Distance: 12 km
Elevation gain: 645 m View map Download GPS track
I drove out to Kananaskis today with plans to hike up Limestone Mountain, a nondescript subpeak of The Wedge, but after a few u-turns at its base trying to imagine a way up that didn’t involve horrible bushwhacking through tick country I gave up and turned to plan B: An easy stroll up Yates Mountain, much more commonly known as Barrier Lookout. Normally I like to think I’m not nearly so wimpy, but after months of frustrating work and a day of driving and slogging through snow yesterday I apparently had absolutely no mental stamina for adversity today.
Despite this indecision I thankfully arrived at Barrier Lake before anyone else appeared to be hiking, and as I was alone I was able to set a rapid pace along the trail. I figured if I wasn’t going to be able to explore a new place I’d might as well get some good exercise. This also had the effect of keeping me well ahead of what I knew was going to be a very big crowd heading up later in the day.
I reached the summit after just 90 minutes of fast hiking, joining a couple who’d hiked up earlier. The lookout attendant and her sister were sitting on the deck and we ended up chatting for an hour. Apparently 83 people had reached the summit yesterday and 106 on Saturday, including a memorable group of kids who weren’t on cell phones and a large group of Turkish immigrants out for what I imagine was a spectacular introduction to Canada.
By the time I had lunch and started down the breeze I’d had on the way up had disappeared and the southeast-facing slope was baking in the sun. The trail was also incredibly crowded, and I passed well over 100 people on my descent. It’s a nice hike, but unless you enjoy hiking among a thinner and smellier version of Walmart at Christmastime, you’ll definitely want to start this hike before 8:30 am. An early start will also allow you to get a parking spot: When I reached the parking lot around noon cars were parked along both sides of the access road and there were at least a few dozen more parked along highway 40!