Mount Kidd Fire Lookout provides spectacular views in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.
The trail to the abandoned Mount Kidd Lookout begins in Kananaskis Village near the south end of Kananaskis Mountain Lodge (formerly known as Delta Hotels Kananaskis Lodge). Following the very pleasant and relaxing hike around the short, easy Eau Claire Trail, the drive north on Kananaskis Trail turns west on Mt. Allan Drive towards Nakiska Mountain Resort to cross the bridge over the fast-flowing Kananaskis River with landmark Mount Kidd clearly obvious front left.
A left turn onto Centennial Drive, and a drive up the hill leads to a right turn onto Terrace Drive to the public parking area for Mount Kidd Manor. The day is sunny and warm with predominantly clear skies. Many people are enjoying the facilities of this world-class, up-scale accommodation isolated in breathtaking, mountain wilderness. A great day can be had wandering the property on flat and plentiful lodge trails to simply enjoy the relaxing mountain and valley views.
The view south from Terrace Trail is spectacular. At a clearly signed junction, continuing on Terrace Trail South requires a right turn onto good, wide gravel road into forest where clematis-like vines with flowers drape trail-side trees for a beautiful spring display.
At the next trail decision, the required Kovach Trail veers to the right, and on the left the Terrace Trail continues south 6.5 KM (4⅛ miles) to link with the Galatea area trails. The Kovach Trail switchbacks up a moderate grade on excellent, wide road over the east side of Mount Kidd's north ridge. There is a lot of water running and several times the Kovach Trail is wet and/or muddy. Gravel surface migrates to an even more pleasant grass surface as the hike continues to gain moderate elevation.
The Kovach Trail arrives at a junction with Aspen Trail to the right. The hike proceeds on the left branch Kovach Trail and continues to gain elevation on switchbacks. Spring runoff, flowing across the Kovach Trail, increases. The hiking boots handle the water and mud without issue.
The next turn will be left onto the trail which will proceed directly to the Mount Kidd Lookout. The trail is not a maintained trail so careful scanning is underway of the left side of the Kovach Trail as the hike proceeds. Initially the little waterfall on the left at roadside is discounted along with the stream feeding it, but a cairn of rocks beneath the branch of a tree catches the eye and suggests the stream is the trail-head. The trail-head would have been very easy to miss. Careful attention to distance on the map will be helpful.
The first half kilometer (¹⁄₃ mile) is wet and the rate of elevation gain increases. A young buck tries to hide behind a branch as I pass in relatively close proximity and I pretend to not see him. We need to work together on these things. Views begin to expand as the forest thins and the trail continues to gain elevation more aggressively.
After exiting the forest, the trail travels straight up the steep, grassy, east side of Mount Kidd's north ridge. The grade is steep and humbling requiring consistent maintenance of a positive attitude. To prevent the heart from exploding, it is necessary to periodically pause and enjoy the expanding views to the north where Mount Lorette dominates other peaks all the way to Barrier Lake.
Directly below is the Kananaskis Mountain Lodge (formerly known as Delta Hotels Kananaskis Lodge) and to the south-east is the Kananaskis Golf Course. There are clear views of Kananaskis Trail and the Kananaskis River passing through the bottom of Kananaskis Valley. The views are impressive and, following a brief pause, motivate gaining additional elevation.
The steep trail leads to a spruce and pine forest towards the top of the ridge which harbors mounds of snow. Mercifully the grade is reduced as the trail leads diagonally to achieve the top of the ridge and intercept the concrete foundations of the abandoned Mount Kidd Lookout.
Following are a few photos and a 360 degree video taken at the site of the abandoned fire lookout on top of the north ridge of Mount Kidd.
Perhaps, the highlight of this particular visit, as the spring runoff is fully underway, is the amplified sound of running water from the bowl to the west. Coal Mine Scar is clearly on Mount Allan, and snow-capped mountains are breathtakingly beautiful, but the sound of hundreds of waterfalls combined with gentle breeze creates a powerful natural ambiance. The effort to get up here was well worth the time and effort.
The trip down is easier and faster than expected. Kananaskis Mountain Lodge (formerly known as Delta Hotels Kananaskis Lodge) is the gauge of progress and the car is visible in the parking area as the hike descends carefully down the steep grassy slope and back through the forest to Kovach Trail.
Back at the junction of the Kovach Trail a few minutes are taken to relax in the sun while collecting a few stones to build another trail-head cairn on the opposite side. This will make the trail-head more obvious and those who follow may choose to add a stone or two.
The exit from the forest onto the paved portion of Terrace Trail offers outstanding mountain views looming above the Kananaskis Mountain Lodge.
The Mount Kidd Lookout trail is 3.1 KM (1⅞ miles) from Kananaskis Village. It seems longer. The elevation gain is 579 m (1,900 ft). It seems like more. The trail is all up or all down so net and gross elevation gain are the same. The significant majority of the gain is from Kovach Trail to the top of the north ridge of Mount Kidd. Characteristic of any fire lookout, the sweeping vistas easily justify the effort. Maximum elevation achieved is 2,105 m (6,905 ft).
The Mount Kidd Fire Lookout had relatively short and interesting history which is well documented in the book 'Fire Lookout Hikes in the Canadian Rockies' by Mike Potter. Over many years this book has been consulted many times to hike to several Fire Lookouts in Alberta and British Columbia. There are directions for 82 fire lookout locations in Volume 1 of Mike's book. Recently discovered is a Volume 2 with 101 additional fire lookouts documented.