From Highway 66, turn south onto McLean Creek Road 8.4 kilometres west of the junction with Highway 22 (Bragg Creek). Drive 1.4 kilometres to McLean Creek Camper Centre and turn left onto McLean Creek Trail (this road is closed annually from December 1 to April 30). Drive south along McLean Creek Trail for 9.2 kilometres and park at a turnoff to two separate gated gas well access roads. The left-hand road is the most direct route to the top of Whiskey Hill (2.6 kilometres one-way with 227 metres of elevation gain). The right-hand road leads to an exploration road which eventually runs eastward past the south end of Whiskey Hill.
From where we parked, Raff, Cole, Marta, Zosia and I began our hike along the right-hand road which quickly leads to a gas well site at a four-way junction. We veered right onto a rougher exploration road and followed this for a few kilometres as it winds around the southern flank of Whiskey Hill and eventually climbs steeply onto the south end of a parallel ridge to the east. Turning north, we followed a convenient dirt bike trail which undulates along the crest of this ridge. At one point, we passed a makeshift campsite marked by a sign which reads, "ON TOP OF CLOUD NINE". East of the campsite is a lake which is possibly known locally as Lazy Lake. Because of all the trees on the ridge, we were unfortunately never able to get a totally clear view of the lake. After cresting the highest point of the parallel ridge, we dropped down slightly before tackling our steepest climb of the day to get onto the northeast ridge of Whiskey Hill. A trio of dirt bikers rode up behind us here, and even they had some trouble getting up this very steep section of trail. Continuing westward, we left the dirt bike trail to avoid some unnecessary elevation loss and soon stumbled onto a cut line. We followed this cut line briefly but soon abandoned it to regain the dirt bike trail which leads directly to the high point of Whiskey Hill.
As expected, the high point of Whiskey Hill
is devoid of views, but with all the mountains to the west socked in by
clouds, we were quite content just to have the sun shining down on us
while trees sheltered us from the Chinook winds. Some celebratory
shots of whiskey also helped to improve our mood! When our party on
the high point was done, we headed north along a signed road which soon
intersects the same cut line that we briefly hiked on earlier.
Turning left, we followed the cut line which led us quickly to yet
another gas well site. The access road for this site is the
aforementioned left-hand road from our starting point, and we easily
descended it to complete our loop hike.
The group arrives at the starting point in four separate cars. The dirt bike trail takes a big dip to the left before
winding back to the right and climbing to the top of Whiskey Hill.
To minimize some elevation loss, the group would take a short cut to far
right. Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak
Whiskey Hill is never going to be a popular hiking objective, but I found my loop route to be surprisingly more pleasant than expected. I think our timing was impeccable with respect to hiking conditions as snow cover actually improves both the muddy trails and the limited views. Even the presence of a few dirt bikers was more amusing than irritating. Of course, nothing beats having great company and a few shots of whiskey!
The group heads eastward along an exploration road.
A clearing along the exploration road grants a view of
(right) to the south.
Ahead is the south end of a long ridge which sits to the east of Whiskey
Hill (not visible here). The group will climb onto the ridge via
the visible road.
Most of the ridge is forested, but a convenient dirt bike trail allows
easy hiking along the crest.
This weathered sign is located beside a makeshift campsite along the
This is probably the best view of an unnamed lake to the east of the
ridge. Online maps imply that the unofficial name, Lazy Lake,
might be attributed to this body of water.
Raff and Marta climb up an incredibly steep section of the dirt bike
An intrepid dirt biker comes up the steep trail. The long ridge
that the group traversed can be seen in the background stretching away to
Sonny and Raff wait as Cole helps Marta get through a barbed-wire fence
after their short cut.
Cole, Raff, Sonny, Zosia and Marta reach the largely viewless high point
of Whiskey Hill (1719 metres).
Zosia savours a freshly-opened mini-bottle of Crown Royal Canadian
Sonny and Marta celebrate their successful ascent of Whiskey Hill and
could not care less that there are no summit views!
A survey marker sits on the high point of Whiskey Hill.
West of the high point, the group passes a gas well site.
The gas well site access road grants an easy descent back to the starting
Distance: 12.0 kilometres
Round-Trip Time: 5 hours 14 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 608 metres
The group arrives at the starting point in four separate cars.
The dirt bike trail takes a big dip to the left before winding back to the right and climbing to the top of Whiskey Hill. To minimize some elevation loss, the group would take a short cut to far right.
Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak