Added by James Hueser
Distance: 10.5 km (6.5 miles) roundtripDuration: 5 hoursElevation gain: 850 m (2,800 feet)Ridge walk that hits Heart Mountain and Grant MacEwan PeakGreat introductory scramble with minor sections of hands on climbingIdeal shoulder season scramble
A bit of a jaunt is required to get to the start of the scramble - follow the Heart Creek Trail, and after crossing the creek, look for a yellow sign that marks the scramble route. There will be exposure as well as use of hands, but it is totally do-able as long as you keep your head right!
After the sign, the trail starts gaining elevation - rather quickly, depending on your fitness level. The lack of switchbacks makes this a bit of a slog, which goes on for a while until you come to a rock band that needs to be climbed, marked with an orange square.
The scramble route at the orange square is about 7 feet of hand and foot use, but keep in mind that the rock has become quite polished with the amount of traffic this trail sees - just make sure your hand and foot holds are solid, and you won't slip! After that, you will still need to do some more scrambling, so just pick your way through until you get to the summit of Heart Mountain.
At this point, it's time to decide whether or not to complete the loop that hits Grant MacEwan Peak, then keeps following the ridge east and then north to the bottom. This is highly recommended for a number of reasons. First, it's a much cooler hike, with much better views from Grant MacEwan that do not include the Lafarge cement plant, but rather looks down on Barrier Lake. Second, summiting Heart and going back down is a few hours, but doing the loop makes a day out of it – you're already there, so why not! Third, the loop has a much easier descent than going down the way you came up, which includes some down climbing.
If you decide to push on, once you hit the summit of Heart, take a minute to enjoy the view, then move onto Grant MacEwan Peak by following a lovely, well-defined trail on the ridge to the southeast. Grant Mac has a nice grassy area to enjoy lunch and look down into Kananaskis, a beautiful background for your summit photo ops.
Next, follow the ridge off the northeast of Grant Mac to the bottom. Unfortunately, there are a few (small) bumps to overcome, but if you've brought sufficient water, it will be a cake walk! Don't forget to take in the wildflowers along the way, too.
As the ridge descends, you enter into the forest, a great way to cool down after being in the sun all day. The forest walk takes you down around the creek, then take a hard left once you get to the trail intersection at the bottom, which will take you to the parking lot.
The Heart Mountain loop is a bit like a scaled down version of the big loop that hits McGillvray, Skogan, and Grant Mac, but that's another trail for another day!
The trailhead for Heart Mountain is accessible from the Transcanada Highway from the turnoff for Lac Des Arcs. Make sure you have lots of water before leaving the parking lot. Many stories about Heart Mountain involve people not bringing enough water and running out by Grant Mac.
- Lots of water (less than 3L is not enough for the loop)
- Hiking boots
- Hiking poles
- Bug spray (ticks)
- Bear spray
- Appropriate clothes and layers
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