Viewpoints from Hoodoo Hills above Fort Whoop Up provide unique images from Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
Fort Whoop Up is open to the public during summer, and seasonally closed past Labor Day. Outside summer months, one way of viewing the interior of the fort is to summit nearby Hoodoo Hills, where wooden platform viewpoints provide views down into the fort's interior. The trail begins at parking near the front entrance to Fort Whoop Up. This replica of the 1869 original fort is a reminder of one of several original American 'whiskey' forts constructed to facilitate trading. Fort Macleod and Fort Whoop Up were common destinations for soldiers and pioneer travelers heading west from Fort Walsh in Saskatchewan.
Hiking directly from the trail-head adjacent to the water trough near the east side of Fort Whoop Up parking, the obvious path soon arrives at a right-angle junction. Turning left provides a nearby opportunity to visit the sacred Medicine Stone, laden with memorial messages and protected by a stone circle and wooden pole barrier.
Back on original crushed-stone trail, the path continues past the face of Hoodoo Hills. Skirting the south face of the two prominent sandstone bluffs reveals a variety of tempting and heavily trodden routes ascending directing to the target viewing platforms at the summits. Picturesque crags in the surface support a variety of nesting birds. There are no obvious signs discouraging use of these trails which would substantially reduce erosion.
Personal respect for the terrain dictates remaining on main gravel trail passing the front of both major viewpoints to a clearly signed left turn entering and ascending a portion of the 3 KM (1⅞ mile) Coulee Trail Loop.
Ascending the full length of the formidable coulee begins the gentle and long climb on excellent trail initially through dense brush and morphing gradually to relatively barren grassland with evidence of past coal mining activity on surrounding slopes. Coal mining evidence is rife nearly everywhere along all the paths in the river valley. Lengthy section of well-constructed, wooden staircases, with integrally-placed, integrated benches for resting, relieve steeper sections connecting gravel components until long sweeping switchbacks complete the ascent to exhibits, memorial statues and flower gardens at the back of the Galt Museum.
Continuing path near the modern rear exterior of the Galt Museum swings north and west past modern art sculptures to the obvious entrance for the gradual descent trail to the viewing platform on the summit of the south Hoodoo Hill. The short, direct trail hosts regional interpretive plaques along the cinder trail. At the viewpoint, an extraordinary sight to Fort Whoop Up, directly below, reveals the detailed features of the fort's unoccupied interior.
Components of this specific experience include a brisk and refreshing breeze, combined with expansive and spectacular vistas across the Oldman River Valley within the city of Lethbridge. High Level Bridge is a constant, impressive feature on the horizon. There is rich, fascinating and palpable history here.
A glance right confirms the nearby north viewpoint. Terrain between the two viewpoints is short, rugged and composed nearly entirely of fragile prairie grassland interrupted briefly by an undetermined scramble across an unknown drainage feature. There are no visible direct trails. All things considered, the honorable and sensible alternative is the formal trail trek back via the route used for access, beneath the formidable power lines singing in the brisk breeze, to the cinder trail junction for a left turn to the next junction leading to the north viewpoint.
From the north Hoodoo Hill Viewpoint, trail returns to the junction and continues across open prairie grassland to eventually link into sidewalk along 3rd Avenue for the gentle descent to trail beginning at the Fort Whoop Up parking area.
Photographs for this excellent hike to viewpoints from the top of Hoodoo Hills above Fort Whoop Up are captured on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 within Indian Battle Park at Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.