Distance: 7.5 km
Elevation gain: 400 mView mapDownload GPS track
With heavy Chinook snow falling in the mountains and with me nursing a full-blown cold that had been developing during our trip up Little Lougheed
yesterday, we decided that today was a day for an easy front country hike. A visit to Bob Spirko's site provided exactly the idea we were looking for - a random, off-trail excursion through gentle rolling hills less than 90 minutes from Calgary. Named Stimson Creek Hills
on his site, the hills are small (<200 m elevation gain) and covered in open aspen, pine, and spruce forest with meadows and smaller open areas here and there.
We parked in the same area as he did - the information kiosk for Willow Creek Public Land Use Area along Highway 532 - and headed uphill through aspen forest to the ridge to the west. We wore only microspikes and the snow over this section was deep and difficult to wade through. Once on the ridgecrest, however, aspens were replaced by pine and spruce and the snow cover largely disappeared. We continued north along this ridge to a nice viewpoint at the end, then headed roughly west, sticking to the softwood forest to avoid deep snow.
After descending steeply into an open gully we ascended a grassy meadow and continued north along another minor ridge, contoured west, then south, and hiked south along another ridge. With no trail in the area it really is up to you where to go; we preferred softwood forest and ridges to avoid the snow. After a short walk along this ridge we descended to the creek to the west - a branch of Stimson Creek - and followed ATV tracks through patches of snow back out to Highway 532, about 1.2 km west of where we parked.
While views were limited by heavy snow just a few kilometers to the west, this is not the type of area that grants stunning vistas anyway. The solitude and freedom to navigate off trail makes up for this, however, especially this time of year when other hikes are impossible.