The hike to Jewell Falls involves a round-trip hike of approximately 10km using a combination of Prairie View Trail, Stoney Trail and Jewell Pass Trail. It is possible to visit the falls as part of a loop, which adds a few extra kilometers of distance and a lot more elevation gain.
We arrived in the Barrier Dam parking lot just after 11am and it was already quite full. The wind was incredible blowing across the open expanse of Barrier Lake. I debated for several minutes about calling off the hike but decided we should start off and hope for more shelter once we reach the trees.
We crossed the dam and faced the wind. This wind was once of the worst I can remember encountering — it was threatening to blow us off our feet. While it wasn’t nearly as scary as facing the wind while climbing Mount Baldy, it still made for an uncomfortable crossing.
Once we reached the trees the wind was a little less fierce so we opted to continue the hike. This part of the trail follows an old road which actually makes for a pretty boring hike. This stretch has only slight elevation gains with a little up and down, but you can make very good time and cover off the roughly 3km distance in short order. Even though there had been a fair number of cars in the parking lot we didn’t encounter anyone else along the trail. We did see the top part of a tree break loose in the wind and crash down in the woods though.
Just before reaching Jewell Bay Campground we turned northwards up the Jewell Pass trail. Here the trail changes from the wide former road to a more traditional single-path hiking trail. You begin to gain elevation consistently, but it is a relatively gentle grade. The path is strewn with roots and loose rocks, so you need to watch your step, but the exposure is pretty minor so it isn’t a big deal.
About 500m from the falls we began to encounter our first real issues with ice on the trail. We were able to work around the worst of the ice, except for some spots where the creek has overflowed its banks and frozen into a venerable skating rink. The dog was having a great time sliding around whereas my concern was more focused on making sure the camera didn’t get damaged if I were to fall.
Opting not to complete the loop we returned the exact same way as we came, completing the hike in around three hours total time. I certainly would like to return in the summer when the falls are flowing for comparison purposes. I also would like to do this hike my staging a vehicle on the TransCanada Highway and hiking up and over Jewell Pass and then down Quaite Valley or use the Prairie View Trail and complete the entire loop and return to Barrier Dam. I would prefer to do either of those hikes on a day where the wind isn’t as much of a factor though!