There are a few ways to spend a Saturday exploring. Of course we're dictated by weather in the north of the country. We had originally set off north east, as we grew closer to our destination we thought we couldn't be able to hike 10k with a 6 year old in the blustery rain, so a quick detour left, we set off for Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. And what a day we chose! The route up to Conic Hill is defined as an easy hike. It has a clear set out path and is dissected into five stages. On the walk highlands website, it's regarded as a grade two on the bog factor.
Distance 4km / 2.5 miles
Time2 - 3 hours
Start Grid Ref NS421909
Our walk began from the car park in the centre of Balmaha, which also has an information centre, a great place for finding out about other local paths, routes and activities. The path leaves from the very back of the car park and immediately divides at a t-junction; we turned right here along the track, and at the next junction turn left onto a path at the bottom of a clear forest; this section of the walk is marked by the Thistle symbols of the West Highland Way. The really well made paths starts to get steep. We passed through an amazing forest, where Harley was keen to make a dam as a river fell alongside the path. The path climbs up to a gate, where you can see Conic Hill in your view ahead.
We stayed on the main path as it curved round between the two hills; there are good views back over the lower reaches of Loch Lomond. The path aims for a West Highland Way marker post ahead, and at this point it swings right to climb across the far flank of Conic Hill. By this point we began to see the epic view of Loch Lomond itself. As the small stream becomes larger, there was lots of opportunity to jump the crossing stones and head up to a clearing. By this point we actually stayed. Conic Hill is short but steep and Harls had had enough! That saying, there are three further stages before you reach the summit....
STAGE 3 - Route written by Walk Highlands... Enjoy!
After about two hundred and fifty metres a clear but rough grassy path goes off to the right to reach the ridge line of Conic Hill. From here the views along the ridge are even better; the ridge is on the exact line of the Highland Boundary Fault and so has great variety. The string of islands across Loch Lomond lined up with the ridge are all on the fault line. Turn left to follow the ridge towards the summit. There is a very steep section where the ground has been eroded to the conglomerate bed-rock. This can be slippy to ascend so care is needed - it is easiest on its left edge. If you decide against this ascent you could simply remain on the West Highland Way path below instead, or arrive at the summit of Conic Hill via the descent route.
A false summit is reached before a short descent and the final climb to what most regard as the summit. The mountains clustered around the upper end of Loch Lomond include the Arrochar Alps and Ben Lomond in a quite sensational view (keen baggers looking to reach the true highest point will need to detour further along the ridge to a less dramatic cairn). Descend back to the dip and then follow a clear path that cuts steeply down to the West Highland Way (this path also provides a slightly easier route to the summit for those wishing to avoid the rocky scramble).
The simplest return route is to turn left along the West Highland Way and retrace your steps - no hardship with such superb views ahead. A longer alternative - making a circuit - instead follows the West Highland Way to the right, passing round the northern side of the hill before descending to a footbridge over the Burn of Mar. This route continues along the Way, crossing a second footbridge before passing through an area which has been felled and replanted, and eventually reaching a signed junction of forestry tracks. A right turn here leads down a track which becomes Crietyhall Road and descends to Milton of Buchanan, a road walk of just over 2km east of Drymen. If intending to follow this circuit, it is perhaps better to reverse the whole route in order to have the Conic Hill views revealed suddenly and enjoyed on the descent
After we decided to make our decent downhill, we of course explored the forest even more, making dams and collecting wood. The path is an easy one, seeing trail runners, family hikers use the space really well. It's a popular route, which made me think i could return solo and feel confident.
As you're going through a forest, nature has really designed the route for exploration. We came across lots of other kids the same age as mine having a really good adventure. We highly recommend the path.
We also loved Harley's new jacket, from Trespass. Dubbed a ski jacket, it was perfectly designed for the blistery, wet weather we faced at the weekend. The jacket boasts the following technical ratings...
Taped Seams Yes
Padded Printed Panels Contrast Zippers 3 Zip Pockets 1 Sleeve Zip Pocket Detachable Stud Off Hood Inner Snowbreak Elasticated Cuff with Velcro Tab
FABRIC COMPOSITION & CARE
WovenShell 100% Polyester PU CoatingLining 100% PolyesterFilling 100% Polyester
But the real proof was in wearing it all day. Harley felt super comfortable, the size was good on him and of course he picked out the design, which by a five year old's standards is what is important and cool. As a parent all i wanted to know is that ..would the jacket be for us and the activities we'd like to do? My answer is yes and why? Using ColdHeat insulation and warm padding, Harley's body heat was well insulated so he didn't feel the cold while enjoying the outdoors. It's also waterproof to 3,000mm, with taped seams, an inner snowbreak and a windproof membrane, he was well protected and kept dry in wet and windy weather. So win for us! Even better is that the jacket is currently on sale.
With out day wrapping up to an end, we really love and recommend this ready made adventure. For us, it was a real easy climb due to last minute plans changing. We didn't need to re-think map Geo-coordinates nor re-assess weather changes. The hike is super simple and it's a great one for beginners with or without children. We hope you get out there and also explore the area. There is A LOT to offer. It's so handy having the visitor centre nearby to give you lots of amazing local tips. We recommend giving that place also a visit. It's comforting to know that there is a local shop and restaurants near the car-park. Making it a trip you don't need to over prepare for.
Thanks for Reading