Pine Top offers picnic tables and hiking in the Sibbald region of Kananaskis Country, Alberta.
The sign for Pine Top is clear, travelling west on Sibbald Creek Trail South (Hwy 68) from the TransCanada Highway west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The left turn is on the other side of a cattle guard, (Texas Gate), a very short distance past the end of pavement. The access leads to a very pleasant picnic area with parking and toilet facilities on a cul-de-sac. Jumpingpound Creek is visible below from a viewpoint to the left of the main picnic area and is running fast and high in spring runoff.
Short trail drops to the edge of Jumpingpound Creek and good fortune arrives at shoreline just as a young moose is crossing the creek a short distance downstream.
The trail-head for the 9.0 KM (5⅝ mile) Jumpingpound Loop begins at a trail sign near the entrance to the cul-de-sac. Quickly, the link leads across Sibbald Creek Trail to another sign with a map of the trail which leads left and up through beautiful, spring-brilliant, aspen forest on decent trail at an easy, warm-up grade.
The Jumpingpound Loop Trail has two components. One is above (north of) and the other is below (south of) Sibbald Creek Trail. The upper component is at a higher elevation. Throughout the hike, which can often be fairly level, there are down and up dips through draws with rustic bridges over small, runoff streams feeding Jumpingpound Creek. Traffic on Sibbald Creek Trail is audible throughout the hike on either side of the gravel road. There are a variety of interesting features on this hike which travels predominantly through multiple stands of genetically linked families of brightly colored aspen groves.
Dips on the trail host rustic, sawn-log bridges at the bottom to provide easy and dry navigation over streams. Some creeks contain sheltered remnants of winter ice. The first, northeast quadrant of the hike passes above Camp Cadicasu and the Park Ranger Station. Each is obvious from the road but nearly completely hidden by forest on the Jumpingpound Loop trail. Spectacular views of snow-draped Moose Mountain, dominating the horizon to the south, command the attention as lunch is enjoyed lunch on a spring, Buffalo Bean, flower-saturated slope above the upper Jumpingpound Loop.
About halfway 2.6 KM (1⅝ mile) through the upper portion of Jumpingpound Loop, a trail junction provides an option to do half of the loop for those so inclined. The option can also provide an escape from unanticipated inclement weather.
Following a 4.6 KM (2⅞ mile) hike along the upper Jumpingpound Loop the trail gently descends to Sibbald Creek Trail where signs on the other side of the road clearly identify the south and lower half of Jumpingpound Loop which will lead into Pine Grove and then back to the Pinetop Day Use Area.
Terrain changes dramatically. Aspen groves are replaced by pine forest and wide expanses of grass and marshland. The difference is dramatic.
Brief, refreshing, light rain triggers an explosion of fresh forest aroma. It is music for the nose. Thicker, old growth forest provides protection above excellent trail. The valley deepens on the right as the hike proceeds east and the sound of powerful water, fully concealed by forest, is ever-present in the distance.
Later in the hike, the trail provides excellent views above swollen Jumpingpound Creek.
There are several bridge crossings over small streams at the bottom of dips. Near the end of the hike there is the occasional re-occurrence of aspen in predominantly old evergreen forest with an occasional grassy field.
Jumpingpound Loop is a hike close to Calgary definitely worthy of consideration. This interesting hike is an excellent experience with lots of variety at lower elevation for a good season opener. The hike is not difficult but the length and accumulated gross elevation would prevents rating the hike as easy. Easy for some. Not so easy for others. Portions can be hiked. Net elevation is zero. The loop delivers a hiker back to where they started. Gross elevation is estimated near 320 m (1,050 ft).
Next hike up is Terrace Trail.