Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country - Hiking Alberta

 

Old Baldy is an unassuming ridge across Kananaskis Trail from Mount Kidd in Kananaskis Country.

 

 

The hike to the top of Old Baldy in Kananaskis Country begins from the Evan-Thomas Creek parking lot located on the east side of Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40), south of Boundary Ranch, and north of Wedge Pond, across the trail from Mount Kidd.  It is about 2 KM (1¹⁄₃ miles) from Evan-Thomas parking to the trail-head and 5.3 KM (3¹⁄₃ miles) from trail-head to summit with net elevation gain of 862 m (2,830 ft) to maximum altitude of 2,286 m (7,830 ft).  

Out of the parking lot, a brief walk south leads to a left turn onto Evans-Thomas Creek Road which parallels Evans-Thomas Creek and provides impressive, periodic views of 'the Wedge' and the Fortress.

 

Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Views of the Wedge and the Fortress from Evan-Thomas Creek Trail in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.

 

On about 2 KM (1¼ miles) of straight and relatively flat road, with leisurely elevation gain, it is important to resist the urge to take multiple trail alternatives on both sides until arriving at a clear option on a road turning left.  Hiking at an average around 4 KM per hour will arrive at the correct trail junction in about 30 minutes and it looks like the photo following the pretty bee-laden flower.

 

Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Wildflowers are abundant and the display along the way is impressive on this early summer day.

 

Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The left turn, onto the correct trail to the top of Old Baldy, is on a minor descent just prior to where a creek may flow over the road.  The correct trail may be distinguished by a small cairn.  It is important to pay close attention here because there are several incorrect options prior to this trail junction. 

The trail to Old Baldy will track a picturesque creek, flowing fast on this day in runoff.  Later in the season the water flow may be substantially reduced and may not flow over the surface of the road.  The correct junction appears in the photo below.

 

Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The rustic forest hike along McDougall Creek is stunningly beautiful, past crystal-clear, cascading, white water through moss-bordered banks, with the sun peaking through trees in morning light.  The sight, sound and aroma is truly spectacular.  Occasionally it is necessary to navigate some rocky sections or a bit of dead fall.

 

Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The trail becomes more challenging along the creek side with navigation over hilly and rocky surfaces.  Elevation gain is consistent and occasionally erratic.  Over the entire hike, gross elevation gain is slightly more than net but they are nearly the same.  There are some short climbs on steep grades and some edgy bits on rock face above McDougall Creek.

 

Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

There is no problem navigating the brief exposure to water other than boots possibly getting wet on a couple of the creek stepping stones.

 

Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The trail offers a variety of interesting terrain but is predominantly an exercise in the navigation of rocky surfaces.  Elevation gain is mainly gradual and there are interesting features and cairns as increased altitude leads to broader and more spectacular views.  Looking back provides an outstanding view of the Wedge to the south.

 

Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The waterfall can be heard for some time prior to its appearance through creek-side shrubbery.  There is a trail opportunity shortly afterwards to climb on rock above the waterfall for a better view of the small but stunningly beautiful fall encased in rock and feeding crystal-clear pools.  There is also an important trail junction alternative here to gain the top of Old Baldy.

 

Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

As altitude is consistently gained, the valley opens and unnamed peaks begin to appear and gradually expand in the distance.  The trail tracks creeks which intermittently flow underground.  There are two important trail junctions.  The first is back near the waterfall.  More later.  The second takes off to the right for a scree slog that might be best left for another day.

 

Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The trail levels off into a beautiful basin with surrounding scree slopes, rock fall, wildflowers and grassy slopes.   Dramatic unnamed mountain peaks serve as a backdrop to a pristine tarn, garnished with snow encrusted scree borders and brilliant green meadow, enhanced with alpine flowers and shrubbery.  To the left a field of talus leads to a steep, long, intimidating grass slope. 

After working the way across the rock fall, it is a steep, gut-crunching, heart-thumping climb of creative, spontaneous and imaginary switchbacks.  If it was necessary to roll a large boulder up the steep hill, this would be similar to Hell.  Instead, the majority of remaining energy is focused on staying alive and maintaining a positive attitude.  Experience counts here.

 

Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Looking over the edge at the top of Old Baldy is a very welcome sight.  The view to the northwest captures the now green grass slopes of Nakiska with the summits of Mount Allan and Collembola behind.  The tops of surrounding mountains protrude in waves to finally dissipate in misty distance.  For the modest elevation, the view is far more spectacular than expected.

 


 

Click here to enjoy a video from the top of Old Baldy in Kananaskis Country, Alberta.

 


 

A slight and welcome breeze restores the will to live after the thigh-thumping climb from the pristine tarn up the steep grass slope.  There is time now to enjoy a relaxing lunch in the sun.  From this position on the east end of the summit a few photos of the relatively flat, stretched out, boomerang shaped ridge called 'Old Baldy' can be captured. 

 

Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The tarn below is dwarfed by its very beautiful surroundings.  After plenty of rest, the return will begin and even though there is an alternative off the scree slopes of the west ridge, there is a more gentle valley dip just west of current position.  A hike that direction allows pictures of the valley below which leads to the drainage explored in search of Heavenly Bush above the RCMP Emergency Centre.

