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Grand views of Barrier Lake before the viewpoint
Grand views of Barrier Lake before the viewpoint

Prairie View Trail – Jewell Pass Hike

A popular Kananaskis Country hike

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The Prairie View Trail – Jewell Pass hike in Kananaskis Country is a good choice in the shoulder season when you want to get outside but don’t want to commit to a long drive. It takes less than an hour to get to the trailhead from Calgary.

The Prairie View Trail hike is a very popular one. It’s definitely not one of the prettier hikes in Kananaskis Country but in the off-season when you just want to get out, I think it’s an excellent choice. And its way more interesting if you do the Prairie View Trail – Jewell Pass combo as described below.

Not only can it can be snowy by mid-October, it can hold the snow well into May. Don’t forget the icers and a pair of poles plus some warm clothes just in case. Be sure you have purchased a Kananaskis Conservation pass.

Read: The 10 Hiking Essentials Everyone Should Carry

Start the Prairie View trail hike beside Barrier Lake
Start the Prairie View Hike beside Barrier Lake

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Prairie View Trail – Jewel Pass hike details

After you’ve parked your car head for the gravel road that crosses the Barrier Lake Dam. This is not the prettiest part of the hike! Cross under a powerline and continue up either the road or the trail. If you stick to the trail you’ll come to a bench with a bit of a view at the top of a small hill.

There is an intersection here. If you go left you’ll end up heading for the Jewell Pass trail. At the end of the day you end up returning to this spot if you do the hike as a loop.

Walk across the dam to start the hike
Walk across the dam to start the hike

When you see the sign in the photo below and the two hydro poles go left. Follow the road. Stay left again at the next intersection and then start switch-backing up the hill, climbing a total of 421 m. An old trail also climbs the hill, but it’s been covered with brush to prevent people from walking on it.

The last couple of sections in the trees were icy and snow covered in mid-October so icers come in very helpful.

Go left when you see this sign on the Prairie View Trail
Go left when you see this sign and the two hydro poles

When you pop out of the trees in a meadow, the view of Barrier Lake is quite spectacular.

Continue on the obvious trail along the ridge you can see in the photo below until you reach a short, steep section. There are a couple of routes up and they both end up at the same point. Continue to the high point on the Prairie View trail for superlative views of both Barrier Lake and Mount Baldy.

Looking at the Prairie View trail along the ridge
Looking at the Prairie View trail along the ridge
There's a wee bit of a dropoff from the high point on the trail
There’s a wee bit of a dropoff from the high point on the trail

McConnell Ridge to Jewell Pass hike description

Most people do the return hike to the trailhead by retracing their steps from the high point on the ridge. But you can descend McConnell Ridge to Jewell Pass and end up on Stoney Trail beside Barrier Lake. It makes for a more interesting hike but longer hike if you do this.

You’ll see an arrow pointing down the ridge. Follow it to the low point and then turn right into the trees. In mid-October there was plenty of snow and ice for many kilometres so I reiterate – don’t forget the icers. Some people might like poles through here too.

Shop: I swear by my Hillsound icers. They are also good in town on icy days when you have to walk your dog.

Returning via Jewell Pass
Returning to the parking lot via Jewell Pass
Icers make a huge difference in staying upright
Icers make a huge difference in staying upright

The hiking through the trees was quite lovely. I had the woods to myself on a sunny Sunday for most of the way to Barrier Lake.

The descent is gradual. It eventually curves around to reach a signed junction. Go left to stay on the Jewell Pass trail, right if you want to go to Quaite Valley.

If you do the Quaite Valley trail, hike 3.8 km to end up beside the Trans-Canada Highway. (There is the option to descend 3.6 km, then go left (west) and continue 2.9 km to reach the Heart Creek Day Use Area.)

Rosie couldn't be happier that there is snow in October
Rosie couldn’t be happier that there is snow in October

I stayed on the Jewell Pass trail – following it down to the lake over a distance of 2.7 km. Once at Barrier Lake, turn left and follow the Stoney Trail back to the intersection at the start of the hike. Turn right to take the trail to continue across the dam – and voila – you’re finished.

All told the hike is 13.5 km long if you do the loop. If you do and out and back to the high point on the Prairie View trail the hike is 9.8 km. There is 421 m of elevation gain.

Varied walking with views through the trees
Varied walking with views through the trees on the Jewel Pass Trail
Small waterfall along Jewel Pass trail
Small waterfall along the Jewel Pass Trail
Out of the snow and heading for Barrier Lake
Out of the snow and heading for Barrier Lake
The Stoney Trail along Barrier Lake
The Stoney Trail parallels Barrier Lake
Pretty bay in Barrier Lake
Pretty bay in Barrier Lake
The incredible colour of Barrier Lake through the trees on route back
The incredible colour of Barrier Lake through the trees
Easy walking back to the trailhead
Easy walking back to the trailhead

Where to stay nearby

There are camping options in Kananaskis but only two campsites are first come, first served – Canyon and Interlakes Campgrounds.

Nearby you can book a night at the Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel

There are two options that are higher end – the Kananaskis Mountain Lodge (home to the Kananaskis Nordic Spa) and Mount Engadine Lodge – located in the heart of world-class hiking.

There’s also a nearby glamping option at Sundance Lodges. It offers tipis, trappers tents and unserviced RV and tenting campsites.

Finding the Prairie View trailhead

Take Highway 40 south from the Trans-Canada Highway and drive approximately 9 km to reach the Prairie View Trail parking area by the Barrier Dam Day Use Area. It’s just 2.5 km south of the Barrier Lake Visitor Information Centre on the west side of the highway.

Map of the trail
Map of the trail

For more information on trail conditions in Kananaskis Country visit their website.

Further reading about great hikes in the shoulder season

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Prairie View trail hike in Kananaskis Country, Alberta

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