Sheep River

We were pretty excited to head out of town today, as it was the first real test of our new car.  We decided to venture to Kananaskis Country and do some snowshoeing at  Sheep River Provincial Park.  Just a short 40 minute drive from our apartment, it was a great spot for the first winter hike of the year.  The night before, I tried to look up a quaint little park that may not be quite as busy as the big three (Banff, Yoho, Kootenay), but relatively close to town.  Sheep River fit the bill and had the right length of trails for our intro outing.  Driving to the park, you head southwest from Calgary — venturing past ranchland and oil field towns.  It was also quite interesting to see how Calgary is slowly encroaching on the prairie and foothills.

We saw horses, cows, sheep and many magpies — scattered throughout the fields and ranches along the way.  Just before Sheep River, the road enters hilly forest land — full of pine trees.  And of course, in the distance beyond the park you can see the Rockies.  We took a few pictures as the day went along.

The park had two main areas for trails.  After visiting the info centre, we decided to try the Sandy McNabb area because of the scenic lookoffs above Sheep River.  It was a well marked trail system, mostly arranged for x-country skiiers, but certainly fine for snowshoeing.  Here and there, we’d cut through the woods for a bit of a powdery trip. 

After an hour and a half, we arrived at the main look-off towards the foothills and mountains and took a lunch break.  The view was spectacular and I was impressed at how the pine forest appeared ‘carpet-like’.   Sheena and I looked at the rolling hills to the west and thought that a backcountry hike would be pretty fun…if not incredibly challenging.  Maybe another time when I have some bear-spray. =)  We would continue the various loops, heading back through the pine forest to the car.  By far, I enjoyed the ridge-line trail — very scenic and offered a change of pace.

We only saw a few people from a distance during the day.  It was quite a surprise actually, I had expected to be overwhelmed by a throng of people escaping the city for outdoor pursuits.  However, after talking to the warden — apparently this park was a ‘well-kept’ secret compared to other parks, such as Bragg Creek.  We’ll certainly have to return to the area when the Bighorn sheep road is opened, I’m sure there are many more trails that follow Hwy 576 to BC.   


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