Yamnuska Natural Area hosts many intersecting trails through diverse terrain in the Bow Valley.
On this hike, the reference map is on Page 125 of the Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, 4th Edition, Volume 3. There are 4 entrance points to the Yamnuska Natural Area and the choice today will be convenient parking across Hwy 1a from the most westerly point of Yamnuska Natural Area at the Francis Cooke Landfill Site.
The trail passes the first gated entrance then veers off to the right on the access road under and past the overhead hydro lines. Trail here is well established and continues north along and beside the east fence of the landfill, then west along the back fence before tapering off towards Goat Mountain.
Caution! There is substantially more trail than what is shown on the map.
The most established trail continues past the turn right to continue north on Trail E. Trail markers are deceiving and often non-existent. A couple of steep uphill jaunts lead to spectacular viewpoints from the top of a knob. Curiosity continues on progressively sketchy trail past an old gravel pit for eventual arrival at bolted and anchored climbing walls along the base of Goat Mountain.
These rock climbs at Nanny Goat, Predator Area are featured in the book 'Sport Climbs in the Canadian Rockies'. Rating range between 9 and 10c.
A couple of vigorous uphills on knobs beneath Goat Mountain provide great views. The location of the correct trail junction is not entirely clear, so a retreat is executed via the same route taken in to find trail E curling north from a large cairn. The hike proceeds through a great mix of montane field and forest. Yamnuska (Mount Laurie) is a consistent landmark.
One side trail may go to Douglas Fir Spring and the hike proceeds briefly along the ascent trail through intermittently rocky terrain beside a dry drainage ditch. Douglas Fir Spring will be found another day.
Good trail continues intermittently between fairly dense forest and wide open grasslands. Clearly the trail is heading easterly toward Yamnuska.
The predominant trail curls from northeast to east and approaches the southwest side of Aspen Jungle where there is a trail alternative heading south. Within a short distance through dense forest and a downhill, the trail pops out of the forest and slams into an incredibly beautiful, shallow, green lake. At the trail T-junction, the arbitrary choice is left for the direction around the east end of the lake. The trail provides more photos of the Crescent Lake. WOW!
After a few minutes to enjoy the mountain-backed lake, the hike continues south past a pond too beautiful to be true. WOW! The water is green and shallow with a deep blue, oval depression surrounded by reeds. This may be the amazing Hilltop Pond. The water changes color with the direction of the sun on the hike around and past this incredible, tiny gem.
Following more dense forest trail heading predominantly southeast, the trail passes Reed Lake. Dense brush surrounding the shoreline offers little opportunity for good photos.
Shortly after continuing past Reed Lake, there is a spectacular, spring-fed pond created by a beaver dam where adjacent aspen trees have been swamped. An off-trail loop provides up close and personal access for good photos in the surrounding grassland. The pond may be temporary.
As time and energy are dwindling the hike continues a bit further south and return over rolling terrain on road under power lines to parking near Francis Cooke Landfill. There are great views on high spots over spring forest to Yamnuska.
Today's adventure turned out to be larger than planned or expected but it is becoming clear there are huge day-hiking opportunities in the Yamnuska Natural Area.
This small tract of land, maybe 6 KM (3¾ miles) long and less than 2 KM (<1¹⁄₃ miles) wide contains an abundant assortment of fascinating terrain and feature. Yamnuska and Goat Mountain looming overhead assist in navigation.
Photographs for this post on Crescent Lake, Hilltop Lake, and Reed Lake in the Yamnuska Natural Area were captured on April 28, 2015.