On Saturday, May 16 I set out with Tucker the Dog. Our goal? Climb Allsmoke Mountain. The trailhead for Allsmoke is reached by heading west of Millarville on Highway 549 and then southwest on Gorge Creek Trail. The Gorge Creek Trail is not a well-maintained road and is not recommended for low-clearance vehicles or when it has been raining, unless you have a 4×4. Just before the bridge near the Ware Creek Provincial Recreation Area you can park on the north side of the road. This is the unmarked trailhead leading to Allsmoke Mountain.
To reach the summit of Allsmoke Mountain you will be engaging in a hike which is approximately 15km round trip and will involve an elevation gain of roughly 700m.
The hike starts easily enough, crossing a well-used pasture. You’ll have one small water crossing, but it is nothing serious, you can practically step across it with no effort. As you work your way west and into the trees the ground will have a tendency to turn quite boggy, depending on the time of year. Here in the Sping with all the snow in the higher elevations melting I had to often detour off the trail and around the worst of the sections to avoid soaking my boots.
The good news is that this section of the trail involves minimal elevation gain so you can still make good time, even with all the detours. Around the 2km mark you will need to decend to Ware Creek and make your way across. There are plenty of dead trees which can be used for a convenient and dry crossing. Once you climb back up out of the creek valley you start the real ascent to the summit.
The trail at this point begins to wind its way up the ridge through the forest. As I gained elevation I started to run into more and more patches of snow, which I expected given the relatively early part of the season in which I was attempting this hike. Even with the snow the route to the summit was quite obvious — stay on the high ground of the ridge and it is hard to go wrong.
This part of the hike does not offer great views as the forest is quite dense. You will eventually emerge out onto a meadow and finally be rewarded with some wonderful views to the west. By this point in my hike the snow was now covering the entire ground, typically ankle-deep. My boots and socks were soaked and the hike was becoming more labor intensive than I had expected.
It is around this point I was faced with a tough decision. I was still about 200m below the summit, which sits at an elevation of about 2100m. The GPSr showed the summit was about 1.3km away. There was a slight dip in the ridge before it rose again to gain the peak. The snow was really starting to take the fun out of this hike and I knew it was only going to get worse the higher I went.
Eventually I convinced myself that I had come too far to turn around. I set off for the top. As expected, the snow continued to get worse, reaching the point where I wished I had brought my snow shoes. By the time I reached the summit cairn the snow was knee-deep in most places. It had taken me about 3.5 hours to reach the top. I admit I was exhausted and the thought that the truck was almost 8km away was actually quite disheartening.
The one thing that was not disheartening was the views. You have uninterrupted views sweeping from Forgetmenot Ridge to the west, Moose Mountain to the north and the prairies to the east.
The dog and I ate our lunches at the summit cairn before starting back down. Apparently you can use Volcano Ridge as a descent route, but I opted to trust the devil I know and essentially retraced my ascent route back to the trailhead. The return trip was much faster, taking about two hours to complete. By the time I was done I have to admit that seeing the old Dodge across that pasture was one of the sweetest sights I had seen in a long time!
Allsmoke is a great workout and I certainly intend to return one day, AFTER the snow has melted.