Distance: 10 km
Elevation gain: 910 m View map Download GPS track
Black Rock Mountain has been on my radar for awhile, but the road to its trailhead is often in very rough shape and the final 4 km utterly impassable in anything but a 4x4. We've recently acquired one of those, however, and as we hadn't yet taken it places my Civic couldn't go we decided to give it its first real workout and set out for the Black Rock Mountain trailhead.
The road to the trailhead is known as the TransAlta or Ghost River road. Theoretically it's maintained by TransAlta, but at one point it descends to and crosses the Ghost River, so it's never been meant for anything but trucks. It also passes through one of those terrible areas in Alberta where "people" can do what they want. We passed 3 burned camping trailers, loads of garbage, and lots of people irresponsibly shooting guns. The road was a bit of an adventure too, but at least some of that was probably due to my inexperience driving a truck. When the largest thing you've driven is a Honda Civic it's difficult to know exactly what a truck can and cannot do!
Nevertheless we made it to the trailhead for Black Rock Mountain without any real difficulty. We picked up the trail across a wide section of flood damaged river and were happy to see that the trail had been packed by hikers from earlier this winter. Decades ago the trail was used by pack horses to supply the fire lookout atop the mountain so it's a pretty mellow trail most of the way, steepening only briefly above treeline as it cleverly works its way through a cliff band and on the final push to the summit.
Above treeline the wind was moderately strong and made the final 50 m to the summit a bit unnerving. I'm not sure how the heck horses would have done this, but the route heads along a 3 m wide ridge with sheer drops on either side. In calm conditions it wouldn't be that bad, but with wind gusts pushing us up to a meter at times there was very little room for error! The cold wind on top also prevented what could have been a very nice summit rest in the remnants of the former fire lookout, but we were instead forced to retreat to warmer elevations within minutes of arriving on top.
The wind was mostly absent below treeline and we were able to have a small campfire to roast hotdogs on, something we've been doing more of these days as we've been limited to front range hikes where it's convenient and legal. We met just one other couple on the trail too, so despite the busy road not many people were heading out hiking. It was a great hike to a fairly isolated summit, however, and a great workout for us and our new truck!