Distance: 12 km
Elevation gain: 600 mView mapDownload GPS track
With winter setting in and the snow deepening, we set our sights on little-known Missinglink Mountain, located just an hour from Calgary in Sheep River Provincial Park.
There is no official trailhead nor trail, but the easily hikeable terrain means there are multiple routes to the summit. The most direct route begins along Gorge Creek road, 600 m from the intersection with Highway 546, ascending the grassy slopes just west of where a tributary of Gorge Creek crosses the road (currently washed out) then following the ridge to the summit. Round trip to the summit via this route is about 6 km, and as we were looking for a longer trip we chose to start at the Bighorn Parking area, located a few kilometers east of the Gorge Creek road.
From the Bighorn Parking area we crossed the 546 and headed roughly northwest into the forest, shortly encountering and ascending a steep grassy slope. A herd of elk likes to hang out in this area; follow their trails through the snow to avoid areas of deadfall. Once at the top of the slope, we simply continued northeast along the treed ridge (no bushwhacking). After several kilometers of mostly level travel, at the point where the ridge begins to descend into a gully, we turned north and ascended to the top of another treed ridge. Reaching the top of the ridge, we turned to the west-northwest and headed for the summit. As you are in the trees for most of this part, a GPS is handy to keep you on track, but the route is obvious and easily navigable even without a map.
The views from the summit are nice and there are many sheltered places to have lunch. There are also multiple options for the return, including heading down to Gorge Creek road via the shorter ascent route or heading roughly northeast along the ridge line of the mountain, then looping back to the parking area along a more northeastern ridge. We chose to head down to Gorge Creek road and walk back to the car along the 546, making for a 12 km trip with 600 m cumulative elevation gain. Not bad for trudging through a foot of snow most of the way!