Distance: 7 km
Elevation gain: 560 m View map Download GPS track
I was up very early today to drive Sandra to the airport, and after dropping her off I figured I might as well head west for a short hike before forecast flurries moved in. Today that hike would be to a former fire lookout site on the western slope of Castle Mountain. It’s been on my lazy day hike list for a year or so now, and with word that a trail had been broken last weekend it seemed like the perfect destination for today.
I arrived in the signed Castle Lookout parking lot just after sunrise, donned my microspikes, and started hiking at 7:45 am. It was cool, but not cold, and I was able to set a good pace on the very well packed trail, stopping a few times to remove layers as I overheated. I carried my snowshoes just in case, but in the end I never came close to needing them. The highlight of the lower ascent were the tracks of an enormous wolf that had followed the trail for about 1.5 km sometime during the flurries overnight. Perhaps the Bow Valley isn’t entirely devoid of wolves yet!
The trail gained elevation slowly and steadily and within an hour the forest started to thin, granting a very nice view across the Bow Valley. About 3/4 of the way up the terrain steepened considerably, but the trail switchbacked up the steep sections and travel remained easy. However, the steeper terrain included several short sections where small avalanches were certainly possible and closer to the lookout a small slide (50 m long, 5 m wide) from earlier this week had crossed the trail. The snow was solid today, but it’s definitely a risky spot in the right conditions.
As I approached the site of the former lookout the sun miraculously came out, lighting up the peaks across the valley quite spectacularly! This kind of luck with the weather doesn’t often happen and while I was a bit cold I decided to sit down and have a snack in the sun while I snapped photos. Just 20 minutes later the clouds enshrouded the sun again and I packed up and started down, passing a group of three snowshoers heading up and meeting another couple in the parking lot.
The entire hike took just 2 h 45 min, including my 20 minute break up top, so it wasn’t exactly a long hike, but the views were still wonderful and it’s nice to win the weather lottery once in a while!