This is one of the classic old school XC loops in the Calgary area: non-technical climbing rewarded with a nice long descent. The 2013 flood damage has been fixed up, although a big part of Jewell Pass
will feel very different from pre-flood.
There aren't really any surprises on this loop. Ride it counter-clockwise, as the climb up the Prairie View Trail
singletrack from the west is nasty.
The loop is Prairie View Trail
to Jewell Pass
to Stoney Trail
and then down Prairie View Trail
back to Barrier Dam.
From the Barrier Dam trailhead, ride the gravel road along the top of the dam with Barrier Lake on your left. The road meanders away from the lake and tilts uphill after a km or so. That short climb ends at the junction with Stoney Trail
and the powerline. Keep going forward into the trees as the trail narrows a bit, and turns uphill on a looser gravel path with some ruts to navigate. You'll encounter a cutline trail at the top of another climb - cross it and continue.
Prairie View climbs up 11 switchbacks on a wide, packed gravel and dirt surface. It's literally wide enough to drive a truck on. Some of the switchbacks are steep and/or loose, but there's nothing overly challenging here beyond the fight against gravity. The last switchback is a left-hander, and if you look to your right as you ride by you'll see the entrance to the Camp Chief Hector DH
. Keep cruising up the hill and you'll eventually pop out at a lookout where you can see a very big chunk of the valley and get an idea of how far you've climbed.
But wait, there's more! Another climb awaits around the bend to the right. The infamous scramble is at the top of a steep climb. The trail forks below the scramble, and either direction will get you to the same place. Shoulder your bike and do your best impression of a mountain goat up the rocks. You'll pop out at the base of a microwave relay station [maybe?], which marks the true high point of the trail. Killer views! Don't fall off!
The descent begins with scree and abruptly makes a right turn into the forest. It's all downhill from here - a screaming 2km descent with a lot of roots, a few small drops and lots of loose rock. It's easy to go too fast and wind up in the rhubarb, but it's super fun! Depending on your arm strength and suspension travel, the last 400m or so may leave you with clenched and sore hands. You'll pass the entrance to Razor's Edge
around here, so watch for it on the right if that's what you're looking for.
The junction with Jewell Pass
Trail and Quaite Valley Trail
is a little open area with trail signs. Jewell is to the left, and takes you back toward Barrier. Quaite is on the right and leads to Hwy 1. Jewell Pass
starts off on twisty singletrack with opportunities for air if you keep your speed up. The flooding of 2013 destroyed a big chunk of Jewell, but it was rebuilt by the Friends of Kananaskis Country. It's got some flow and rolls more than the old trail. There's one short climb out of the gully, and then you're descending to Stoney Trail
and a quick ride back to Barrier. Be aware that Stoney is very popular with horses - you're almost guaranteed to run into groups on horseback on the weekends.
An option to extend this ride is to do the normal ride and then do a loop on the Camp Chief Hector DH
. It adds 45-60 minutes depending on how fast the climb goes.