Did you know that the highest point on The Great Trail (Trans-Canada Trail) is Cox Hill in Kananaskis Country? At about 2217 m (7274′), Cox Hill is a superlative viewpoint. Nearby is the imposing bulk of Moose Mountain and it’s impressive north ridge. To the west you are treated to an extensive panorama of the main range of the Canadian Rockies, and on a clear day you can even see Calgary almost due east.
The hill was named “Cockscomb Hill” after its fringe of summit rocks by surveyor A.O. Wheeler who climbed it in 1895. It was subsequently marked as Cockscomb on maps such as the 1913 Commission of Conservation Canada map of the Bow River Basin. But somehow in the next few years the name got abbreviated, and by 1927 the hill was simply known as Cox. The Stonys have their own name for it: Zotha Odabi Baha, or “Many marmots hill.” Wheeler climbed it again on November 8th, 1896 with “young Sibbald”, whose name appears on the map below.
The North Ridge route starts from Dawson trailhead on Powderface Road 3 km south of Hwy. 68 (See map). The trailhead sign incorrectly says Jumping Pound Ridge & Tom Snow. About 250 m along the trail you cross Jumpingpound Creek on an impressive post-flood bridge, and in another 300 m arrive at a T-junction where the Tom Snow section of the Trans Canada Trail comes in from the left.
Turn right onto Coxhill Ridge trail, which winds fairly steeply for another 5.7 km through mature forest with alder understory followed by open zig-zags up a north-facing slope to the summit ridge, with a total height gain of about 700 m. In early winter and spring snow lies heavy on the north slope and can be a problem into early July some years.
In spring it is better to start from Lusk Creek trailhead after Powderface Road opens May 15th. From Lusk Pass trailhead parking, cross the road to the start of Jumpingpound Ridge trail. Straightaway after crossing the bridge over Jumpingpound Creek, you’re into long, sweeping zigs up a forested ridge. The trail straightens, flattens briefly, then resumes a steeper, tighter, twisting climb to the southern terminus of Coxhill Ridge trail at treeline (4.1 km).
Turn left and follow the southern portion of Coxhill Ridge trail up to the summit. To start with it descends about 120 m to a col followed by a stiff pull up of 240 m to the top. The total distance is 7.1 km with a height gain of 680 m. In our opinion, this is much more enjoyable than the regular forest route up the north ridge.
If you are thru-hiking The Great Trail, the distance between Dawson and Lusk trailheads is 13.3 km with about 120 m less height gain heading north.
Most of the material above is taken from Gillean Daffern’s Kananaskis Country Trail Guide Volume 2.