 

Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

There are fissures in the surface which no doubt feed snow melt into underground streams that will erupt into creeks further down the mountain.  Vegetation is lush, but close to the surface in the eternal struggle to flourish in the harsh exposed conditions of higher altitude. 

Earth colors are prevalent with the exception of a single, lonely, uniquely colored and very conspicuous Paintbrush.  A hike out of the way is justified to take a picture of this solitary plant which clearly deserves the effort.  The beautiful flower could represent a manifestation of my own preference and comfort zone.

 

Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The descent into the draw steepens to track another cascading, white-water creek where crystal water alternatively flows above ground and below the surface.  This off-trail descent route picks up what I first believe are snippets of game trail.  The descent is clearly proceeding on the opposite side of the scree slope negotiated on the way up from the alpine tarn.

 

Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The trail becomes more organized on steep descent adjacent to the creek and into evergreen forest before popping out at the valley bottom near McDougall Creek.  This is the left branch of the fork missed on the way in.  

There is a single stone cairn on top of a boulder, but the junction is so subtle it is easy to miss.  No harm done.  The original intent was to hike to the tarn and make the steep ascent from there.  The return to Evan-Thomas, beside McDougall Creek, is a reverse copy of the approach and frequently offers a great view of the Wedge.  Familiar mountains conjure up memories of past adventures.

 

Old Baldy - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The Wedge, as seen from the Mount Baldy Trail in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.

 

On the final stretch, back to the Evan-Thomas parking area, aggressive time is being clocked on this hot and humid day.  Clear, cold water in the trunk of the car beckons.

On the Evan-Thomas Creek Road, a bird, a robin, lands on the trail about 20 meters (65 feet) ahead and begins hopping in the same direction.  The aggressive pace is faster than the tiny bird can hop.  Gradually closing the distance between, I fully expect the bird to fly away.  This is not what happens.  As the distance closes to 10 meters, little buddy flies ahead on the trail to restore the original distance and begins hopping again.  This occurs many times over the next kilometer and after half a mile  my new friend is hopped out and flies away towards Evans-Thomas Creek and the Wedge.  On this day, the hike is not solo the entire distance.  There is an unusual and special bond with nature for a short distance and a lingering memory is created.  It is one of those occasional anomalies in the relationship with nature which brings a smile on recollection, but is too embarrassing to discuss because there are many who do not share this relationship with nature, and could not believe.  It is another wonderful day.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Glad it worked well for you. The views from Old Baldy were better than I expected. You made very good time. Thank you for your comment, Kelly.

Hi Barry. My friend Pat and I did this hike on Saturday with your description, printed, in hand. It was perfect. Thank you! Round trip took us 5.5 hours. Kelly

Thank you, Helen. As always your comment is welcomed and appreciated. It is my turn to be envious. While you were enjoying the ocean in the sun, with the relaxing rhythm of surf rolling on shore, I was slugging my way up to Buller Pass, twice. Good exercise and million dollar views, but walking barefoot in sand sounds wonderful to me. As for the bee, I do not have good news. I keep a fairly aggressive pace. What I see, I photograph rapidly and move on. The flower shone in the sun. It deserved to be recognized. The camera goes to macro, the approach, the capture, and then on my way. The bee was there and held position as a clunky camera approached within two inches. The bee was being a bee, doing what bees do, collecting pollen. If the bee had chosen to fly away, there would be no bee in the picture. It might be a wasp. Do not know: do not care. Over many decades, things natural seem to have become comfortable with my presence. It is common for animals, birds and insects to continue whatever they are doing, whether I am there or not. Although, I need to have a discussion with the mosquito and the horse/deer fly who seem to be frequently disrespectful and completely self absorbed. I wish you well on your bee photography. I have no magic formula to offer other than to enjoy the presence. Be the bee ;-) Relaxing with the bee can be an excellent experience. It may be a balance of familiarity and respect. Fear is a downer. Animals seem to be able to sense that.

Spectacular as always. Not quite as envious as usual, as I have just returned from walking 9 k's along one of our wonderful sandy beaches, under a vivid blue winter sky reflecting onto the vast Pacific. I am very impressed with your bee shot, as I had spent a 1/2 hour in my garden trying to capture the same, but with little success.

Thank you for your comment, Sandra. As I write this brief reply I should mention I am impressed with the hosting of the Summer Olympic Games. Your kind words are humbling and I am glad my journals help bring back good memories for you.

You're welcome. Thanks for your comment, Matt. I agree. From Kananaskis Trail it really doesn't look worth the effort and I was surprised at the quality of the experience. It was much better than I expected and that alpine pond was full and absolutely beautiful. If I had more time, I would have hiked the entire top from one end to the other. I believe I missed excellent views of Mount Kidd and the Kananaskis Valley on the west side of Old Baldy. Another time.

I really enjoyed reading this entry. I lived in Kananaskis Village for 3 years, and never made the hike to Old Baldy. I guess from my side of the valley it didn't really look overly impressive. Your photo account of the hike has definitely given me a new perspective on this hike. Thank you!

Barry - this account is Olympic Gold. I personally think that a publisher like Yale should make a book of your photographs or many books as they are all so brilliant. I miss my country deeply. Your hikes make me feel I am home again. Thank you.

What a great hike, excellent photos and poetic trail reviewing. Loved the bird bond ;) On my list for sure.

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