Prairie View Trail is a popular hike, especially during early season as you do not need to wait for roads to open and the elevation is not as significant, meaning the snow doesn’t stick around as long at the top. I did this trail at the beginning of June of 2021, on an overcast day which threatened rain but failed to make good on that promise.
The trail begins at Barrier Lake off highway 40, from the Barrier Lake Road exit. There was plenty of parking in the lot when we went, but on days when the weather is more optimal I have seen the lot full to overflowing. The trail begins on a fire road which hugs the edge of the lake at first, before turning into the forest for the beginning of the elevation. The hike is 6.6 km to the viewpoint, with an elevation gain of 421 m.
We started the hike around 11 am and climbed quickly. We stopped for a snack on some logs that formed a convenient bench and attracted the attention of whiskey jacks. These curious little birds tend to be devious when it comes to stealing food, so be watchful. As always, never feed animals you meet on the trail, accustoming them to human presence and associating humans with food can be deadly for them.
We then continued up to the viewpoint, passing through the steepest section of the hike, which was slippery due to the mud from the recent rain. We stopped at the viewpoint for some photos, but quickly got cold. As the day was chilly, with strong winds at the top, we opted for a shorter hike and decided to head back out.
Should this short hike not be enough, you can continue to the north side of the ridge for another lookout, or descend towards Jewell Pass to make the trail a loop rather than an out-and-back.
We ate a quick lunch with the whiskey jacks, then headed back down. We arrived back at the parking lot around 2:30 pm. Overall I would consider this trail easy, with the muddy section an exception. This would be a good family or beginner’s trail as the view is quite rewarding despite the low elevation profile.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Parking lot can fill up on nice days. Arrive early to ensure you get a spot.
- Kananaskis now requires a parking pass. This can be a daily pass ($15) or an annual pass ($90) and is monitored via license plate. Pass information can be found here.
- Dogs are allowed on this trail! But they should be kept on leash.
- Make sure to follow No-Trace principles while in the backcountry, packing out any and all waste you bring (including dog poop).
- Kananaskis is a beautiful area, but it is also home to many wild animals. Bring bear spray while hiking, and never, ever feed any animal you see on the trail.