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Hiking Black Rock Mountain in the winter was a gnarly adventure, but in the summer months the hike is straightforward and only moderately difficult. Getting to the trailhead of this hike is an adventure as you will need to 4×4 through a (mostly dried up) riverbed. The hike has some easy scrambling, but the most difficult part is the steep final push to the summit. At the top you are rewarded by unreal 360-degree views of the Rockies.
Time Required: 4-5 Hours
Location: 45km west of Calgary
Distance: 10.9km round trip
Highest Elevation: 2440m
Elevation Gain: 980m
Difficulty: 7/10 – Consistent elevation gain
Season: May to October for summer conditions.
Additional Requirements: 4×4 vehicle to reach the trailhead.
From Cochrane: Head west on Bow Valley Trail/AB-1A for 14km and then turn right onto Forestry Trunk Rd/AB-40 North. Follow Hwy 40 for 38.2km and take a left at Ghost Airstrip Campground followed by another immediate left. Head south for 12.8km then turn right, follow this road for 6.2km and you will reach a steep hill going down to the riverbed. Once you hit the riverbed, follow the road in the riverbed heading north for about 2km. The trailhead will be on the (North) other side of the creek. NOTE: You will likely need a 4X4 vehicle to drive in the riverbed.
WHAT TO BRING
- Comfortable Footwear: Hiking shoes. Boots if it’s winter.
- Water: This hike is long with lots of elevation gain to reach the summit. Be sure to bring enough water for 4-5 hours of physical exertion.
- Snacks: Bring some of your favorite snacks to enjoy along the hike as well as a light lunch for when you arrive at the falls. Some of our favorite snacks are trail mix, bananas, beef jerky and licorice.
- Weather appropriate clothing: You will be exposed to the elements throughout this hike. Check the weather forecast and plan accordingly.
- Sunscreen: If it is sunny and you’re like Mattson, who easily burns, bring sunscreen!
- Insect Repellent: Insect repellent can greatly improve your hiking experience.
- Bear Spray: You are in bear country. Always hike with bear spray that is easily accessible.
- Camera: There are numerous photo opportunities you won’t want to miss.
- This Guide: Print a copy of this guide to reference throughout the hike
Wildlife: You will be hiking in bear country. Carry bear spray in an easily accessible location. Travel in groups of multiple hikers and make lots of noise to avoid an unexpected encounter.
Leave No Trace: It is important that we enjoy the outdoors responsibly and sustainably. Some key principles to consider when hiking to “Leave No Trace” are:
- Plan ahead and prepare: Proper planning allows adventurers to hike safely while minimizing damage to the land.
- Travel on durable surfaces: Stick to the trail when possible. If there is no trail, or you must travel off trail, stay on durable surfaces to reduce your impact.
- Dispose of waste properly: Pack it in, pack it out.
- Leave what you find: Leave rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest as you find them.
- Respect wildlife: Observe wildlife from a distance. Never feed wild animals.
- Be considerate of other visitors: Be courteous to others to allow everyone to enjoy their outdoor experience.
To learn more about “Leave No Trace” visit http://www.leavenotrace.ca
Summary: The trail up Black Rock Mountain is fairly straightforward and in the summer, is easy to follow. The trail gains elevation to an upper plateau and then there is a final steep push to the summit. In the winter if there is snow, we recommend using an app with GPS (AllTrails) to ensure your taking the correct route.
Finding the trailhead for this hike is potentially the most difficult part of the hike. You will need a 4×4 vehicle to drive the final 2km across the dry riverbed. A broken sign marks the Black Rock Viewpoint trail (Route marker #1 on the map). We used the AllTrails app to find the exact location of the trailhead and it worked great.
The trail is easy to follow and reasonably flat for the first few kms of the hike. A forest fire blew through the area a few months before we did the hike, so the trees were charred black and the smell of smoke was still in the air. There was some snow coverage so the trail was difficult to find at times but in the summer the trail would be easy to follow.
We lost the trail and ended up too far right on a steep scree hill. The challenging slippery climb up the scree slope made the hike much harder than it should have been. On the way down we managed to stay on the correct trail and the descent was a lot easier. The trail will eventually reach the upper plateau (Route marker #2 on the map) where it follows the ridge to the false peak. From here you can see the steep final climb to the true summit.
Even though the false peak has good views don’t stop there! The steep final section to the summit is tiring but well worth it. If Finn can do it, you can too!
At the summit (Route marker #3 on the map), there is an old fire lookout that was built in 1889. People used to take horses all the way to the top to keep lookout for wildfires. Leave your mark by carving your name into the fire lookout at the top, enjoy some 360 views of the Rockies and then make your way back down the same way you came up! Enjoy!
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Have fun out there!