The majestic Rocky Mountains. A high and ancient mountain range that stands, tall and jagged, like a spine to the North American continent.
Residents of the Rocky Mountain Trench are fortunate enough to enjoy the daily sight of this dramatic cord of peaks from their window, yard or street. When covered in snow, on a bluebird day, the Rockies have nothing to envy to the Himalayas in terms of pure aesthetic and magnetic attractiveness.
Standing atop one of those peaks is a dream cherished by many, but can prove very challenging. Fortunately, due to the hard labour of explorers, miners and foresters of yesterday, it is now possible to access some of them relatively easily.
Near Cranbrook, the Wild Horse Lookout was built in 1955 near the summit of Mount Lakit for it offered a 360-degree view of the area and was, therefore, the perfect location for fire watching. After losing its purpose as a fire lookout, the small structure was first demolished but then rebuilt to serve as an observation lookout and shelter for recreationists.
The trail is, albeit quite steep, well-marked and well maintained. It is, in fact, a popular excursion for locals and it is accessible to families with young children (given that they enjoy hiking!) The 2-km (1.2 mile) trail takes on average 1 to 1.5 hour one way to hike, with a 450-m (1,476 ft) elevation gain.
The lookout stands at 2,354-m (7,723 ft) and offers a spectacular view of the Kootenay River below, the Purcell Mountains across the Trench, the City of Cranbrook, and a full panorama of the Southern Rockies. It also offers a unique location to spend an evening with the stars on a hot summer night, with a warm blanket and a thermos of tea.
A high-clearance vehicle is needed to reach the trailhead located 8-km from the Wild Horse River bridge on the Fort Steele-Wardner Road. The road is narrow and rough, so caution is needed at all times. Hikers need to pack water and of course, a picnic, as the view is so stunning that anyone will want to stay and enjoy it for a while.
Click here for driving details.
Story by KootRocks Staffer (Shannon Harrison). Top/cover photo by Heidi Korven.