Forest Ecology Loop is a short, easy hike from Colonel's Cabin in Kananaskis Country west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
If you are looking for a challenging hike through diverse terrain, this is not it. The Forest Ecology Loop begins from Colonel's Cabin adjacent to the University of Calgary Bio Geoscience Institute, Barrier Lake Field Station across Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40) from the entrance to Barrier Dam.
Stop in at the nearby Barrier Lake Visitor Information Centre to obtain a trail map and an interpretive bulletin to coincide with the 18 stops along the 1.5 KM (0.94 mile) Forest Ecology Loop.
A brochure may be available at http://bgs.ucalgary.ca/files/bgs/TrailGuide.pdf .
The entire trail is composed of two loops in a figure 8 configuration. The second loop is called the Forestry Loop and the 0.8 KM (½ mile) extension can be accessed near Stop 10 on the Forest Ecology Loop.
From the corner of Colonel's Cabin, the access to Forest Ecology Loop dips past a long-established anthill, then past the trail kiosk and on to the brief flat section which requires crossing Barrier Creek on a short, wooden, platform bridge.
The correct hiking direction for 1 to 18 numbering requires counter clockwise navigation (a right turn) at the trail Y.
The left branch ascends on gentle uphill grade through open forest. There are a series of circular burn areas about 3 meters (10 feet) in diameter in open forest adjacent to the trail. These may be project areas for university students.
The gentle uphill trek arrives at a three-way junction and the left fork leads from the main trail to a very nice lookout across Kananaskis Trail to Barrier Lake.
Back on the Forest Ecology Loop main trail, good gravel path continues the gentle climb through varying forest. There are occasional interpretive plaques of a general nature along the way.
It is likely a good learning experience when done with supporting documentation.
A trail-side bench, broken long ago, has nearly been fully reclaimed by the forest. The Forest Ecology Loop is a very relaxing and beautiful wander through predominantly aspen, spruce and pine forest. There is more diversity within the small 25 m (80 ft) elevation gain than expected.
Near Station 10 the Forestry Loop clearly departs from, and returns to, the main Forest Ecology Loop. These trails would be ideal for children, or for a casual, cool stroll in the forest.
Past Station 10, and the intersection with the Forestry Loop, the trail becomes a gentle descent on good trail with frequent check dams to reduce trail erosion.
Back at Barrier Creek, a short haul past Colonel's Cabin leads past the main kiosk to the parking area at the small picnic spot near the Veterans Guard of Canada Memorial.
This pleasant hiking opportunity would be an excellent, short and easy hike for folks spending the day at Barrier Lake.
Photographs for this hike on the Forest Ecology Loop were taken in Kananaskis Country west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada on July 6, 2015.