Yates Mountain Hike

Yates Mountain: A Summit for All Seasons

Distance
13.5km

Trail type
Out and back

Elevation
699m

Level
Moderate

 

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Many of the great hikes in Kananaskis are a good distance into the provincial park, where the mountain ranges get more dense. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t epic, unforgettable hikes at the start of the park! A great example of this is Yates Mountain, a hike that hike starts at Barrier Lake, a mere 10 kilometers from the Highway 40 turn-off from the TransCanada Highway.

Location

The path starts at the Barrier Lake parking lot, which is equipped with picnic tables and outhouses. From the parking lot, walk the length of the Barrier Dam to reach the trailhead and begin the journey up the mountain through the forest. Trek past this uninspiring bit and the actual trail begins with great views of Barrier Lake and Mount Baldy. The path begins to get more interesting, as it narrows and gets steeper, then directs hikers towards some bluffs atop a lookout with interesting rock formations. This marks an excellent spot to stop for a snack.

As you venture past the rocks, there is a choice to make a loop or take the shorter out and back approach, which is the easy ascent with views of Mount Yamnuska and its vertical cliffs and Bow River Valley. Take the out and back approach and you will reach a series of clearings with postcard views of the shimmering lake with the commanding presence of Mount Baldy on the opposite side. This is approximately 5km into your journey; you haven’t even reached the destination yet and the views you saw at the beginning are transformed into an excellent panorama.

Tokyapebi Ipa

Continuing towards the summit, hikers will encounter the first high point called Prairie View, looking eastwards towards the open flats, with Calgary’s skyline even visible on clear days. But you came for the summit, which will enhance these views, so on we continue. As you reach the summit, take note of the time of year you are visiting: from April- September the lookout at the summit is a private residence and hikers can use two picnic tables, while during the rest of year all vantage points are available. Take a rest at the viewing areas with a 360 panoramic view of the valley, mountain ranges towards Canmore and further into K-Country and the prairies to the east and you will gain an understanding as to why the Stoney Nakoda called this peak Tokyapebi Ipa, or Lookout Point for the Enemy.

The Larch March!

There is a good chance you are scaling Yates Mountain in the early autumn, as it is one of the more renowned larch viewing sites. The panorama at the peak gives a spellbinding view of larch growth and distribution throughout Kananaskis, providing a big picture glimpse into the elevation at which larch trees start to flourish, where the green line turns gold at 1800m.

 

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A Year-Round Hike

At some point you will have to tear yourself away from the staggering beauty at the lookout point summit and begin your easy descent back down to the car. Once you get back, you’ll notice you’ve hiked 13.5km and think to yourself, “Seriously? That was quite easy!” Most hikes with that kind of ground covered are a vigorous, exhausting trek, yet Yates Mountain takes you to dizzying heights and delivers precious views, without ever really getting too steep. In fact, this hike is also one of the featured winter hikes in Kananaskis, the path is so accessible.

The location at Barrier Lake is an excellent choice for a Kananaskis hike. The scenery, the four-season availability and the proximity to the park entrance (to make for a quicker trip home with less traffic!) make the Yates Mountain summit a must do for every Kananaskis hiking enthusiast.

Tips

If you’re tackling Yates Mountain in the winter, be sure to read our Ten Tips for Winter Hiking blog, to help inform you as to safe and comfortable hiking in the colder weather.