Distance: 15 km
Elevation gain: 915 m View map Download GPS track
To my delight, I actually had time for two hikes this weekend, but a scramble up the tedious rubble of Mount Bryant yesterday had left my knees in no shape for anything big today. Instead we decided on an easy hike to Sugarloaf Lookout, the highest active fire lookout in the Canadian Rockies. This would “only” be about 16 km of hiking and 1000 m of elevation gain, but with all of it on an old road it wouldn’t be difficult and there was the potential I could drive the truck up a portion of that distance too.
We found the lookout road near km 8 of the Dutch Creek Road and started up in the truck. The road was in pretty terrible condition with multiple gullies, and after a little over 500 m I decided it wasn’t wise to continue and parked by the side of the road. We continued on foot, of course, and were able to move quickly and easily along the road. It steepened near the top, but was never difficult; it is a road afterall! We reached the summit under cloudy skies after 2.5 hours of hiking with multiple short breaks.
One of the main reasons I had wanted to do this hike was to get a view of Tornado Mountain and Gould Dome, two huge and impressive mountains to the west of Sugarloaf Lookout that aren’t easily viewed from other mountains. I was therefore frustrated and disappointed when we crested the summit ridge and discovered that low cloud was obscuring the summits of both! It lifted a bit in the time it took us to reach the summit from where we’d gained the ridge, but Tornado Mountain remained obscured for the entirety of our stay.
We were surprised to find the lookout unmanned, but this meant we had the freedom to wander around without worrying about trespassing. This was quite nice as the summit is adorned with some impressive rock art created by the attendant, the largest of which is a giant compass, that I’m not sure we’d have been able to wander around had they been on duty. The panoramic views were also very nice, as we’d fully expected from such a high and relatively isolated perch.
After taking in the views we retreated a short distance to a picnic table just below the summit, ate lunch, then started back down, taking our time photographing and admiring the plethora of wildflowers. A bit over 2/3 of the way down we met a truck and an SUV heading up, well past the rough section that had stopped me. One was a Toyota 4Runner, which has the same clearance as my truck, and as it was having no trouble whatsoever I guess I could’ve continued in my truck as well. After 20 years of driving a small car I’m having a hard time getting used to what a truck can do! We enjoyed the walk though, and that’s what we came for.