Prairie View Trail is a popular spring/fall conditioner due to its proximity to Calgary and snow-free conditions early/late in hiking season. Hike up the old forestry road to McConnell Ridge for beautiful views of Barrier Lake, Mount Baldy and beyond. From here, you can scramble up a rock outcrop to a higher viewpoint or continue on to Yates Mountain/Barrier Lake Fire Lookout where you can look out over the Bow Valley. Afterwards, stop at Chief Chiniki Village for a treat!
Prairie View Trail Trip Report
The wind was howling, as it often does at Barrier Lake, but the girls couldn’t resist throwing rocks in the turquoise water. They asked, “Do you remember our beach day?” and made us promise to bring them back on a warmer day to play in the sand. With rosy cheeks and numb fingers, we said farewell to the lake and followed the beaten path up to the lookout.
Trembling aspens gave way to conifers as we wound our way ever upwards. We looked for lichens, mosses, and faces on the many trees we met and listened to the wind. At times it sounded like the ocean!
Right before the ridge, the trail gets quite steep, but the girls were motivated to reach the ridge and have a treat. As the trees cleared, we could see the lake below and all the surrounding peaks! Whiskeyjacks rode the thermals in the golden glow and dive bombed for crumbs (left by other hikers – please don’t feed them and make them more aggressive!).
We were losing daylight, so we decided to clamber up to the viewpoint for a quick look and save the Fire Lookout for another day. The short detour was well worth the extra couple minutes!
After more snacks (chocolate for the win!), the girls fairly flew down the mountain. It was a great half-day outing with gorgeous views from the top!
Prairie View Trail at a Glance
- Distance: 13.2 km return (Add on 0.7 km one way to the Fire Lookout).
- Elevation Gain: 421 m elevation gain to McConnell Ridge (Add 100 m to the Fire Lookout)
- Washrooms? Outhouses at parking lot
- Stroller Friendly? No
- Directions from Calgary: Head west on Highway 1. Take the Highway 40S/Kananaskis Trail exit. At the top of the ramp, turn left at the stop sign. Continue for 12 km. AFTER Barrier Lake Information Centre, turn right at Barrier Dam Day Use.
- Parking: Barrier Dam Day Use Area
- Trailhead: The trailhead is at the northwest corner of the parking lot.
Know Before You Go
- Ice cleats or microspikes are recommended from late fall to late spring.
- The trail is for hiking and mountain biking. Please share the trail.
- As this trail is in a provincial park, dogs must be on leash at all times.
- For a longer hike and chance to see a small waterfall, you can make a loop with Jewell Creek/Falls.
- There are garbage cans at the trailhead only. Please pack out all trash.