Yamnuska Natural Area is a cornucopia of forest, lakes, kettles and knobs under 'The Yam'.
Parking at Yamnuska has been expanded to accommodate the growth of rock climbers and hikers who favor the area. The south face of Yamnuska (Mount John Laurie) is an iconic image to the north where the TransCanada Highway crosses Kananaskis River near the access at Hwy 1X to Hwy 1A and parking at Yamnuska.
The large area beneath the south face of Yamnuska is a cornucopia of diverse terrain viewed many times over past decades from the summit of the Yam.
On page 125 of the Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, 4th Edition Volume 3, there is an intriguing map of the trail structure beneath the south face of the Yam in this area which connects Bow Valley Provincial Park with The Ghost and Banff National Park. This small tract of wilderness seems like an excellent opportunity to begin a new season in the wilderness.
The straightforward drive west from Calgary exits north on Hwy 1x past Seebe to a turn east on Hwy 1A for a short distance. The parking area is much busier than anticipated.
Using the map from Page 125, the hike proceeds west from the parking area to discover the remains of Beaver Dam Lakes within just a few meters.
The next stop is Meadow Lake via the A, B trail. There are far more trails than are shown on the map so it is important to pay attention. The level of difficulty can be ramped up by investigating some of the more prominent trails through dense wilderness. The terrain is predominantly flat and easy to navigate with the possibility to choose more ambitious trail.
There is an excellent beaver dam on Meadow Lake a quick bushwhack on marginal path around the small lake nets a photo of the beaver dam from the far end. The hike continues southwest to an intersection with barbed wire fence.
The hike continues southeast, adjacent to the fence, towards an unnamed lake. There are beautiful vistas from higher points across stands of winter aspen to mountain ranges south.
Continuing southeast, on sometimes sketchy trail towards gate access 2, the hike proceeds through very mixed, montane terrain into the northeast shore of the pristine unnamed lake which borders on the great chirping noise coming from the Great Swamp. The small unnamed lake is stunningly rustic and beautiful, with a small beaver dam near the center. The sun, the breeze and the aroma within this vision are exhilarating.
Returning northwest, the trail junction which navigates the 'Golf Course' is chosen where this section of the hike heads directly towards the impressive and iconic face of Yamnuska. Most of the ponds and small lakes here appear to be spring fed.
The spring fed 'beaver ponds' are magnificent. Lack of foliage on the trees in early spring is a unique advantage for route finding and more open visibility of the land's impressive features. In the unbridled enthusiasm to return to the wilderness, the hike continues towards the Aspen Jungle.
Personal vision limitations becomes confused by the complexity of grassy terrain, covered with dead leaves and exacerbated by the diversity of hiking trail frequently interrupted by dead fall and intersected by multiple game trails. The hike turns back to familiar terrain with the full expectation to explore this area again in the future.
The return passes the beautiful spring fed beaver ponds before returning through the 'Golf Course' to a spectacular view over Meadow Lake with Yamnuska in the background until the clear A, B trail returns into familiar terrain at the Yamnuska parking area.
The names used in this post like 'Meadow Lake' and the 'Golf Course' are the same as those used in the map on Page 125. Those who choose to hike these trails with their hiking guide will be looking at the same names.
Photographs for this post about hiking in the Yamnuska Natural Area were taken on April 22, 2015.