Distance: 4 km
Elevation gain: 325 m
This is a very short and easy hike not so far from Calgary.
The most scenic way to reach the trailhead is via highway 532, which turns west off highway 22 about 30 km south of Longview. Highway 532 winds and gently ascends through aspen forest, passing an impressive beaver dam and lodge and usually lots of wildlife before reaching a steep switchback. Just before the steep ascent starts, scan the hillsides for a heard of Rocky Mountain Sheep that live in the area and that often descend to the road to replenish their salt supplies. While the gravel road is maintained, the ascent up the switchback is always in rough shape; watch for rocky bumps that could do some damage to small cars if hit incorrectly. It's not difficult in a Honda Civic though, so it shouldn't pose a problem for most cars.
The trail starts at the highpoint of the road directly opposite the small parking area next to the pond. The route to the fire lookout perched atop Hailstone Butte simply ascends the gully separating you from your destination. The initially obvious trail disappears about halfway up, but navigation is straightforward. Aim for an area below the rock band just to the left of the fire lookout where the climb over the rock band is easiest. Keep in mind that the lookout will be hidden at this point, so take note of where it is before it is out of sight.
The final five vertical meters - the rock band - is predictably the most difficult part of this short hike and could be an obstacle to acrophobes, but there is minimal exposure and plenty of good footing. Earlier in the year a significant amount of snow can make this last part dangerous; in our experience the snow is generally gone by mid-June, although some did remain today. From the top the view extends west to aptly named Plateau Mountain, northeast to Calgary, and southeast to Windy Peak Hills (another early season hike). Many other mountains are visible as well, at least two of which - Sentinel Peak (north) and Mt. Burke (northwest) - are other early season objectives.
Category:Lifestyle and Recreation
Keywords:Hailstone Butte, Kananaskis