Stoney Trail is a historical trail between river and mountains in north Kananaskis Country, Alberta.
Stoney Trail follows the west shore of Barrier Lake and the Kananaskis River. The trail can be easily accessed off Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40) at the Barrier Lake exit just south of the Barrier Lake Information Centre. This hike begins by walking west across the top of the Barrier Dam and locating the trail junction a short distance past the second set of power lines.
Crossing Barrier Dam is typically in a stiff breeze with amazing views of Mount Baldy looming above to the east and multiple mountains at the south end of Barrier Lake. The Kananaskis River continues through a dramatic canyon at the outlet of the Barrier Dam interruption. As the hike continues the short distance west to approach the Stoney Trail junction, McConnell Ridge commands the view in front to the west.
Stoney Trail travels a long distance south along the west shore of Barrier Lake and the Kananaskis River to Ribbon Creek at Kananaskis Village. This would be the direction to access the trail along Jewell Creek to Jewell Falls and on over Jewell Pass through Quaite Creek and Valley around Heart Mountain. On this day the hike proceeds via signs to the short section of Stoney Trail which heads north-east past the intersection of the trail junction leading to Barrier Lake Fire Lookout at the top of the north end of McConnell Ridge. The posted trail map is helpful.
Trail map of the immediate area north of Barrier Dam
Along the trail which is still partially iced, and through predominantly spring forest, there is a bear skin pelt hanging from a branch at trail side. Unusual.
The trail is straight and uneventful with long advance views. Slight variations in topography create sections of water and ice in the dips. About half way along the 3.4 KM (2⅛ mile) one-way section to the 'Y', the hike through forest opens into a large field to the right.
Past the field, more straight, flat trail through dense forest leads to a gentle decline in dense forest, mainly on icy trail, to a 'Y' junction. The branch right, to the east, leads to a 4.8 KM (3 mile) hike to the Rafter Six Ranch Resort across from Exshaw, Alberta, and the left fork leads to the infamous Rocky Mountain YMCA Camp.
Following an excellent lunch in the sun, the hike begins via the same route taken in.
At the big field, there are old structures at the far side to check them out. The field is covered with deer poop.
There is an access road beneath nearby power lines which will reduce the return time and distance with the bonus of a new perspective. Alternate course and new views are usually always appealing over the same route taken in.
The choice is a good one and the return to Barrier Lake proceeds more quickly on wide, dry, access road beneath the power lines. Back at Barrier Dam the views across the lake and into the dam outlet canyon are breathtaking.
The brisk breeze of two hours ago has become a substantial, sustained wind. When the wind gusts, holding the camera steady becomes impossible and the stiff wind takes the breath away. Getting a five-year supply of fresh air every minute is exhilarating in the sun.
The afternoon on Stoney Trail, following a short morning hike from Lusk Creek in the morning, has been another great day of enjoying hiking on easily accessible spring trails in Kananaskis Country, Alberta.