Distance: 19 km
Elevation gain: 1025 m View map Download GPS track
It’s been a few weeks since we hiked in the Rockies and much longer since we went camping, so with uncharacteristically beautiful weather this weekend we headed up to the vast area south of Nordegg for a little of both.
Our first hike would be up Ram Mountain, home to an active fire lookout. There are several trails up this mountain detailed in print and online, but the beginning of each has been obliterated by logging, thus making finding a trailhead the crux of the entire trip. We eventually did find one on the eastern (righthand) edge of the easternmost clearcut, but later in the day from the summit it appeared that just a few kilometers further west there was a new logging road that we probably could’ve driven nearly to treeline.
Regardless, after gearing up in the unusual heat we started up the old road, still easily discernable as it cut through the new clearcut. It soon entered forest, then passed alongside another clearcut before entering the forest again. The grade ranged from flat to moderately steep and the trail was in reasonably good shape with just a few muddy patches, ruts, and rocky areas caused by OHV traffic.
Shortly after reaching open meadows the trail terminated at a highpoint. An old road to the lookout was visible below and to the west, as well as a huge clearcut and logging road. We easily descended from the highpoint and connected up with the old road, traversing around or over several minor highpoints as we made our way towards the fire lookout.
Oddly, the lookout is not on the summit of the mountain, and so before visiting the lookout we headed north to the next highpoint, identified as the summit official maps. Another highpoint further north is identified as the summit in some reports, but with our energy waning and no real advantage to continuing we didn’t venture that far.
The view from the summit was nice, but not great. Ram Mountain is sort of a big foothill and as such is very far from any of the larger mountains and the panorama is mostly filled with clearcut forests instead of jagged peaks. Still, it’s a worthwhile hike when those larger peaks are snowbound. Perhaps more interesting than the distant mountains were millions of flying beetles on the summit ridge. In short order we were covered in them and when we later visited the fire lookout the attendant was actually sweeping PILES of them off his deck! There were that many of them.
On our return we made a short detour to the fire lookout. The most logical route would’ve been a direct slog up the scree, but we instead followed the nearly level road around to the back (south) side of the lookout hill, and it’s a good thing we did. Where the road heads up there is a partial fence with a “No Trespassing” sign on it. I knew there was a lookout attendant on site and so I wasn’t about to go past it (despite the silliness of it), but he came out onto the deck and called us up. It turns out that this year the attendants have been instructed to write up incident reports each time someone comes past the gate uninvited!
Despite the signage and bureaucratic regulations, the lookout attendant was super friendly and we ended up chatting with him for quite some time. He’s been at this lookout for several years and had a ton of stories to share.
After our visit we returned to the truck the way we came up, encountering a large group of noisy OHV’s and a quiet group of a few dozen sheep on the way down. We then drove further west until we found an idyllic riverside campsite, cooked dinner over the campfire and then crawled into our little truck camper. It was a very good start to the long weekend!