When we hiked this little loop last summer, we met people who had done it several times and were quite enamored with it as a half day walk, so we were keen to see how it translated into a winter trip. Could we walk it or should we take snowshoes? We walked, but were struggling a bit in mid section with calf-deep snow.
Like most people we didn’t start from Lusk Creek day area on Hwy. 68, but parked at the top of the hill just west of the bridge. Pretty soon we were enjoying the very pleasant windings of the Kananaskis Integrated Forest interpretive trail in the footsteps of others. The sun was warm, the breeze fitful (warning of bad weather to come), the interpretive signs all new and shiny, and the views of Mount Baldy, Horton Hill and Hunchback great as usual.
After the interpretive trail ended we continued on and joined North Baldy trail at the Old Mill Road. Hmmm… no bike tracks. We had expected a ton of them because the Baldy Pass trail is now an official fat tire bike route and marked as such on government maps. Actually, I find the designation a little odd, not just because the trail crosses avalanche paths on the south side, but because the snow collects in great masses on the north side of the pass and would be really hard to push through. Perhaps bikers were waiting for the trail to be packed by snowshoers?
Rather than return DOWN North Baldy trail (a quarter day loop), we turned left UP the hill, breaking trail for a kilometre to Lusk Pass trail junction — the route’s high point. We turned left at the rock and on logging road plowed down through alternating forest and cutblocks giving temporary views to Midnight Peak, Belmore Browne and other nameless summits of the Fisher Range. Thankfully the snow depth had lessened by the time we arrived at the Y-junction with signpost above Lusk Creek.
We turned left onto the old Lusk Pass road that was decommissioned during logging by the authorities who took the Lusk Pass trail, which is also the Trans Canada Trail, up the hill to North Baldy. A pity. Since that time a transformation has occurred, the road reduced in most parts to a wide trail that is a joy to walk, especially in the downhill direction. Only near the beginning do you make a short detour along the edge of a cutblock. Everywhere else the slash has been cleared off the trail.
By the time we reached the gravel pit near the car, the sun was a faint disc in the gathering murk that was gradually blotting out the mountains to the west. The heavy snow didn’t come until the next morning, no doubt covering our tracks with a foot of fresh powder. So if you’re thinking of trying the loop in the next little while, it’s best to take snowshoes.