Prairie View Lookout & Jewell Pass
Distance: 7.7 km on Prairie View, 6.8 km on Jewell Pass trail; 14.5 km circuit
Elevation: 500 m; 259 m (pass)
High Point: 1875 m; 1631 m at pass
This is an accessible early season hike with lovely views of Barrier Lake. We did the route counter-clockwise (Prairie View trail and then back down via Jewell Pass); in hindsight I think clockwise would grant better views and be more enjoyable.
Prairie View is a bunch of switchbacks through the trees with no view until you reach the ridgeline. The first lookout offers very nice view of Barrier Lake and the Kananaskis Valley. Many people stopped here but you should continue to the rocky outcrop. It's a bit steep and the trail is a bit confusing close to the top, but well worth the views. From there, you have the option to go a little higher to the top of McConnell Ridge or make a loop with Jewell Pass or the McConnell Ridge scrambling route. We skipped the lookout at the top of McConnell Ridge and headed back down via Jewell Pass.
Jewell Pass was much quieter than Prairie View and a more pleasant trail. There is also a small waterfall (Jewell Falls) 2 km from the pass. Once back down at the lake from Jewell Pass, you have a choice to join up with the Stoney Trail network or walk along the lakeshore. We followed the Stoney Trail, but it is mixed use (hike/bike/horses) and follows the powerline so is less-than-enthralling. I would walk along the lakeshore instead.
Of note: we arrived at Barrier Lake around 11:30 am and the parking lot was full. We went back east a kilometre or two to the Widowmaker parking lot as we thought there was a trail alongside the river back to the dam. It turns out there is — the Stoney Trail system, but it is on the other side of the river and not accessible — so we had an extra river walk in the dam flood zone. Oops! After recovering, we parked across the highway from Barrier Lake at the University of Calgary's Kananaskis Field Station, which also has some interpretive walks (the location was a POW camp during World War II and is worth a visit).
View of the Barrier Lake Dam building
The Kananaskis River, looking downstream from the dam.
View up the Kananaskis Valley from the first Prairie View trail viewpoint
Barrier Lake, Mount Baldy, and the dam from the lookout
The view northwest from our lunch spot, including the back side of Heart Mountain and a peek of the Three Sisters.
View of the first Prairie View lookout (counterclockwise direction) and the prairie.
View up the Kananaskis Valley from the Jewell Pass Trail