Jewell Pass is at McConnell Ridge near Barrier Lake in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.
This day's hike is a 14 KM (8¾ mile) loop from the Barrier Dam parking area in Kananaskis Country, west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada to Jewell Pass. The hike begins across Barrier Dam before heading south along the Barrier Lake shoreline to the trail beside Jewell Creek, past Jewell Falls to Jewell Pass then easterly on the Prairie View Link Trail with descent back to the car on the Prairie View Trail.
Net elevation gain will be near 503 m (1,650 ft) to a maximum elevation near 1,875 m (6,150 ft) on the clockwise loop. Many hikers prefer to do it the other way around for easier elevation. There are many trail options in this area.
There is an option to branch onto Stoney Trail which leads to the same objective but the more rustic trail near the Barrier Lake shoreline is chosen to hike across Jewell Creek and check out the Jewell Bay Backcountry and Equestrian Campground. There is significant evidence of flood-related damage at Jewell Creek. There is a lot of new rock and it appears the bridge has been repaired or replaced. This is minor compared to what we are about to see along Jewell Creek
The hiking trail option along Barrier Lake instead of Stoney Trail in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada. McConnell Ridge on photo right. Heart Mountain and Mary Barklay's Mountain in the background.
From Jewell Bay Campground, a backtrack across Jewell Creek makes a left turn at the sign for Jewell Falls along the trail to Jewell Pass. After a brief time in forest, access to the gentle climb above Jewell Creek features cliffs of Heart Mountain on the left. At the beginning of the ascent to Jewell Pass, the trail seems the same but soon there are patches of repair.
Then all hell breaks loose as the altitude of trail and creek converge. Following are a few photos of flood damage along Jewell Creek.
One major section of the trail to Jewell Pass via Jewell Falls has been completely rebuilt. Large portions of the original trail, which tracked closely to the creek, were washed away. Snippets remain but the only feasible alternative has been to construct an entirely new trail higher on the hillside. The new trail will be less susceptible to future high water events.
Jewell Falls is tucked into a small alcove to the left of the original trail which crossed Jewell Creek. Although today's small stream of water is typical for the season, last year's flood has carved a formidable gash of destruction. The trail takes a left turn towards beautiful Jewell Falls and excellent-quality, newly constructed trail winds around, above and behind the top of the tiny waterfall.
New trail continues past the waterfall through glorious forest high above the original valley bottom route before swinging right over a board platform bridge to rejoin the original trail further along. The original trail, descending past Jewell Falls, has been covered with debris to justifiably discourage its use as an alternative.
The new trail links into the straight and relatively level trail to Jewell Pass. It is farther than remembered but it has been many years. The trail is shared with occasional mountain bikers without issue. The exact location of Jewell Pass is so subtle it would be difficult to specifically locate the exact spot without the presence of the trail sign. Straight through leads to Quaite Valley.
The turn right onto the Prairie View Link trail begins the long, gentle but relentless ascent towards the top of McConnell Ridge. After what seems like a long haul, the sight of sky through the trees increases speculation of potential survival on the final uphill push to the magnificent views at the edge of McConnell Ridge cliffs. Sitting here in the sun and breeze is a pleasant way to enjoy lunch and recover legs.
The uphill push continues near the top of McConnell Ridge, with magnificent vistas to the left. Above, at the very top of the ridge a group of young people are joyfully conducting a very scenic engagement party. The high point for this hiking day will be the large metal radio signal reflection tower on McConnell Ridge. The urge to continue up to the active Barrier Lake Fire Lookout at the top of the north end of McConnell Ridge (Yates Mountain) will be successfully resisted. Instead the down hike will negotiate the steep and slippery, rock-laden trail from the radio-signal reflection screen to a flat spot where Pigeon Lookout was previously located. This location hosted the old prisoner-of-war guard station which was removed, relocated then restored back near Colonel's Cabin on the opposite side of Barrier Lake far below. There is interesting history here.
The Prairie View Trail is a wide, easily-traveled road back to our beginning at Barrier Dam. A series of switchbacks, and roadside borders laden with wildflowers, eases the descent through forest. By the time the hike reaches Barrier Dam for excellent views of Mount Baldy across Barrier Lake, heavy clouds are beginning to form on this fine, warm and primarily sunny day.
This photo of the outflow from Barrier Dam shows how low the water level is in preparation for water inflow from upper elevation snow melt runoff and rain in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada. After the June 2013 devastating floods, great caution is being exercised in 2014.
This day hike has been a pleasure in good weather with new features to discover on traditional, popular trails near the north end of Kananaskis Country, west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It is important acknowledge the efforts of Alberta Parks and Friends of Kananaskis Country whose flood recovery work will be ongoing for many years. Many residents and visitors from around the world will appreciate your substantial contribution. Your hard work and dedication is greatly appreciated.
Photographs for this Jewell Pass post were taken on July 6, 2014.