Moose Mountain had been on my hiking bucket list for quite some time now. The distinct shape of the mountain had become an icon to me, the one mountain I can recognize from Calgary amongst the Rocky Mountain skyline.
I spent 3 summers working out in Kananaskis, and Moose Mountain was our daily view. So it was only a matter of time before I got around to hiking it.
The access road to the trailhead leads a ways up the mountain. There are various parking lots and trails on the way up, as this is also a popular mountain biking area. If you wish to hike to the summit, however, you will want to keep driving until the end of the road. There is a small parking lot here. From the road, there is a fire road access gate. If you follow this road, you will be on the main path. There are also trails leading up from the parking lot if you park further from the road.
The hike is an out-and-back with a total distance of 13.8 km and 766 m of elevation gain. The majority of the elevation comes later in the hike. The path begins through the forest, with a view of the valley and the path to the summit. There is a steady downhill section to reach a junction where many of the biking paths meet. Stay on the main pathway and continue in the same direction. In addition to mountain bikers, we also saw a couple horses on the path, so keep an eye out for a people enjoying a variety of different activities on Moose.
The path curves towards the summit, and we climbed the first steep section. This section follows switchbacks to the top, where the trail flattens out.
The trail dips down before ascending up to the final peak. Atop this peak there is a fire lookout station. It is not accessible to the public, but the structure is visible from the path. Until this point, the trail is wide, with space to walk two to three people side-by-side. Making the final ascent, however, is less spacious. The wind was aggressive as we began the climb. We had to stop a few times to brace ourselves and wait for the gust to pass. The ground here is loose rock, so not the ideal surface for stability against the wind. We were grateful for our poles here.
Though the path is less steady here, the ascent does not take long. After gaining the majority of the elevation, the path wraps around the side of the peak to end at a picnic table on the far side of the mountain. We stopped here for a snack and to enjoy the view. The wind was still strong, and we needed to add layers, despite how warm the day was. After a short break, we decided to hike back down, ending the hike with a total of about 6 hours on the trail, including lunch and other breaks.
I would rate this an intermediate level hike. The elevation can seem daunting at times, but the path is well paced. As always, bring lots of water, bear spray, and snacks, and hike at a pace that works for you.