My favourite part of this trail is the initial 5K from Castle Lookout. Soon after starting out, it veers away from the road and meanders through sensational scenery.
The only place that I’d consider it difficult is 150 metres from the Castle Lookout trailhead where there’s a steep downhill to the Bow Valley Parkway. Today, a car was coming down the road and would have run over me if I hadn’t been able to stop in time. It might be safer to just walk down.
Thereafter, it winds through the forest for about 500 metres where, in past years, I’ve seen the trail thick with pine needles. Not this year.
For the next 4k, the trail is easy with gentle hills and spectacular scenery. It was trackset about a week ago, but the tracks are still in great shape.
At 5K you reach a CPR access road. If 5K is far enough for you, you’ve skied the best part of the trail. The next kilometre parallels the Bow Valley parkway and the CPR train tracks, then crosses the parkway into Protection Mountain campground, where you can add on a couple kilometres by skiing the campground loops which are trackset.
The final 3.5K follows the powerline to Baker creek.
The air temperature at Castle Loookout was -6°C, and the snow was -10. It’s a great winter when you’re using VR40(-4/-12) every day.
It’s a trail where you can’t go fast because you’ll be soaking in all the breathtaking views. If you’re skiing this leg in the Lake Louise to Banff Loppet, make sure you take a look around while you’re furiously double-poling.
You can access the trail from two different parking lots along the Bow Valley Parkway; at Castle lookout or at Baker Creek Chalets, and it’s dog-friendly. I guess you could also start at Protection Mountain Campground if you can find a spot to park.
I was happy to see Chuck and Jeannette at the Baker Creek trailhead. They had just returned from a backcountry trip up Baker Creek. You can read about their trip and see beautiful photos on the Trip Reports.
Thanks to Baker Creek Chalets for tracksetting this wonderful trail.