Barrier Lookout

Access: Hwy 40, Barrier Dam  Parking: Barrier Dam Day-use area
15 kilometer Loop  |  Intermediate to Difficult  |  Approx. 3 hours
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Originally posted in (circa 2005)

Officially known as Prairie View Trail (not a big fan of the name) this ride is similar to Baldy Pass in that the trail on one side of the Mountain is a wide road offering fast and easy passage, while the other side is technically challenging single track, measuring your skills and fortitude on the trickier terrain. Obviously you can take the same route out and back, perhaps to avoid the technical stuff in favor of hurling yourself down the long and winding road from the first lookout, but whatever you choose to do make sure to exercise extreme caution when descending at high speeds.The numerous weekend hikers tend to appear out of nowhere (a bear bell works quite well).

Barrier Lookout in Kananaskis Country
Barrier Lookout in Kananaskis Country

From the parking lot it’s a gravel road that takes you up into a patch of trees and intersects with stoney trail. Stay the course up the fireroad, steadily gaining elevation along switchbacks (hikers can take shortcuts) until coming to a ridge that runs across to the grassy terrace of the old Lookout (strong riders can ride the whole ascent up without stopping, although you’re forgiven if you have to stop during a steep pitch near the top).

NOTE: On the other side of this mountain Jewell Pass descends to Heart Creek located just off the TransCanada Highway near Lac Des Arc.

From the hillside of the old lookout you get a wondrous view of Barrier Lake, with Baldy Mtn and Fisher Range in the background, but the actual Barrier Lookout at the summit is where you really get a panoramic view of K-Country’s Bow Valley region.

Barrier Lookout in Kananaskis Country

Traversing a ridge to the base of the summit you then have a bit of scrambling as you portage your bike, which sounds worse than it actually is unless of course you don’t have an aluminum frame on your bike. Riding down from the summit (yes, it’s white knuckle time) can be a bit treacherous initially as you navigate through scree, but it then turns into some marvelous single track leaving you wide eyed and wondering why you weren’t doing this years ago. It’s a rocky, rootsy trail, so if you’re one of those holdouts who still doesn’t have front suspension you will take quite a hammerin’. After a few km’s of this there’s the junction with Jewell Pass, so it’s important to turn left because the following 3 km’s has all the skill testing elements to make it the best part of the ride … and naturally, it’s over with way too soon. Once you connect back with Stoney Trail, the exhilaration is over for the most part as you plod along for 2.5k, making sure to turn right at the 2nd junction (the first junction will take you down a slow road thick with gravel). The final leg provides you with one last downhill blast to the car, like every good trail should …

Elbow Valley trails



By | 2017-01-09T23:44:02+00:00 March 12th, 2016|Categories: Backcountry|Tags: , |Comments Off on Barrier Lookout