In the summer you are unlikely to find us on Eagle Hill. Normally we use this trail only in the shoulder season when other more desirable routes are still covered in snow, but here at the height of summer we have a different reason to tackle it. Less than two months earlier we were in a serious car accident (a rear ending), one severe enough that our car was completely written off. Because of this we wanted to try something simple and not terribly challenging physically, just to see if we could still do it. Eagle Hill fit the bill and it became our first real hike since the accident.
The trail starts at the Sibbald Lake day use area and there are two possible starts to it – actually three if you take into account the equestrian start, which we won’t address here. You can head south looping around a small hill or you can follow the gated road north – in either case they both get you to the same destination. The later however means a bit work as you gain and loose some additional elevation. For this trip we’ll describe the first option.
From the parking spot back track along the road you came in on for a few hundred metres. Coming to a meadow loop right here around the hill following a faint path as it heads roughly west. After passing the junction with the Sibbald Interpretative trail and then right after the Deer Ridge trail, stay against the hill here (heading north now) and skirt a large moose pond – although I have yet to see a moose here. Before long the trail heads west again at the end of the pond and at shortly after the alternative route in we spoke of earlier comes in from the right at a shallow angle.
Heading west or perhaps more north westerly now, the trail enters a small valley. The vegetation here is mostly deciduous trees and there are lots of tall grasses and flowers (fire weed especially)and often they crowd out the trail making it at times, hard to see. Plus the understory is home to many mosquitoes and they sward around us as we move though the brush. Thank goodness for Muskol! A lot of mushrooms can be seen along the trail too.
Another junction comes and goes, this one is the west portion of the Deer Ridge trail loop. After it we occasionally plunge into a mature spruce forest where the trail becomes easier to follow and mosquitoes abate a bit. There are some minor ups and downs here too. Along here you enter an old cut block and the trees become quite dense and small for the next few hundred metres.
Before long we cross a bridge in a small side valley and this marks the start of the climb. Prior to here there has been minimal elevation gain, but from here on it’s an almost continuous up. In actuality there is not a huge elevation gain to the summit, but if this is the the first trail of the season it will seem worse than it actually is.
Staying in the forest, not long after the trail then breaks out into an open hillside meadow, joining an old exploration road that comes in from the south. From here to the top you are mostly out in the open and the trail zigs and zags, always heading up.
Before long you are at the summit, a small flat hill open to the south and west. To the north trees obscure the view. Even in spite of the limited panoramas presented here, there is still a lot to see. The flats below and peaks to the west – including Mt Yamnuska with its notable flat face. The Barrier Lake lookout sits right across from it and further back, there is Heart Mountain, Mt McGillivray, Pigeon Mountain the Three Sisters, who tower above all the others. And countless more, too numerous to mention.
It can often be windy here so we take refuge in the trees. Some bikers show up and we are pleasantly surprised to find Connie’s cousin amongst them. Jim is an avid mountain biker and we occasionally find him sharing the same trails as us.
We enjoy some wine at the top, an amazing Vognier from the LaFrenz winery in the Okanagan Valley (Naramata Bench to be exact). This is a special wine, a favourite of mine, and given this was out first outing after the accident, we felt we deserved it.
So how did we do? In spite of being in severe pain at times, we made it to the top. It wasn’t easy and we often thought of turning back, but the stubborn side of us made us press on. Connie and I were of course worried how this accident would effect our life, our outdoor pursuits in particular, but in the end we have be able to overcome the odds and our condition continues to improve. Even so this means that some pain and soreness will always accompany us when we explore the outdoors. Probably forever.
This trail, by virtue of its location, usually comes into season early so you’ll often find us here in the spring. At that time it can be boggy in places however. Calling Eagle Hill a summit might be a stretch, but it does fit the criteria.
If you wish more information on this trail, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: August 2011.
Location: Sibbald area Kananaskis.
Distance: 14km return.
Height gain from start: 330m.
Height gain cumulative: 420m.
Technical bits: None