Before the longer trips, our children were young. We had neither the types of jobs nor the ambition of some of these homeschooling families who I have heard about hiking the big trails in the USA. But passion for hiking was not going to be denied. So, I sought out hikes in the Rockies I could do with my sons as they grew up. One of the earliest I discovered was Table Mountain, just behind Pincher Creek in southern Alberta.
Perched on the south side of the pass entrance with commanding views of the transition from Rockies to foothills to plains, I was excited to get up there. I had heard of others who took kids up, so I figured it was attainable. Turns out I was in for some surprises.
The trail starts from Beaver Mines Lake Campground. It starts out fairly nicely, then begins some steep undulations as you get your start around the back shoulder of the peak. The draw that the trail follows has a little creek at the bottom but you aren’t really near it until you reach the “good parts”. A couple of kms in they start! The trail becomes more of a scramble as you ascend some very rocky areas to get to a winding switchback over scree. Some people descend by sliding down the scree. I do not recommend scree shortcuts uphill! It’s hard enough!
After ascending the very steep bit (for quite some time) the trail becomes a more gradual ascent and very dry. Bring water, you’ll be hot and need it. A cool skeleton of a tree hangs over the trail as the only memory of a time when this path had shade. Finally, as you come over the lip to the table area, you will see low scrubby trees in bunches and a couple of makeshift rocky walls to hide behind if you come up on blustery days. I am pretty sure on the second trip I spotted a bear den in the scrubby trees… I didn’t crawl in to check.
The first ascent I took my three oldest boys when they were still in single digits (2012). They complained of course on the steep bits but it made good memories. The second ascent several years later (2018) I took my youngest (twins) and a teenage friend of the family. We ascended in the afternoon, and got some stunning pictures from the top of the sun making its way closer to the line of mountains to the west. But the biggest treat was the descent: when we made it past the steep bit, the remainder of the descent was pointed right at the sunset and made for some of the best photos I have ever taken.
All in all, I really liked the mix of terrain and the challenge that the trail gives – enough to make you earn the summit but not enough to stop you. Bring adventurous children who are up for a challenge – this hike isn’t for city kids! But even if you don’t have little folks, it’s a great spot for anyone. I seem to recall a marriage proposal on one of our hikes up here!
Distance: 10.6km return
Elevation Gain: 828m