Summit Elevation (m): 1981
Trip Date: Sunday, April 19, 2020
Elevation Gain (m): 615
Round Trip Time (hrs): 4.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 16
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something
Difficulty Notes: N/A.
Technical Rating: TL2; YDS (Hiking)
After a much shorter and easier morning hike / snowshoe than expected on Wigwam Ridge, Wietse and I were left wondering what to do with the rest of the nicest spring “Covid-19” day of 2020 so far. It’s slightly too bad that we didn’t know about the Burnt Timber Lookout just south of Wigwam Ridge or we likely would have beaten a horrid snowshoe track up there but we didn’t so we didn’t. Instead, we decided to slog 16km up and down the Blue Hill Lookout off range road 63 near the confluence of the Panther and Red Deer Rivers and hwy 734 and 40.
We parked along a very busy RR63 and halfheartedly strapped our snowshoes to our packs – making them much heavier than I was used to after 52 ascents of Prairie Mountain with no pack and other small ascents with a very light pack this year so far. The other reason we weren’t psyched was the state of the road – it was a mess of mud, ice and snow. Oh well. We were here now and the weather was gorgeous so we started plodding slowly up the road. Another interesting thing of note is that I don’t think this road is open for regular summer hiking anymore as it’s now an active logging road. Something to think about if you’re planning to hike it in drier summer conditions.
I figured we’d be lucky to get 2km up the road before needing the ‘shoes but as the kilometers slowly ticked by we didn’t need them. We were following boot prints from the day before and these were sufficient to hike in – definitely easier than snowshoeing but still awkward compared to dry hiking. We passed a large clear cut and there was plenty of evidence of active logging including freshly cut logs from the fall and machinery sitting idle waiting for drier conditions.
Between kilometers 2 and 4 was the bummer of this hike in the form of height loss on approach and height gain on return. Not a huge deal but it was a bit demoralizing. At km 4, just after a bridge over the creek there was a major logging road going left and the smaller lookout road going right. We chose the smaller road for the simple reason that the foot traffic went that way. Our pace slowed down in the heat (we were sweating buckets in t-shirts) but it wasn’t difficult by any stretch. The upper road was obviously plowed earlier in the spring or we’d have needed the ‘shoes for sure.
It was great to finally see the lookout ahead. It was also a double edged sword, so to speak. The Blue Hill Lookout is an interesting “lookout” because unless you can access the 20 foot high lookout tower you will have almost zero views from the top! It sux but c’est la vie I suppose. You’ve been warned. This is a 600 meter gain, 16 km long hike for very few views. This is too bad because the views from the 20 feet higher would be absolutely stunning towards the Rockies marching south to the Ghost Wilderness and north to Ya Ha Tinda and the Ram River areas.
As we descended we got brief views (see photo above) before plunging back into “plod mode”. We didn’t mind too much as it was nice to be hiking in boots and t-shirts with the smell of spring in the air. I can’t really recommend Blue Hill Lookout as a premier hike but it’ll do in a pinch when you have 4-5 hours and want some fresh air with glimpses of mountains through sweet-smelling pine forest.