Merlin View Loop is an impressive, multi-discipline trail in West Bragg, Kananaskis Country, Alberta.
The trail is an outstanding effort completed in October of 2014 by the Greater Bragg Creek Trail Association and Friends of Kananaskis Country. Signage is excellent.
Merlin View is a mountain biking trail, built by mountain bikers for mountain bikers and designated as a multi-use trail for biking, hiking and equestrian use. A bit of Internet research provides helpful information. The predominant direction for mountain bike traffic is counter clockwise. The profile of the terrain works better for cyclists that way. By default, the favored direction for hikers is clockwise. This is the direction Seija, her sister Karen and I will hike the loop trail with a fairly lengthy access.
Merlin View Loop is accessed via the Braggin Rights trail from the west end of West Bragg parking in Kananaskis Country. The resident trail-head map is excellent and deserves a hike review before beginning the predominant gentle to moderate climb on good gravel and rocky trail.
There is also an outstanding new paper map of Bragg Creek and Area Trails, published by Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association, which is worthy of purchase from an outdoor adventure store.
Access to, and retreat from, the Merlin View Loop is 3.6 KM (2¼ miles) along Braggin Rights in three sections. Merlin View Loop is 6.3 KM (4 miles) long so the total distance is 13.5 KM (8.44 miles) with estimated elevation differential of 270 m (740 ft) plus an estimated 160 m (525 ft) additional for Braggin Rights. Gross elevation exceeds net with the undulation one would expect on a mountain biking trail.
Braggin Rights negotiates interesting and varied trail where forested sections are interspersed with open views from meadows. Sunlight through forest highlights the geometric forms of shadow mixed with tangled dead fall in the forest. Braggin Rights ends at a trail split into Merlin View Loop. Left is clockwise.
Merlin View Loop navigates an interesting mixture of terrain. Forest on the right is balanced by longer views to meadows beneath and beyond.
There are ponds and wetlands in the meadow below and a trail option is passed which links to Moose Loop trail.
Views expand to include Moose Mountain. The tower on the Moose Mountain Fire Lookout is visible at the 2,741 m (8,995 ft) summit of the Moose Mountain complex. Forest harvesting appears to be exceeding reforestation by a wide margin.
Almost exactly half way around Merlin View Loop is a log to sit on for lunch. The view is directly across the valley to Moose Mountain and the sun and breeze are excellent companions combined with an endless stream of cyclists.
Following lunch in the sun, the hike continues. There is some gentle ascent remaining through forest on a rocky ridge. A left fork leads to a leisure area complete with cocktail table and log stools. There is more geometrically appealing dead fall in this rocky section of forest.
One defining moment on this trail is the abrupt exit from dense, aromatic forest into a sweeping vista of curving trail through expansive meadow. There is an occupied, stone bench rest area and a short string of player flags, drifting in the breeze in nearby trees.
The hike back to the intersection with Braggin Rights is predominantly through open ground with amazing long views. There is a significant stretch near a ridge line to valley views beneath.
The return to the parking area is frequently interrupted by the escalation in numbers of mountain bikers. Stepping off-trail countless times is required to make way for cyclists. All the riders are polite.
The map below is included for reference. The signage on the trails and the quality of trail construction is excellent. Merlin View Loop is at map center-left.
In conclusion, the Merlin View Loop Trail is a mountain biking trail.
It is also an excellent trail to hike under reasonable circumstances. This experience, out of necessity, is hiking this trail on a Sunday. The following recommendations may make the experience more pleasant for hiking.
Hike the Merlin View Loop Trail clockwise.
Hike the Merlin View Loop Trail on a quiet weekday. Avoid weekends, evenings and holidays. Seriously. It is a shared trail but not at the same time.