Sparrowhawk Tarns - Kananaskis Country - Hiking Alberta

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns beneath Mount Bogart in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

From parking at the Sparrowhawk Day Use Area, the trail-head is on the other side of the Smith-Dorrien Trail.  Initially there is a short, moderate gain in elevation before the trail levels on the 5.1 KM (3¼ mile) route one-way with an elevation gain of 675 m (2,215 ft) to a maximum elevation of 2,410 m (7,907 ft).  This is the same trail used to access Read's Ridge and Read's Tower.  At the cairn, about 0.9 KM (0.56 miles) from beginning, it is important to continue straight past the left turn to the trail for Read's Ridge.  Initially the trail climbs above the valley hosting Sparrowhawk Creek before the hike continues adjacent to the cold, crystal-clear water of the creek.

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Left at this cairn leads to Read's Ridge; straight ahead is the trail to Sparrowhawk Tarns in Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Sparrowhawk Creek along the trail to Sparrowhawk Tarns in Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Crystal clear water in Sparrowhawk Creek, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The trail to Sparrowhawk Tarns is initially through forest with multiple trail junctions along the way.  Many of these intersections access the base of Read's Ridge  before continuing along and past the base of Read's Ridge, gradually gaining elevation until breaks in the forest begin to provide dramatic views of Red Ridge on the right, Read's Tower on the left with 3121 m (10,239 ft) Mount Sparrowhawk peeking over the top, and massive 3,144 m (10,315 ft) Mount Bogart beginning to consume the horizon ahead.  Powerful imagery!

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Mount Sparrowhawk summit past the ridge connecting Read's Tower with Mount Bogart in Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Red Ridge consumes the view on the right along the trail to Sparrowhawk Tarns in Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The trail junction at the massive rock fall area on the trail Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.  Turn right here.

 

There is a cairn where forest breaks out to the massive rock fall area between Mount Bogart and Red Ridge.  The most prominent branch turns right, away from the direction of Sparrowhawk Tarns. Note: Turning right is correct.  

On this hiking day the left, more lightly used trail is taken towards Sparrowhawk Tarns based on instructions from an older hiking guide.  The next hour is consumed navigating rugged terrain on occasional sketchy trail mixed with off-trail intuitive sections.  As altitude is gained more aggressively, spectacular views unfold and wind speed increases exponentially.  At a key marker cairn, the view back to Spray Lakes Reservoir, where the hike began, is quite beautiful and inspiring.

The more sensible approach to the tarns is achieved by taking a right turn at the junction.  The trail will pass through a few large boulders and then loop around to head in the correct direction towards Sparrowhawk Tarns.  The approach views will be much different than the photos which follow.

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Hiking the left branch to Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Hiking to the scree slope approach to Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The view back to Spray Lakes Reservoir in Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Heading for the scree slope to the left at the end of the rockfall approaches the top of the difficult to navigate scree and the force of the wind requires tethering down hat and glasses.   Photography is either challenging or not an option.  Gusting wind eliminates the ability to hold the camera steady.

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada A view to Red Ridge from the rock fall on the route to Sparrowhawk Tarns in Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada There are marmots everywhere in the massive rock fall, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada There are many massive boulders that have obviously been used by bouldering enthusiasts in the rock fall, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Approaching the final scree ascent into Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The scree saddle in ferocious winds on this route to Sparrowhawk Tarns in Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The wind disappears almost immediately on the other side of the ridge.  There are several other hikers in the area over on the Red Ridge side.

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada An excellent view back to Read's Tower on the final approach to the top of the scree ridge above Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The view back to Spray Lakes Reservoir from the top of the scree ridge above Sparrowhawk Tarns in Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.  Mount Nestor and Old Goat Mountain back Spray Lakes.

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Sparrowhawk Tarns from near ridge top, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada. Mount Bogart on photo top left and Red Ridge on photo top right.

 

At the bottom of the bowl beneath Mount Bogart the number and size of the ponds vary by season.  In the spring there are more and bigger tarns with lots of melt water caught in the basin.  In late fall, the tarns often disappear as feeds dry up and trapped water drains off or evaporates.  This hike is towards the end of the cycle.  In spring, lingering snow at higher elevations can make access more challenging.  Mid summer would be an ideal time in a normal year.  Just kidding.  There is no such thing as a normal year. 

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Beneath the massive bowl on the flank of Mount Bogart, a field of delicate alpine grass provides a brilliant green patch.  A walk towards the grassy patch reveals an Inukshuk crafted by previous visitors.

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada A brilliant green patch of grass under Mount Bogart at Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada An Inukshuk beneath Mount Bogart at Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Lunch in the sun at Sparrowhawk Tarns is a relaxing experience beside emerald water sheltered from the breeze by warm surrounding rock.  Following lunch the scramble up the rocks to a plateau beneath Red Ridge picks up a prominent trail heading back towards the Spray Lakes Reservoir.

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The scenery on the return hike is amazing.  There is a sweep to the right after tracking the bottom of Red Ridge for considerable distance.  A few meters past a large, very interesting boulder, the trail arrive at the cairn where the hike originally entered the area of massive rockfall.  The remainder of the return hike tracks the base of Read's Ridge on familiar trail back to parking at the Spray Lakes Day Use Area.  All that remains is the return drive to Calgary.

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The back of a very interesting boulder near an important cairn at the rock fall on the hike to Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.  Turn right here and loop around.

 

Sparrowhawk Tarns, Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Mount Nestor looms over Spray Lakes Reservoir in Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Photographs for this post were taken on August 18, 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: 

Tags: