* Half-day hike, out-and-back. Dogs must be leashed. Obvious trail with several signs.
* Distance: Roughly 12 kms return (roughly 4 hrs)
* Elevation gain: Roughly 550m
* Difficulty: Moderate/intermediate
* Trailhead: Barrier Lake Day Use parking lot (off Hwy 40)
This very popular route starts at the Barrier Lake Day Use parking lot, just off Hwy 40 in Kananaskis Country. It follows the Prairie View Trail to a few lookouts, as well as an option to summit Yates Mountain at the fire lookout station. The hike to Yates Mountain is sometimes referred to as Barrier Lake Fire Lookout. You can also return via Jewell Pass rather than retracing your steps.
This is a good year-round hike in the Canadian Rockies. Try to arrive early at Barrier Lake in order to secure a parking spot (parking on the highway risks a hefty fine).
Make sure you purchase a Kananaskis Conservation Pass before coming out; the fine for parking without one is 180.00 $. Check out Barrier Lake Trail Report website beforehand. Hike in a group and don’t forget your hiking poles.
From the parking lot, head down past the gate towards Barrier Dam and walk on the path skirting it. This section is always very windy (hence cold), so cover up for this flat section of the trail.
After the first km, you’ll cross under the power lines; consult the trail map and stay on the main Prairie View walking trail. You’ll start gaining elevation quickly and steadily now.
The hike slowly switchbacks through the forest, up a wide trail, for a few kilometres and is relatively uninspiring. You’ll get your first views on your left as you skirt McConnell Ridge.
Not long after McConnell Ridge, you’ll break out onto flat ground and glimpse the first lookout.
After this first lookout, keep ascending the path for another kilometre as it narrows and steepens through some rocky terrain. There’s no exposure or danger, but as you near the top, you’ll clamber over several large boulders and hang on to some trees for balance. In the winter, spikes or ice cleats will be immensely helpful here, as this area gets icy and very slippery. You’ll eventually land atop the flat rocks at Prairie View. Here comes the final lookout!
Once you’ve gotten your fill of this beautiful vista, retrace your footsteps back down to the Barrier Lake parking lot.
I’ve never continued up to Yates Mountain (or Barrier Lake Fire Lookout) but if you wish to, look for a sign indicating Trail not maintained beyond this point near the second lookout. The trail is short (15 min) and steep with a bit of exposure. You’ll spot a helicopter pad, as well as picnic tables and the lookout hut; remember that this is someone’s summer residence, so be cool and respectful and keep your distance, even in winter. Look for a sign pointing toward the viewpoint and retrace your footsteps once you’re ready to head back.
There’s also an option to return via Jewell Pass instead of Prairie View Trail.
See ya on the trails!
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