Our objective this day is the oddly named Missinglink Mountain, located in the rolling foothills of Kananaskis Country west of Turner Valley and near the Sheep River. It’s a long undulating ridge with stunning views of the front range peaks to the west. It’s a bit of a trudge at the beginning but once at the cliffs it’s a delightful and most enjoyable hike. It’s a ridge walker’s dream and a great place if you like solitude. It’s seldom visited.
Normally one would start from the road that passes directly underneath the grassy slopes on south side of the mountain. Flood damage means, for now, one has to hike in from the highway instead, which adds perhaps an extra kilometre or so each way (and minimal elevation). Not a big deal. Later this season it should all be fixed anyway, making access easier once again.
Park along highway 546 where it meets the (temporarily closed) Gorge Creek Trail road. Hike down it as it heads west initially, then turns north. Along here work is being done to shore up a bank above the highway we just left. The whole area was badly damaged in the spring 2013 floods. We spot our first deer, one of many, of say several dozen, we’d see this day.
Soon Missinglink Mountain comes into view. Or at least the south end of it. From here we can see grassy slopes leading up to a cliff band, but not the summit of the mountain itself. It’s still a couple kilometres away and out of view from here. Just before our climb, we pass another flood damaged area, this one also being worked on. Kananaskis sure is a mess.
Starting up the steep hillside (sometimes the VERY steep hillside), we make quick time and are soon at the cliffs. While this section is not the most enjoyable – Connie and I like to gain our elevation at a more relaxed pace – we are happy know that most of the hard work is already behind us. These slopes, by the way, when wet (like with dew) are a bit slippery and care should be taken.
Once at the top there is a faint trail to follow. The views are stunning and in spite of the modest elevation gain, the steep cliffs and the Gorge Creek canyon directly below, make it seem like we’re much higher than we actually are. Also below is the Gorge Creek Road, which has been quiet since the floods last year. To the south is a modest-size green bump called (aptly) Green Mountain and directly west is another small hill named Mount Hoffmann. In front is what we call the ridge north of Green Mountain.
Along here, Eagle-eye Connie spots an odd wooden structure hanging from the cliffs. It’s purpose is a mystery…and how it got there is another and even more so – it’s in a precipitous location, one that would not be easy to get to. Weird!
This section of the ridge, according to Kananaskis hiking guru Gillean Daffern is called Dot Mountain. No one else, it seems, refers to it that way and for the sake of simplicity we’ll call it the west ridge of Missinglink Mountain.
Passing the last cliff, we’re soon in the trees. More faint trails help us along here. Sometimes they fade away, however all one has to do it stick to the ridge top. It’s obvious, even in the dense woods.
The ridge along here undulates and every now and then the trees thin and we break out into a meadow. These give us a good view of the mountains to the west. The most predominant one is Bluerock Mountain. Other tall peaks seen are Mt Rose, Mt Burns and Junction Mountain. All still have some snow pack on them. Some of those mentioned can be scrambled, if you are an ambitious type.
We head up one more bump, drop down a bit, then head up once again. The whole time we’re following game trails or bushwhacking. Recall however, the ridge is well defined and not terribly wide and at long as one keeps on top (it falls away on both sides), you’ll do okay.
Dropping down into a meadow, the summit finally comes into view. It looks heavily treed but in fact is open to the west. We bushwhack our way to it and are soon rewarded with some great vistas. In addition to the peaks mentioned earlier, we have a good look at Mt Ware, which we hope to summit one day (we can’t until they open the Gorge Creek Road however). Also seen is the mostly bare summit of Volcano Ridge. We’ve almost been to the top and hope to return, again, when the road opens, to take a second stab at it.
Taking it all in for a while, we head back. After a picnic lunch, with wine, of course. For the most part we followed our original route in. In places, we head to the east side of the ridge to see if it opens up in places. It doesn’t. Along here were pass a cut line. What’s amazing is that no matter what the terrain these are almost always arrow straight.
In addition to the deer mentioned earlier, we saw many grouse this trip along with numerous chipmunks. Dropping down from one high point, we rounded a corner and surprised some elk – and they surprised us! Slow down heart!
In no time we’re back at the cliffs. Rather than head down the grassy slopes the way we came up, we elect to see if sticking to the trees would be less steep. As it turned out the angle of descent was for the most part the same and no less hard on the knees. Soon we’re back at the road and not long after, the car, a thoroughly enjoyable trip behind us.
We hiked under glorious blue skies this trip, although at times a storm threatened.
This route, as we did it, does not appear in any hiking books. Based on other trip reports we’ve found online (we were inspired by Bob Spirko’s) a few others have gone the way we have. Daffern lists a number of other routes to the summit but none take in the best part, the cliffs. Given it’s easy to get to, and easily summited, and the great views from it, I am surprised it’s not more popular. Connie and I both enjoyed it very much but saw no one this trip and scant evidence others had ever visited.
How Missinglink Mountain gained its strange name is not completely clear. Many have theories but none has been confirmed.
If you wish more information on this trail, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: June, 2014.
Location: Kananaskis AB, Sheep River area.
Distance: 9km out and back.
Height gain maximum: 430m.
Height gain cumulative: 500m.
Technical bits: Some minor route finding challenges.
NOTE: all heights and distances are approximate.