Distance: 15 km (loop)
Elevation gain: 610 mView mapDownload GPS track
Yates Mountain is more commonly known as the Barrier Lake Lookout or Prairie View, but the official name of the small peak that sports the fire lookout is Yates Mountain. It is a good hike for late fall or early summer when other areas are snowed in, although it's popularity will make it icy if snow is on the ground. It also resides in an area that is strangely sheltered from the weather; if it's raining or snowing elsewhere in Kananaskis, it just might be acceptable hiking weather here.
The trail starts at the end of the Barrier Lake parking area and follows the dam past the power station. Follow the road as it turns to the right (north), watching for signs at major junctions. The road will take you nearly to the summit and is very well graded with only one section that is remotely steep. After the first excellent viewpoint the road is replaced with a wide trail, ascending to a rocky outcropping sporting a mysterious large metal sign with nothing on it. A sign here indicates the main trail descends off the rock to the south; if heading to the lookout you must head northwest up the treed ridge. The peak sports several buildings, but be aware that in season someone lives here and treat the area as you would expect someone to treat your yard.
To make this hike a loop, follow the trail south off the rocky outcropping you passed on the way up. This trail descends to a signed 4-way junction in treed Jewel Pass; head southeast from here (soon turning to due south) and descend to Barrier Lake, then hike back to your car along a trail following the shoreline. The total mileage isn't much more than hiking back down the way you came, and while the scenery certainly isn't spectacular on this route, it is different.