Sheep River Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country
Time: 5 1/2 hours
Distance: 15 km (return)
Elevation Gain: 518 m
How To Get There: From Turner Valley, turn on AB-546 W and stay on that road for 29.5 km. Turn right on George Creek Road (dirt road) and keep going for about 4-5 km to the barricade and then turn left to park at the George Creek day use area.
I find that many of the good shoulder season hikes are sitting in the front range of Kananaskis country. Winter of 2018 had been packed with snow, so by the time late May rolled around, I was still looking for mountains to climb with a slightly lower elevation. Mount Ware fit that bill, named after John Ware, an African American cowboy and pioneer (who was even said to have inspired steer wrestling).
The trail starts easy enough, flat and wide on the northwest side of the parking lot, meandering through an average pine forest briefly before moving downwards to a short-grass meadow filled with newly foliaged aspen trees.
We were greeted with Gorge Creek for the first time and began following along the right side of it before joining up by means of a newly constructed bridge.
We crossed into another clearing where we became temporarily confused on which way to go.
To our left, the trail picked up back in the forest again but we opted to stay straight on the trail before coming across another intersection at the creek.
As we rock-hopped across, we spotted several big signs that we weren’t completely alone in the valley.
After checking our AllTrails app, we realized that it might also be a sign we weren’t heading in the right direction. So we turned back around and headed up the trail that tucked into the forest.
This portion is very easy as it remains flat with minimal elevation gain though we were entertained by the sight of four adorable robin eggs nestled in a nest in a pine tree.
The trail curves up and to the north west, allowing for brief views of the surrounding mountain range.
Every now and again the path gains and then loses elevation, interrupting an otherwise straightforward hike.
Officially, this part of the trail is Gorge Creek Trail, named because it follows along the creek almost the entire way. Sometimes the creek stays right next to us and other times the trail climbs up so that we are looking at the river bottom below, a canyon cutting deep in the valley.
As we made our way further down the trail, it was evident it was used both by people and horses as it often seemed to break apart into two sections, creating what I like to call the “wagon trail” effect.
Mountain Shooting Star was just beginning to sprout from the still partly frozen ground.
A gate appears between a fence line high up on the valley side.
Overall, not much distracts the path from it’s steady journey beside the creek up until this point.
Another crossroads appears in a tree clearing where you need to stay straight and avoid steering to your left. There are several places from this moment on that it’s easy to get distracted from your main goal so make sure to bring a map/GPS to help you along the way.
The path goes in through the narrows but the better option is actually to follow where a separate trail leads up and around.
There is several sections at this point where you either have the choice of finding a spot to rock-hop across the water or wade in it, as the trail begins to braid back and forth with the creek itself. The first time we managed to find a bunch of logs upstream but the second time, we weren’t so lucky. Has anyone ever mentioned that spring run-off is COLD?
Then it was an easy walk across the valley bottom where we finally spotted our main goal off in the distance.
After walking a few hundred more meters (and ignoring several more turn-offs), we found an orange ribbon in the trees that indicated it was time to begin our climb.
The side trail leads up a wooded slope but quickly disappears when it reaches a gully with widely spaced trees.
This section of the trail would be easy to miss, especially because there isn’t an actual trail after a while. Just a gully.
As we climbed, the trees slowly fell away to reveal the east ridge.
We finally managed to top the ridge before climbing up to the summit, moving among prairie crocus and talus. It was a leg burner compared to what we had been faced with in the first couple hours of the hike.
Our end goal was crowned with a seven-foot cairn, one of the largest ones I had ever seen.
Mt. Ware was completely devoid of snow up top but the surrounding mountains to the west were still iced with the white stuff. Among the neighbours was Bluerock Mountain, Mount Rose and Threepoint Mountain. Junction Mountain sat further to the south.
Being on the top of Mt. Ware provides some amazing panoramic views of Kananaskis country.
The wind was a bit strong but we still managed to take a half an hour to eat a delicious lunch of trail mix and cheese and crackers.
After inspecting the cairn a little closer, we managed to find a tupper ware full of knick knacks and a small journal (a geocache in other words). We put our own names down and then hid it back underneath a couple of stones.
We took a few more photos up top and then began picking our way back down the thick talus that made up the majority of the summit.
If anyone is interested in bagging one of their first peaks, Mt. Ware is a great place to start. It’s a long trek, but the majority of it is straightforward and simple. As long as you pay attention to which direction you have to go, the only challenging part is at the end when you’re climbing up the mountain itself. Up top you’re provided with fantastic views and a fairly impressive cairn to match.