Mustang Hills
A great little-known ramble in the Elbow Valley

Laurier and I headed out to explore this area in June


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Distance - Elevation gain - m
ascent / descent

There are multiple possible loops in this area, but we parked at Cobble Flats and looped the three summits from there.
To see the same loop done in reverse, check out the July trip. There are ups and downs to both routes.

We started out on the old road from the end of the Cobble Flats parking lot. We got off-trail a few times following the directions in the new Kananaskis Country Trail Guide. There are a number of smaller trails and routes to lead one astray, but it can be fairly straightforward if you avoid smaller routes. Stay on big obvious trails, turning uphill at any junction. This will keep you on the road that heads across the base of the hills. The turn off onto the first smaller trail is very well-marked with a cairn (see photos 7-8).

Starting out along the river trail.

The first uphill trail.

The cairns that mark the turnoff for the route we came up.

Laurier hiking up the open trail.

Old road leading up.

Forgetmenot Ridge and the deeper Elbow Valley.

The cairn marks a move to smaller trails and routes. The route to the first summit was fairly straightforward with decent routefinding skills, but the first (west) summit doesn't break treeline, and we weren't sure we had crossed it until after, when we reached the second (middle) summit. There are no markings on the way to the first summit, but occasional blazes and very occasional cairns between the first and the second.

The trail leading up from the road.

The cairn and trail leading up from the road.

Laurier heading up near the first summit.

Parts of the trail.

Blazed/cairned trail towards the second (middle) summit.

Reaching the second (middle) summit is obvious. It's a broad grassy ridgetop with a single large shade tree and some nice sitting rocks. In July, the ridge is green and flowered, but we were too early for that. It has the best view of the summits, and you can clearly see the others as well as down the Elbow Valley.

Looking back from near the middle summit.

The middle summit.

The cairn on the middle summit.

Laurier on the summit; third summit in behind.

Shady tree on the summit.

Laurier and the summit.

There are two routes to the third (east) summit. There is a blazed trail through the trees that will do the trick, but the simplest way is to just use your routefinding skills. The third summit is visible from the second, and there is only a short section of forest between the two grassy hillsides, so it's pretty easy to find your way between them, and it's a more direct route than the ambling blazed trail.

Looking to the third (east) summit.

Leaving the middle summit.

From the third (east) summit, this loop heads downhill sharply to the Elbow River. Start by heading down the ridgeline, then watch for a set of cairns at the entrance to the trees. The trail is well-blazed from there to the bottom, though you need to keep watching the blazes, or will suddenly find yourself off-route.

Heading down from the third (east) summit.

The middle summit from the east.

The blazes that mark the trail.

Cairn marking the trail down from the east summit.

Laurier hiking down.

The route through the lower forest.

At the base, note the blazed and flagged entrance to the good route. There's a bit of a missing trail here, possibly owing to spring flooding. You reach the elevation of the river still a way back from the river, and while there is a parallelling trail, it is very indistinct here. There are two options - continue in the direction of the river, or turn right (SW) and follow the trail bits until they reach the river.

The entrance to the uphill trail.

Blaze and flagging mark the ascent route.

Once you reach the Elbow River, the routefinding is pretty simple. There is a decent trail that goes along the riverside all the way back to Cobble Flats. There are sometimes two routes - one along the riverside, and one contouring up along a hillside. Either way, the trail takes you back to the start just fine.

Washed out section of trail along the Elbow.

Laurier hiking along the river.

The trail ambling along the river.

Common trail on the way back.

Photos taken by Rachel

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