The Mustang Hills | Snowshoeing & Winter Hiking | Kananaskis Outdoors Forum

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The Mustang Hills
December 23, 2011
9:23 pm
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thepassionatehiker
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Back on June 2nd of 2011 Gillean Daffern wrote an interesting article on this website about trails in the Mustang Hills, with a nice map of the routes.  I was curious to see if they would make good snow-shoeing, so today on a perfect (although windy) day I set out to explore these hills by snow shoe. 

Since the winter gate is now closed at Elbow Falls, I had to hike up the road to Rainy Summit.  The snow is still thin on the road, and was easily hike-able especially with my trusty MICROspikes for extra grip.  At Rainy Summit I put on my snow shoes and headed up the hillside for fifty yards or so until I found the old road which had a little less than a foot of snow lying on it.  Turning up the hillside after 500 yards I followed the route described by Gillean over the tree-covered first summit and across to the open second summit.  Mr. or Ms. X did an excellent job of blazing the trees, and it was great fun following the marks on the tree trunks and the cut-off branches, as there was no other way of sticking to the trail, which was buried under the snow.  This makes an easy and enjoyabe snow shoe route.

I continued on to the even more open third summit, with its great views west to Banded Peak and Forgetmenot Mountain.  There are also very good views southwards down Quirk Creek.  I decided to continue down the ridge into the Elbow Valley.  The little cairns were very handy.  Word of warning:  near the bottom of the open section of ridge as you enter the trees, there is a slightly larger cairn and then about fifty yards below it a piece of red blazing tape on a tree.  This was confusing as you need to ignore that blazing and turn sharply right at the cairn towards the fold in the hillside.  And then lower down the hillside the blazing gets quite difficult to follow, but just keep heading down, bearing left further down, and negotiate a short steep section leading to the valley floor.

Instead of turning right as Gillean suggests, and heading west to Cobble Flats, I decided to turn left (east) and follow the river valley route back to the Winter Gate.  The foot or so of snow on the valley floor made for a really enjoyable snow shoe trip through the trees and beside a small arm of the river.  You can choose the route you want to take across the wide forested valley floor.  At the point where the cliffs close in on your left, and the river comes in from the right, I had to take off my snow shoes as the trail was too narrow.  But it is easily navigated, as the river winds through the narrow gorge.  Finally the trail returns to Highway 66 just west of the Beaver Flat campsite and it's a short walk back from there to the car.

This might be a slightly strenuous 14 km for some people but it does not involve any dangerous slopes or inpenetrable forest, and it's perfect for snow shoeing. 

Many thanks to the trailblazers.  This is about the best-blazed trail I have seen, and it added to the enjoyment to follow the path as it wandered across these gentle hillsides.  Well worth a trip.

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December 25, 2011
3:09 pm
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Great snowshoe trip PH. Any sign of anyone having skied the route?

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December 25, 2011
7:46 pm
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thepassionatehiker
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There was no sign of anyone having travelled the route at all, from Rainy Summit all the way across the Mustang Hills and down to the Elbow Valley, or in the valley itself, or through the gorge.  The first footsteps I saw were along the final few hundred metres where someone had come a short way from the highway along the first straight section of gorge from Beaver Flat.  By the way, I always keep a fairly detailed photographic record of my trips in case they are ever any use to anyone.

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December 28, 2011
11:08 am
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Calgary
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This post views to me as simply 'Post Awaiting Approval by Forum Administrator'. Is there a bug? It sounds like a trip I'd like to read.

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December 28, 2011
1:49 pm
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We were getting lots of spam on the site, so have to go through an approval process. Should be OK now.

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