Hunchback Hills, in one of the quieter areas of Kananaskis, are an interconnected series of bumps worthy of a visit. You can hike all of them as part of an extended horseshoe route of sorts – best done by those with good nav skills. Or you can make an out and back of it, as most poeple seem to do and take in the best part – the main summit. Prepare for excellent views of surrounding hills, peaks off in the distance, expansive forests, a stunning blue lake and all kinds of visually pleasing stuff to tickle the senses.
This is a farily “new” route, so there’s no real trail to speak of. For now anyway. But it’s well flagged, so getting lost is a non-issue.
Park at the Cox Hill/Jumpingpound Mountain/Lusk Pass trailhead on Powderface Trail, a winding gravel road, at a point about ten kilometres south of Highway #68. Don you packr, hiking poles at the ready, prepare for one fun and interesting outing.
Back track on the road a hundred metres or so and turn west on to the Lusk Pass Trail. It plunges into the forest, parallels a steam, the going nice and easy. In a short time, not much after crossing a bridge, come to a cairn, where you go off-trail. Turn right (north).
The way steepens, flagging every few trees or so marking the way. Soon on, maybe in a year or two, a trail will form and these can be removed. Until then, they’re a God-send. It’s be so easy to loose one’s way in the dense forest here. For the next while, trees is all you’ll see and only near the top will there be any views to speak of. Still, it’s pleasant, the angle rarely too steep. Who ever flagged it picked a pretty good line.
Heading up without break come to the first opening in the trees. Finally, things to look at. One can see passing cars on dusty Powderface Trail down there by where you parked. There’s Cox Hill and Jumpingpound Mountain to the east. Both are well worth a visit. There’s a sea of forest below.
As height is gained the terrain gets a bit rockier. In places cairns replace flagging. The way is always marked though. At times the trail follows the tops of small cliff bands.
Coming to a grassy meadow, the summit soon comes into view, a bit to the north, what looks to be an impenetrable wall of forest between you and it. Surprisingly, it’s no so bad, the flaggers not just following the best route angle wise, but also avoiding stands with dead fall. Good on them.
A short push and it’s out of the trees. Rocks and grass underfoot, the summit a short way off.
The top is broad and open…and quite windy the day of our visit. Views are three-sixty all around. Standing at the huge cairn one can take in Midnight Peak and Mount Baldy to the southwest (ugly logging cut blocks below them). To their left, and stretching off in the distance, many, many more peaks. Some we’re eyeing up to climb – heck the same can be said of most bumps we view. So much to do, so little time.
A gap between mountains allows a view of Nakiska Ski Hill. Below is the light blue of (man made) Barrier Lake. In behind is Yates Mountain/McConnell Ridge (Tokyapebi Ipa in Stoney Nakoda), home to the Barrier Lake Lookout, a fire spotting station.
There’s more Hunchback Hills to the north bending back in a shallow U-shape. They’re all a bit lower and look to be more heavily treed. Getting to each would require loosing and gaining elevation – a real roller coaster profile. If you do it, you’ll need two cars and top notch navigation skills. There’s nothing to guide you – no trail, no flagging, nada (so we’re told).
Calgary can be seen off to the east. If you look carefully that is. In behind Cox Hill and Jumpingpound Mountain, Moose Mountain comes into view. It’s a stand-out peak of limestone, off by itself, amidst rolling green hills. It also has a fire lookout on top.
To the south, it’s ridge after ridge and hill after hill extending as far as can be seen.
You might have to take refuge in the trees to escape the wind if you’re having lunch at the top. We did. Up until this point we had the place to ourselves. Soon on others joined us up here – including some who donned Halloween Costumes for a group photo. A few other folks were passed on the way down. At this rate a trail should form soon.
Retrace steps back to your car. A rally race was planned for Powderface Trail the following day (and it would be off limits then), so for a time had to follow cars that would be participating in the event, as they familiarized themselves with the route. Cough, cough, it was dusty! And damn can those guys drive – had to pull over to let a couple pass.
What’s in a name? We looked and came up empty. Perhaps from certain angles the Hunchback Hills have a silhouette of Quasimodo bent over or something? Anyone?
If you wish more information about this trail, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: October, 2017.
Location: Kananaskis AB, Sibbald area
Distance: 7km out and back.
Height gain maximum: 560m.
Height gain cumulative: 580m-ish.
NOTE: all distances and heights are approximate.
Technical bits, warnings and notes: No trail, only flagging.
Reference: Kananaskis Trail Guide by Gillean Daffern.