Elbow Valley - Diamond T - The particulars: Trailhead is located at the west end of the Station Flats parking area (off Highway 66, just West of the Allen Bill Pond area). Loop is about 3.7 km total. Trailhead elevation is about 1400m, high point is about 1525m. Loop takes between 1-1.5 hours depending on conditions.
The day after the Johnston's Canyon hike where the idea for this blog was born (more photos from that later), N. and I stuck to nearby Elbow Valley and a quick little loop called Diamond T. It's a nice quick hike with lots to look at, and a couple of well placed hills I call the "Cardio Hills".
After all the ice surrounding Johnston's Canyon, it was a nice change to get back to the foothills where the snow wasn't as... shall we say intense. It had been unseasonably warm, and we hoped the trails were going to clear of ice. We were lucky.
Diamond T is a nice little stroll for the first 40 minutes or so. At the start of the hike, there is a fork, take the right fork for the best hike. The trail travels through the forest, through a gate, and then encounters some gentle slopes. After the first bridge, there is a sharp uphill, then another fork. Take the left fork -- look for the bright orange diamond-shaped signs, they often have the trail name printed right on them. The right fork is the Tom Snow Trail -- one-way back to Bragg Creek! After the fork, the trail leads through a bit of a clearing along a hill. Down below is the edge of the forest, immediately above is a meadow. In the summer, lots of colourful wildflowers grow here. This is where the above photo was taken. This is where the sun is usually the strongest.
Eventually the trail will start to double-back with a sharp turn from West to South-East. It will look like there's another fork here, but there is not. Stick to the level trail.
Soon after you will come around the corner and encounter the Cardio Hills (my name for it). This is the first of them, and not the biggest. It's a great challenge to get your heart rate going. In fact, if your heart is really going, you might want to take a break at the top, since the rest of the trail to the lookout is a fairly steady incline. The lookout? Well, it's not the best, but there's a bench (something N. really likes!) and a certain amount of satisfaction at having made it. When you get near the top, keep an eye out for the sign pointing to the lookout -- it's easy to continue along the loop and walk right by it.
The lookout to the West. Kinda meh really.
It's all downhill from there. Still lots to see, and the decline is fairly steep and rocky. This is where the direction of the loop makes sense -- I'd rather go downhill on this part than uphill. Your mileage may vary.
The hike is definitely worth it for getting some fresh air, getting your heart pumping and a nice hike the family can do. There's not a ton of wildlife, but it was pretty early in the season. Plenty of tracks in the snow though.