Fullerton Loop - Kananaskis Country - Hiking Alberta

 

Fullerton Loop is a short, classic hike in the Elbow Valley of Kananaskis Country west of Bragg Creek, Alberta, Canada.

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The trail-head under the bridge, at the east end of Allen Bill, has been permanently altered by the June 2013 floods.  Allen Bill Pond is gone.  The collapsed east span of the bridge over the Elbow River has been replaced but the first section of the Fullerton Loop trail has been washed away along the west side of the Elbow River.  There is nothing remaining.  

Total round trip distance for the Fullerton Loop trail is 6.9 KMs (4¼ miles) with a net elevation gain near 215 m (705 ft).  Gross elevation on the undulating trail is nearly double, but within the range of most hikers, and therefore an easy hike for many. 

Today could be classified as an exception with an early November snowfall leaving about 15 cm (6 inches) of fresh, heavy snow on the ground which makes hiking more labor intensive.

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__01 The traditional trail-head for Fullerton Loop is no longer relevant in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__02 A map at the old trailhead shows the revision for Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__03 A nice view of the hill hosting Fullerton Loop taken from the Allen Bill parking area in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The new trail-head for Fullerton Loop is at the Ranger Station directly across Elbow Valley Trail from the Allen Bill main parking area.  The entrance to the Ranger Station is via Ranger Creek Road directly on the other side of Elbow Trail (Hwy 66) from the entrance to Allen Bill.  There is limited parking at the new Fullerton Loop trail-head but it is easy to walk over.  The trail-head is well-signed and clearly defined in spite of the new, fresh snowfall.  Almost immediately a left turn crosses a platform bridge over tiny Ranger Creek which is flowing robustly in the warming temperatures.

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__05 Walking the short distance across Elbow Valley Trail from Allen Bill to the Fullerton Loop trail-head near the Ranger Complex in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__08 The revised Fullerton Loop trail head in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__09 A platform bridge over a small creek near the beginning of the Fullerton Loop hike in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

There is never a doubt about the location of the trail in spite of fresh snow cover.  The wide swath through the predominantly Lodgepole Pine forest is easy to follow.  The aftermath of the June 2013 flood damage along the Elbow River is evident to the right and wandering the short distance to the edge several times surveys the difficult-to-imagine damage.  The trail passes through incredibly beautiful snow sculpture on flat terrain before turning right into a dogleg descent from the new approach trail to the original Fullerton Loop trail beside the Elbow River.

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__12 The new section of the Fullerton Loop trail is easy to follow in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__13 A nice winter view of the ridge hosting the Fullerton Loop trail in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__14 Snow scenery at trailside along the Fullerton Loop trail in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__15 The new approach does a dogleg downhill to meet up with the original Fullerton Loop trail in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

There is an opportunity to survey the incredible damage along the river course from near the junction of new trail with old.  The landscape has been substantially altered.

The Fullerton Loop Trail continues over a small platform bridge to a gate through a fence before a left turn ahead leads to the trail junction of the Fullerton Loop with the Elbow Trail and the Snagmore Trail which will likely be an upcoming hike or snowshoe adventure.

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__17 The junction of the revised approach with the original trail for Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__20 Elbow River damage along the Fullerton Loop trail in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__21 Typical trail on the approach to Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__22 The small platform bridge over the creek before the gate on the Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__24 The trail junction of the Fullerton Loop trail with the Elbow and Snagmore Trails in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The series of bridges cross the two small, but significant, drainages on the hill.  It is clear these drainages became powerful torrents of angry water which have collapsed the banks.  Large, well-established trees now lay at bizarre angles across the creeks.  There is a huge amount of damage and the drainages are much larger and deeper than before, particularly at the small, wooden bridge which defines the end of the approach trail and the beginning of the actual loop. 

On the other side of the bridge there is a set of stairs which would allow the trail to be hiked in a clockwise direction.  Continuing straight to hike the Fullerton Loop in a counter clockwise direction makes sense because saving the south facing ridge for descent provides best views on return after using, arguably, the less dramatic trail for the beginning.  The north side of Fullerton Loop makes a sustained moderate ascent through predominantly Lodgepole Pine forest, interrupted periodically by small open areas containing grassland and communities of Aspen trees.  Heavy snow on branches is breathtakingly beautiful and branches bending with the weight drape over the trail. 

The image is reminiscent of the heavy September snowfall in Calgary which sadly destroyed or damaged more than half a million trees.  Today's warming temperature has heavy clumps of snow falling from the tree branches to the ground with repetitive thumps.

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__27 Trees have been washed out by flood water and fallen across deeper drainages on the Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__28 The bridge at the end of the approach and the beginning of the Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__29 Snow-covered steps at the bottom of Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__30 Platform bridge over one of the drainages on Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__31 Making the sustained moderate ascent through forest on the north side of Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__32 Snow on stands of Aspen communities along the north trail of Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__33 Snow-weighted branches bent across trail on the north leg of Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__34 Emerging sun creating contrast and shadow on Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

An old trail sign at a damaged bridge, close to the halfway point on Fullerton Loop, signals the beginning of the return hike along the south ridge.  A moderate ascent leads through another gate to the first bench where the viewpoint has been heavily compromised by maturing forest.

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__35 The bridge near mid-point on Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__36 The old trail signs give accurate location on Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__37 Another gate on the hike to the first viewpoint on Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__39 The turn left at the approach to the south side of Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__40 The first 'viewpoint' provides a hint of vistas to come soon on Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The Fullerton Loop trail continues to climb through undulating terrain.  The sky is clearing to bright blue and at hilltop the view explodes past snow-draped Aspen.  From the hilltop, a sustained, moderate descent provides open views of the valley below.  The warm sun is leaving the trail alternatively slushy and muddy.  Throughout the winter it is common for alternative melt and freeze weather to leave this section of trail ice-covered and treacherous without cleats.  There are many grand and fond memories of great hiking companions enjoying raucous horizontal laughter.

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__42 View to the Moose Mountain Complex from Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__43 View across the Elbow River east to foothills from Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__44 View south to previous location of Allen Bill Pond from Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__45 View to mountains in the southeast from the south side of Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__46 Views along the sustained moderate descent along the south ridge of Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__47 A nicely placed bench with a view to the Fisher Range from Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Past the open section along the ridge face, the trail returns into forest.  Warming temperature is melting snow on branches above and the resulting 'rain' is sparkling in the sun.  The imagery is spectacular and the aroma of warming and damp forest adds to the experience.  At the steps, the retreat on the original approach trail begins.  Along the way there are indelibly memorable views of flood alteration along the Elbow River.

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__48 The trail passes through a cattle guard along Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__49 Melting snow sparkles in the sun along Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__50 Crossing bridges again on the retreat from Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__51 Long lens view of the reconstructed Hwy 66 bridge over the Elbow River from the Fullerton Loop trail in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The final hike through the new access trail is enhanced by the melting snow creating sun-sparkled rain in adjacent forest.

 

Fullerton Loop, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada__53 Sun sparkling rain in the forest beside the Fullerton Loop trail in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Fullerton Loop is a simple hike.  There are great memorable recollections of past hikes with many companions.  

Photographs for this hike at Fullerton Loop in Kananaskis Country Elbow Valley, across from Allen Bill where June 2013 flood damage was extensive, were taken on November 2, 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

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