This section of trail is 12.2K and while it has a lot of variety and various levels of difficulty, the best part is that you can finally access the High Rockies trail from a paved road! I rode all the way to Chester, which is a further 7.4K but I’ll write about that at a later date.
The best resource for detailed descriptions of all sections of the High Rockies trail, along with detailed maps is Tony Daffern’s Kananaskis Trails blog.
After reading Michael and Annalee’s trip report, I decided to check out this newest section of trail which is 99% completed but not officially open. There are no trail markers, and the finishing touches are still still being completed on the impressive suspension bridge overlooking a deep and spectacular canyon.
With no signage, I’m not sure if the starting point should be referred to as Peninsula, or Kent Creek. The trailhead is where Kent Creek crosses the road. I’ll update this post as new information becomes available.
Peninsula to Sawmill
I found this 12.2K section to be quite enjoyable. There’s a steep hill at each end, but once you’re on the ridge, the riding is pleasant with small ups and downs as the trail twists and turns through the trees. At 3.8K you’ll cross the suspension bridge. The bridge sways, so I dismounted and walked my bike across.
This trail is mostly in the trees, but you get occasional glimpses of the mountains. There are numerous creek crossings, and one in particular is quite spectacular. This is from Tony Daffern’s Kananaskis Trails blog:
“On trail make a long climb to a deeply incised creek. In fact from the bridge the downstream view is positively vertigo-inducing. The trail designer’s excitement at having discovered such an incredible crossing place explains why the trail is uphill in both directions.”
There’s a net elevation gain of 140 metres to Sawmill, but with all the undulations, my GPS indicated a total ascent of 300 metres. The high point is 230 metres net gain. Ideally, the best way to do this section would be to get dropped off at Sawmill and ride one way to Peninsula, enjoying more downhill.
The Peninsula(aka Kent Creek) trailhead is not easy to find. I drove right past it initially. As skiers, we’re all familiar with Pocaterra Hut, so if approaching from Hwy #40, turn onto the Smith-Dorrien at the hut and go 3K. The inconspicuous trailhead is at Kent creek on the right-hand side. You can’t see any sign of a creek from the road. The road is paved for 3.2K up to the Peninsula day use area. If you reach the Peninsula day use area, you’ve gone 200 metres too far.
There is some parking available at the trailhead, but if it was a busy day, you’d probably have to park at Peninsula and backtrack for 200 metres to the trailhead.
At 3.8K, and an elevation gain of 160 metres, you’ll encounter the impressive suspension bridge which spans the deep gully of Blackshale creek. There is a newly constructed access trail from the Smith-Dorrien up to the suspension bridge which starts at the point where Blackshale creek crosses the road.
This access trail to the suspension bridge is about 500 metres in length with an elevation of 60 metres. You can easily spot the access trail when driving up the Smith-Dorrien. It’s exactly 3K from the Peninsula day use turn-off.
There is also another access trail from the Black Prince parking lot. As previously mentioned, there is no signage on any of these trails yet.
Some of the newly constructed sections of the trail are very narrow and powdery soft. I had to walk my bike a few times when it was simply too difficult to stay on the 10-inch-wide tread. You would not want to be here on a rainy day.
When you’re about 1K from Sawmill, the trail starts to descend, some of it steeply and other parts gradually. Parts of it follow the old ski trails and these are wider and very pleasant.
Previous High Rockies reports: