repeater station used to bounce radio signals around corners and mountains
A labyrinth of trails beyond the repeating station lead to the summit. As long as I am gaining elevation and do not deviate sufficiently to fall off either side, I know I will achieve my objective. I choose to stay on cliff edges to the right for amazing views over Camp Chief Hector, Yamnuska Centre, Chilver Lake, Mount Yamnuska and the Bow Valley Corridor.
View from McConnell Ridge across the TransCanada Highway and the Bow River to the south face of Mount Yamnuska
Forested valley bowl to the south from near the top of McConnell Ridge
The cliff edge is saturated with flowers along the final approach to the Barrier Lake Lookout
Typical signage announces the proximity of the Barrier Lake Lookout at the 6,550 ft (1,996 m) summit of McConnell Ridge. A new 700 pound precast concrete picnic table has been airlifted to the left of the helicopter pad at the approach to the lookout. The long-time custodian, Chip, is out taking measurements and I hail him to request permission to proceed. It is the courteous thing to do because the personnel who staff fire lookouts live here for the spring, summer and fall fire season. Sophisticated equipment monitors weather conditions, which are relayed to appropriate locations. Fires, usually started by lightning or irresponsible humans are triangulated from fire lookouts within visual contact. The Barrier Lake Lookout has a direct line of sight with the Moose Mountain Fire Lookout, as an example. There are excellent views here from the top to the Bow Valley Corridor looking towards Grotto Mountain towering above Lac des Arcs, and across to Mount Yamnuska where many rock climbers have learned their craft from very experienced instructors. Mount Yamnuska is also an excellent hike up the east slope and around the back side. There are some fascinating features which will leave those who choose to do the hike to the summit with life-long memories.
The approach to the Barrier Lake Lookout at the top of McConnell Ridge above the Bow Valley Corridor
View from Barrier Lake Lookout towards Grotto Mountain towering above Lac des Arcs across from Heart Mountain
Mount Yamnuska from the Barrier lake Lookout
Final view from the Barrier Lake Lookout
On the 6.4 km (4.0 mile) retreat, by the same route, there are a number of diversion trails to cliff edges which provide outstanding views.
Side trails lead to spectacular views on the return hike by the same route.
At the lookout over Barrier Lake, I take a zoom photo of the location near the Colonel’s Cabin and the University of Calgary Field Station where the old Pigeon Lookout stands as Guard Tower # 8 in memory of past world conflict.
The University of Calgary Field Station on Kananaskis Trail near Barrier Dam where Guard Tower # 8 stands firm in history.
A slight and welcome breeze has come up in the afternoon and back at the Barrier Dam there are kayaks gliding over Barrier Lake on a slight chop which sparkles like diamonds as the sun reflects from the surface.
Kayaks and diamonds on Barrier Lake with Mount Baldy in the background on a very fine day
I use the full switchbacks on the way down without short-cutting on the steeper trails. It will help preserve the trail for others and also help my knees for another day. As hiking goes, this is an excellent day in every way.