Hiking Hailstone Butte, South Kananaskis

by - Thursday, August 16, 2018

Hailstone Butte is a short but strenuous hike in the Highwood region of Kananaskis that offers amazing views of Plateau Mountain, Windy Peak, and beyond. Carry a good topographic map as signage is limited.

 Hailstone Butte, Kananaskis
Hailstone Butte, Kananaskis

Hiking Hailstone Butte

Park at The Hump, the pass on Highway 532 / Johnson Creek Trail (directions below). After crossing the road, you will find a well beaten path lined with lupines and sunbleached dead trees. As we hiked Hailstone Butte in late July, bighorn sheep patrolled the ridge above us while a few stragglers in the valley clattered to catch up to the herd.

The Hump on Hwy 532
The Hump - park here
Hailstone Butte
Hailstone Butte Trail - your objective is to the right of the ridge in front of you
Bighorn sheep on Hailstone Butte
Bighorn sheep on Hailstone Butte
 The trail runs parallel to the ridge, through flower-strewn meadow, to the north end of the ridge where you turn left and begin to climb. As it gets steeper, hike to the left of the rocky outcrop, mostly on the grass, or hike up on the right side then make your way left and  pick your way through the cliff band. We ascended on climber's right (more difficult) pausing every now and then to catch our breath (it's quite steep!) and took the grassy way down.

Hailstone Butte Scramble Route
Hailstone Butte Scramble Route
Hailstone Butte
Go left here and scramble over the cliff band
Hailstone Butte Scramble
Hailstone Butte Scramble
Hailstone Butte Scramble
Hailstone Butte Scramble - almost at the top!
When you get to the top, hold on to your hat! It's easy to see why Hailstone's eastern neighbor is called Windy Peak. Plateau Mountain lies to the west - a destination for another day with unique geography - and to the northeast, you can make out Indian Graves Ridge. Stay back from the helicopter pad and lookout as it's an active fire lookout.

Hailstone Butte Fire Lookout
Hailstone Butte Fire Lookout
Looking south from Hailstone Butte Fire Lookout
Looking south from Hailstone Butte Fire Lookout
Plateau Mountain
Looking west to Plateau Mountain
Return the way you came keeping to skier's right for the easier way down (less downclimbing).

Descending Hailstone Butte
Descending Hailstone Butte

Hailstone Butte At a Glance

Distance: 3.2 km round trip
Elevation Gain: 330 m
Stroller Friendly? No.

Distance from Calgary: 144 km
Directions from Calgary: Take Hwy 2 south to AB-540. Go west (left) until you reach Hwy 22 and turn left (south). Turn right onto AB-532 (gravel road) and go southwest for 21.7 km to The Hump - a pass at the top of a steep hill. Note that Hwy 532 is closed from December 1 - April 30.

Parking: Park at the unmarked parking area at The Hump - on the left side of the road beside a small pond.

Trailhead: The unmarked trailhead is across the street. The path goes straight, then curves to the rights and parallels the ridge before going left and uphill.

lupines line the Hailstone Butte Trail
Lupines line the Hailstone Butte Trail

In the Area

Bear Pond, Kananaskis
This short hike may be combined with a jaunt to Bear Pond (400 m one way, 60 m elevation gain) while visiting the Highwood area of Kananaskis. Go 2.8 km east on Hwy 532 to the Bear Pond turnoff.

Stay at Indian Graves Campground, only 9 km from The Hump.

Hiking Hailstone Butte, South Kananaskis
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