October 4, 2020
As this autumn just keeps going and going, I am continuing to hike as much as I can. After a few big weekends doing Mount Temple and Crypt Lake in Waterton, I decided to take it easy. I was invited to go hiking with my cycling friends who needed to be home early – Mt. Hoffman fit the bill perfectly.
Mount Hoffman is a little mountain in Sheep River Provincial Park. We used to take our daughters up to the falls when they were three years old, but the bridge was washed out in the 2013 floods. Even though the bridge was replaced around 2016, this was my first trip back to that side of the Sheep River. I was very happy to be back, and was already eyeing up various mountains that I hadn’t seen for a while.
I live south of Calgary, so the Sheep is close and convenient. I have hiked and cross-country skied just about every trail in the area, as well as cycled the road several times. Ah – it was good to be back!
Hiking boots, poles and day pack kit.
Black bears are really common in the Sheep River, so bring bear spray. Also, keep your dogs on a tight leash. Within seconds of starting on the Mt. Hoffman trail, we had a black bear come check out my friend’s dogs. Bears really do not like dogs, and will charge a dog. We were a group of five, and this bear had no problem coming right up to us.
From the Indian Oils Day Use Area, head towards the Sheep River. Cross the bridge above Tiger Jaws Falls. After the bridge, turn left onto Sheep Trail. Turn right at the junction to Mt. Hoffman. Stay on this trail to the summit.
Park at Indian Oils Day Use area in Sheep River Provincial Park. Walk down to the Sheep River and the bridge over Tiger Jaws Falls.
Once you cross the bridge, turn Left (east) onto Sheep Trail.
Stay on this super wide highway for about 2 km.
Keep an eye out for the Mount Hoffman trail heading off to the right. It is fairly big and marked with a cairn, but I’ve heard reports of people marching right on past. If you hit the really deep seasonal creek gorge, you’ve gone too far.
The initial hike up through the trees is very nice. The trail is on a steady ascent grade as it snakes around the lookout.
A flat, open area signals the start of the steep ascent.
For whatever reason, this trail literally goes straight up at the 3 km mark. The good news is this only lasts for 500 or 600 m.
There is nary a switchback as it climbs pretty much ALL the elevation gain. I did find some attempts at short switchbacks in the trees, as the main trail was dry and slippery. This was especially important coming down.
At the top of the ascent, we were rewarded with the best little forest – wide trees in interesting shapes and sizes.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that this was the top. Indeed, I was looking through the trees and didn’t see any higher ground. That was until we broke out onto a meadow on the south side of the mountain.
This gave us a lovely view of the summit directly ahead.
Mt. Hoffman is a miniature of every other mountain in Kananaskis, including the ‘scree’ slope to the top. This was highly enjoyable, as the air was nice and cool.
The distance to the summit of Mt. Hoffman is 4.4 km. Elevation gain is 430 m or 1,419′. Time to the summit is 1 hour, 20 minutes.
Mount Hoffman Return
After a short summit lounge, we retraced our steps back.
It was a good thing we started out fairly early (9:00 am on a Sunday) because the trail was now packed with people coming up. There were several big hiking groups, an entire ringette team, plus lots of smaller groups heading up.
Once we were back on the Sheep Trail, it was even busier.
On the way back, we stopped at the Sheep River and enjoyed the Tiger Jaws Falls.
The hike to Mount Hoffman is close, short, and enjoyable. It is an ideal ‘first summit’ for beginners and kids.
Totals – Tracked on Strava
Date: October 4, 2020
Group: Five (Alisen, Mike and three friends)
Distance: 8.8 km
Elevation: 440 m (1,542′)
Time: 2 hours 45 minutes (includes side trip to river)