I have mentioned this hike numerous time and I probably will again a ton more. Prairie View or Barrier Lake Lookout is such a popular route in Kananaskis. It’s just off of the highway so it is easily accessible. During fire season it is an active fire lookout. Another reason for it’s popularity is due to the low snow level. That means that in the spring time, it’s one of the first trails to start losing snow and in the fall the snow doesn’t stick until later. Therefore, it is a fantastic first and last hike of the season!
How to get there
When coming from Calgary, take the Highway 40 (Kananaskis Trail) until you reach the Barrier Lake Dam parking lot. During the summer months, make sure you arrive early. If not, you will be parking on the road and the trail will be packed. There is a dam behind the parking lot, follow the road around it and you’ll soon come across the trail head.
There is two ways to do this hike. One way is straight up and down the same path, or a loop. We recommend going down the way you came up, simply because when you do the loop, you’re just walking along side of the lake for quite a while. But if you have time to spare and want to check out the other side then go ahead!! The trail to the top is around 6.5km and an elevation gain of just over 600m. So if you’ve been Netflixing all winter or want a good beginner hike, this is the one for you!
The trail consists of switchbacks on an old road and then one steep hill to get near the top of the clearing. You’ll get a great view of Barrier Lake. If you look to the other side, it is the view of the prairies and in the distance is Calgary! Once you reach this clearing, keep going. The trail will turn into a smaller path and gets quite steep. It’s around a half an hour until you reach the top. Like I mentioned before, it is an active fire look out so someone lives up there during the summer months. If the same lady and her dog are there still, chat them up! She will probably explain to you the life of living a true minimalist life of living on the summit. If you walk to the far end past the hut, you can see glorious views of Bow Valley.
Once you get to the top, have some lunch on the picnic table or helicopter pad and chose your route down. The long way begins near the rock bluff, follow the signs labeled “Jewel Pass” or else go back down the way you came up.
This is such an easy and rewarding hike. The views of the valley are absolutely stunning. Get your day pack ready and get out there already!