Prairie View and Jewell Pass Winter Hike {Kananaskis Country}

Prairie View and Jewell Pass Winter Hike {Kananaskis Country}

Prairie View and Jewell Pass Winter Hike

  • Distance – 15.5 km roundtrip
  • Elevation – 691 meters
  • Difficulty – Easy
  • TrailheadBarrier Lake Trail Parking Lot
  • Logistics – Parking lot usually quite busy, may have to park on the highway

Prairie View and Jewell Pass is a wonderfully accessible hike in Kananaskis Country that you are able to enjoy in all four seasons! I recommend doing this hike in winter and to save the summer days for peak-bagging and the passes that are only snow-free for a few weeks a year.

I suggest bringing along hiking poles or wearing spikes as the added traction is welcome on the few steep climbs and descents at the viewpoint. It is always easier to climb up, but what goes up must come down! Having spikes that you can pull on and off and carrying collapsible poles that you can stuff in your pack is never a bad idea.

Oh and snacks. Always bring snacks!

Whiskey Jack landing on my hand at Prairie View
I made a friend on the trail! I simply stuck my hand out and he came over for a bit of a chat. Whiskey Jacks are beautiful!

This hike is easily accessible from Highway 1. Simply go south on Highway 40 (Kananaskis Trail) for 9 km and you will find the parking lot for Barrier Lake on your right (west). The parking lot isn’t huge, so you will most likely have to park on the side of the highway. The shoulders are quite large, so it isn’t too much of a concern.

Hiking Details.

Start at the Barrier Lake day-use area and follow the wide path along the lake’s edge. Most likely, it is going to be extremely windy for about 1 km. Don’t worry, the wind will die down once you leave the berm and lake edge and head towards the trees.

Barrier Lake Winter
Start of the hike – Barrier Lake.

At the first junction, bear right and start ascending in the trees. You will be about 1.5 km into your hike at this point. Keep ascending through the trees for another 5 km and follow the path up to the fire lookout. The snowy forest is beautiful in its own right and listening to the crunch of the snow underfoot is wonderful. There are a few places to enjoy the view at the summit and have a quick snack if you brought some with you.

Take in views of Bow Valley, Mount Baldy, and Barrier Lake before you decide if you are going to go back the way you came or if you want to descend through Jewell Pass.

Prairie View Fire Lookout Winter Hike
Views from the top are lovely!

The return to the car via Jewell Pass only has a few short ascents; it is nearly all gentle, runnable downhill or flat. Take time to enjoy the forest and pretty creek crossings if you decide to go this way and make it a loop.

If you decide to go back via Jewell Pass, continue hiking up to the highest lookout point and then start descending even if a trail isn’t obvious. Suddenly, as you reach the trees, a trail will appear. This is your way back to the start. This area is a grid of trails to enjoy, so ensure you’re reading all the signs and going in the correct direction back to the car.

Jewell Pass Winter Hike
I am always so thankful for trail builders! There are two bridged creek crossings down through Jewell Pass.

Here are a few tips if you are directionally challenged:

  • Keep the lake either in front of you or on your right on the way back to the car.
  • Go left at every junction (if you are doing the hike counter-clockwise) until you find yourself at the first junction from the start of the hike, then go right back to the car (this keeps the lake in front of you and on your right.)
  • Remember that you parked on the north side of the lake, aka left if you are looking at it straight on.

If you want to make the hike shorter and don’t mind seeing what you saw on the way up, enjoy the views and head back the way you came. You will reduce your distance by about 2 km.

When we did the hike, the conditions were great – basically zero ice, just nice crunchy snow to hike on. A few of the descents got a bit slippery and I was glad to have my poles with me to help me avoid falling on my head, even though I didn’t technically need them since the trail was in such good condition.

Happy hiking!

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