Distance: 20 km
Elevation gain: 1000 mRoute map
A few years ago I "discovered" Sheep River Provincial Park. I'm not sure how it eluded me for so long, but it's now one of our favorite early and late season hiking destinations. The forest is open, wildlife is abundant, and the trails and routes easy and relaxing. In 2013, however, a major bridge across the Sheep River washed away and hasn't yet been replaced, meaning accessing half the park now requires wading the Sheep River. This weekend, with showers and chinook winds blowing hard in the main ranges but beautiful sunshine forecast for the Sheep River area, we finally decided to bite the bullet and wade the freezing Sheep River. To make it worthwhile we decided that once across we'd hike up two mountains, Green Mountain and Mount Hoffman. They're both small, but bigger than those nearby and thus afford really nice views.
We parked at the Indian Oils trailhead and crossed the river just upstream of Tiger Jaw Falls, the site of the former bridge. The water was about a foot deep, but the current was strong. Once across the river we followed the directions in the Kananaskis Country Trail Guide
to the base of Green Mountain, then made our own way up its slopes. The forest was open here and the going and routefinding was very easy. Unfortunately the view from the summit was obscured by trees, but a short walk southeast to slightly lower Spaulding Point granted us great views to the west. From Spaulding Point we descended the cliff band guarding its summit (easy once we found the right spot), then forged our own route back to the trail. Again, the travel and routefinding was easy. That's a big part of what I love about this area - the freedom to easily wander wherever I want. I tend to learn and find so much more that way.
After connecting back up with the main trail we headed back to Dyson Creek, had lunch in the wonderful meadows by Dyson Falls, then headed for Mount Hoffman. The trail up Mount Hoffman was initially an old road, but turned to trail when the road ended about halfway up. It got steep at this point too, but reached much more level terrain after about 100 m of ascent. Here the trail faded in significant deadfall, but flagging lead us through the path of least resistance and to the open western side of the summit. Two sheep called the summit home today, but a very strong wind kept us from hanging out with them for very long. Views were spectacular to the west, particularly that of Gibraltar Mountain, and many of the other hikes we've enjoyed in the park were visible to the north, but the panorama to the east was blocked by trees. Interestingly there was a summit register too, and despite it's diminutive size Mount Hoffman sees about a half dozen ascents each year, including from guidebook author Andrew Nugara
Unfortunately the wind quickly drove us from the summit. A quick descent brought us back to the main trail and after another icy crossing of the Sheep River we were back at the car, happy to have bagged two leisurely peaks on a day when the weather wouldn't have been so great further west.