Scramble Up Black Rock Mountain

Black Rock Mountain, Bighorn No. 8, Alberta, Canada

  • Activities:

    Chillin, Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

Forest
Groups
River
Scenic

Distance: 10 km (6.25 miles) round trip from trailhead. Duration: 4 hours round trip from trailhead. Elevation gain: 940 m (3080 feet). Historical fire lookout in Ghost River Wilderness. Great views of less accessible peaks in Ghost River Wilderness. Includes a 3 km (1.9 mile) drive in the Ghost River riverbed (4x. 4 required).

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your point of view, getting to/finding the trailhead is the most difficult part of this hike! On top of Black Rock Mountain is an abandoned fire lookout that was utilized from 1928 to 1950. Through all those years, the lookout was supplied by pack horses, so not only is the trail well defined, it's also a very easy scramble that can be done by anybody.

To start, make your way to Cochrane, AB. From Cochrane, take Highway 1A west until the turnoff to Highway 40 that heads north (Forestry Trunk Road). This is a really scenic road as it wanders through backwood communities. After a sign that says that you're leaving Bar-Cee country, there will be a junction - Richards Road to the south, Highway 40 to the north. You'll only be going north for a few hundred metres, and then left onto Township Road 270 - this road has a gate at the beginning of it, but isn't locked or even closed. This is a rough road - a 4x4 isn't required, but sure is nice. Continue taking this road for ~16 km. A parking lot for anyone without a 4x4 is marked with a sign stating that the road ahead is not suitable for vehicles --- for 4x4's this is where it gets fun!

After that sign, take the hill down into the river bed. Fortunately, there's enough people venturing into this area to have slightly defined tracks to follow. There's also a river crossing or two, so make sure you pick a good spot that won't flood your vehicle! Consult the trailhead I've marked on this post, and keep referencing it with a GPS (Google Maps will give your location on your phone, even if you're out of service). The river has two separate beds - one leading deeper into the valley towards Mount Costigan which is the first one you'll encounter, and one further to the north which is where the trailhead is.

If you make it to the correct river bed, keep driving until you notice the trailhead on the north side of the river. It's pretty noticeable, just make sure you're paying attention!

From there, the beauty of Black Rock Mountain begins. This is such a badass mountain. The first few kilometres gain elevation in the forest, and once you gain a ridge, you'll be gobsmacked by Devil's Head in the distance --- and it just keeps getting better. At first glance, it's almost surprising that pack horses were able to maneuver the crags jutting up everywhere, but sure enough, a very easy trail appears. While Black Rock is only 2462 metres above seal level, the crags and fissures make it seem like one of the big mountains further in the Rockies.

Shortly after getting out of the forest and onto the ridge, you'll encounter the Gap --- a perfect place with natural framing for any photo ops that you're looking for! After the Gap, the summit push seems daunting, but it's only about 40 minutes away. This section is a bit more scrambley, but nothing too bad if you take the beaten path and ensure good footing. And once you're at the lookout, it'll all be worth it.

Not only is the lookout a great spot for shelter from the wind (the outhouse from the fire lookout days had to be built of stone because the wooden ones kept flying away!), but it's also a really cool prop to use that offers some pretty awesome framing for the views that you see. From my experience, 45 minutes of the total 4 hour round trip was spent at the lookout enjoying the views and taking pictures.

From the road to the trailhead to the hike itself, this is an adventure through and through.

Pack List

  • Hiking boots
  • Hiking poles
  • Appropriate clothing and layers
  • Water and snacks
  • Camera
  • Bear spray
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Great write up! I love this place and it's history. Good work describing a hard to find trail.

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

James Hueser Explorer

Some call me the Jerry Macguire of the outdoors. The places special to me should be special to everyone. It is not my intention to hoard the best views around me. It's my responsibility to invite everyone to join, and give them every opportunity to do so.

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