Where Lake Minnewanka ends and Ghost River begins you will find the 2500m high Black Rock Mountain right on the edge of the Canadian Rockies. This exhausting day hike is located just west of Cochrane but is quite a remote day hike in Alberta.
Just to get to the trailhead you will have to drive down a 16km dirt road covered in potholes and right when you think it’s done you’ll have to go through two river crossings either by vehicle or by 4×4 preferably. These two factors together and you can see why Black Rock Mountain is quite a remote day hike in Alberta. Trust us, the struggle is absolutely worth it once you’re there and it’s a wonderful place to spend a few days!
Sitting right on the edge of the Rockies you actually end up getting views of Lake Minnewanka and the beginning of the Rockies on the west side. And if you’re looking east you will see the grassy Alberta prairies. If you’re lucky enough you might even be able to see Calgary far on the horizon!
Black Rock Mountain is a remote day hike in Alberta
If you’re looking into doing a hike where you’ll basically have the trailhead to yourself then Black Rock Mountain will not disappoint! As we mentioned, it isn’t easy to get to and it can actually be quite difficult to find the trailhead if you don’t have a 4 wheel drive and if you’re not sure where to go.
Nevertheless, Black Rock Mountain is still doable even if you can only get to the campsite with your vehicle. It will just take some extra time as the trailhead is about 6-7km from the campsite.
The hike itself starts in the trees with a very moderate incline and quite a pleasant switchback trail. It’s shaded and you’ll be in the trees for the first half of the hike. From there it gets quite steep and turns into a scramble for a portion of it until you get into a big opening where you will walk for quite a while and enjoy the amazing views.
The last part of Black Rock Mountain is by far the trickiest… You’ll have a steep uphill scramble for about 15 minutes straight up. Right when you can see the hut at the top (oh yeah we forgot to mention there’s a freaking hut at the top!) you’ll have to walk up these rocks that look like a staircase with steep drops on both sides. They are probably about 2 meters wide but it will definitely get your heart racing if you’re not a fan of heights.
Once you’re past the staircase the hut will be right there and you will finally be able to relax and take in the views you worked hard for over the past few hours. Make sure to carve your name in the hut to show you actually did it! And in case you’re crazy enough to come back one day you can show people you’ve done it before by carving two lines next to it (This way: II) 🙂
Practical information about Black Rock Mountain
Distance: 10.9 km return / 6.8 miles return
Elevation: 983 m / 3225 ft. elevation gain
Type: Out and back
Length: 4-6 hours return (from the trailhead)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Here’s a map of the beginning of the trail
It’s not an easy hike to get to but the trail truly isn’t that difficult. Especially since half of it is switchbacks through the forest with a steady incline.
The only reasons we’d rate it hard is that you may have to walk from the campsite which will add about 12-14km of walking, two river crossings, and then the end because of the steep drops on either side of the staircase.
Other than that Black Rock Mountain is an amazing remote hike in Alberta you have to summit!
How to get there
You can get the directions here.
It is very straightforward and once you get to the gravel road you will drive on it for 16km until you get to the campsites. There you can basically park wherever you want unless you’re driving up to the trailhead.
The trip from Calgary takes approximately 1:45. It may be quicker if you have a 4 wheel drive.
Here are the directions.
The trip takes approximately 4:00. Again, it may be a bit quicker than that.
Before you go
The first thing you should do before you go is to check if the trail is open and if there are any warnings on it. Especially since it’s not the easiest trail to get to so just to be safe, check out All Trails here to make sure the river crossings aren’t too high and that the gravel road is still drivable.
The cell phone coverage is also very spotty over there so definitely tell someone where you’re going, in case something happens. However, there is cell phone service at the summit!
If you have any other questions regarding the hike or hiking in the area, feel free to comment on the blog or email us.
What to bring
Since this hike is so remote you might want to bring a few extra things than you usually do. Some of it you can, of course, leave in the car.
- Water and food are musts!
- Hiking poles can definitely be used on this hike.
- Sunscreen if it’s sunny out!
- Bear spray!! ALWAYS!
- Extra clothes. The weather changes quickly when you’re hiking. You don’t want to be stranded on a remote hike with no warm clothes when a storm roles in. In case you have to cross the river you also want something dry to put on when you come back.
- A music player (to keep bears and other wildlife away).
- A power bank if you’re walking all the way from the campsite or staying the night.
Other useful info
- There is a large camping area right next to the river! This is a great place to stay for a night or two. The location is BEAUTIFUL which is lucky since the drive is so long. It’s definitely worth spending a few days exploring the area!
- Try and go with someone who has a 4 wheel drive. The drive will be much more pleasant for everyone.
We hope you enjoy this hike as much as we did! Enjoy and stay safe out there!
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