This is one easy hike, really just a lazy walk through the forest with some scenic views of surrounding hills and ridges to boot. Pretty nice, but hardly worth a long drive and best done if you’re already in the area. In our case we were doing some trail scouting close by, still had some energy and time left afterwards and needed something to do. And this short little outing fit the bill well.
Park on the side of Highway #940 just beyond the Highwood River bridge, about a click or so south of Highwood House near the Highway #40 junction. This is a gravel road, and on weekends a busy one a that, so expect your car to be good and dusty on your return. The local car wash will love you.
West side of the highway – look for a narrow road heading into the woods. On our visit it was marked with a “no motorized vehicles” sign. This is your trail. We’ll call it the Moose Ponds Trail, although it’s generally called the Fitzsimmons Creek Trail, or some times the Strawberry Hills Connector, for people heading to those bumps further on.
Into the woods, the trail meanders a bit, rises and drops ever so slightly, passing some boggy areas now and then. Just beyond where it turns to single track, it meets up with the first of the Moose Ponds. None of that animal were spotted our visit, but it’s clear, given all the hoof prints, they do like to hang out here. Warning, they can be nasty buggers with real sour attitudes – the worst, a male in rutting season looking for love or alternately a mother with calf. You do not want to get in the way of either.
The ponds are fed by the Highwood River (remember, your drove over it), off in the north. Further on, unseen but heard, is Highway #40, and above Junction Hill. In behind Holy Cross Mountain pokes its head out.
It can be muddy here in this low lying area, depending on how wet the weather has been. Lots of bear prints on our visit.
Continuing on come to a large meadow. Pictures a First Nation’s encampment here – we did – seems perfect for it. Ahead the delicious sounding Strawberry Hills come into view. We’ve visited them, and had a blast, but took a different route in. By the way we found not a single berry of any kind on that outing – false advertising!
Looking back now the Coyote Hills come into view, to the right – you’ve been hiking below them the whole time but trees kept them from being seen until now. We hope to climb them one day. Further in the background is Hells Ridge. We’ve been up and thought it was rather heavenly.
The trail is faint here in the tall grasses. Head in roughly a northwesterly direction till the trail reappears.
Into the woods again. Soon on come to Fiztsimmons Creek, high with run off on our visit. You can continue on this same trail after crossing it, but we picked this point to turn back. But after lunch of course, back tracking a bit to find a nice spot.
For us food on the trail is a highlight. We always bring good chow, often gourmet chow, not the typical granola/energy bar hiking fare most people seem to bring, and of course, we always carry in a bottle of wine (long hike, sometimes two). It’s a tradition with us and it’s going nowhere soon.
Anyway, good food, good scenery, good company – how does it get better? If I’ve said this too much, well…deal with it.
Retrace your steps back to the car. Travel is quick, what with no hills or elevation of any kind to get in the way, and that over all short distance from end to end. At the ponds…hmmm, those are fresh moose prints. Looks like one visited them between us coming and going. Of course, we missed it. Recall, they can be jerks, but at the same time it’d be cool to get a photo of one.
On the way home, a stop at the Black Diamond Hotel for cold one and some pinball. A damn fine end to a good adventure. High score…you’re mine! Lofty aspirations, but one out of reach as it turned out. It’s the machine’s fault – it could use some TLC – yeah that’s why I didn’t do well. If not for that, I’d be champ! We recommend the place for a post hike pit stop. If you’re in the area.
If you wish more information about this trail, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: June, 2017.
Location: Kananaskis AB, Highwood River area.
Distance: 7 km return.
Height gain maximum: 60m-ish.
Height gain cumulative: 60m-ish.
NOTE: all distances and heights are approximate.
Technical bits, warnings and notes: None.
Reference: Kananaskis Trail Guide by Gillean Daffern.