skip to Main Content
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages
Steep Descent From Windy Point

Foran Grade and Windy Point Hike

The Foran Grade and Windy Point hike is a great choice for anyone who lives in the Calgary area and is eager for a hike that delivers great mountain views starting early in the season. I wouldn’t do this hike in the summer when there are more interesting choices, but I’d come back again in the fall to catch the vibrant colours. The effort to reward ratio on this hike is high.

The Foran Grade trail hooks up with many other trails at well-signed intersections, so there are many days worth of hiking in the area. The access to the trailhead from the Sandy McNab Day Use Area in the Sheep River area of Kananaskis Country near Turner Valley is closed to cars from December 1 to May 14. Fortunately it’s an easy 1.5 km walk on the highway to reach the well-signed trailhead. There is limited parking at the trailhead once the highway is open.

All told the hike is about 10 km return, depending on exactly what route you follow – and that includes 3 km back and forth from the winter gate. It’s 3 km shorter come May15th when you can drive to the trailhead. Expect to climb about 305 m in total. Allow 4 – 5 hours.

Walk west on empty Highway 546 when the winter gate is closed
Walk west on empty Highway 546 when the winter gate is closed
The trailhead is well marked on the north side of the road
The trailhead is well marked on the north side of the road
The Sheep River Valley dressed in fall colours
The Sheep River Valley dressed in fall colours

The first part of the hike was a gradual walk up through pretty meadows and open woods to a high point on the ridge line. We didn’t see any cows on our hike, but they certainly left their evidence behind. There was some ice and mud – but we only needed icers for a few minutes on the descent to the trail intersection.

Detailed map of the hike
Detailed map of the hike
The hike starts off in pretty open woods
The hike starts off in pretty open woods
We have the trail to ourselves on a beautiful spring day
We have the trail to ourselves on a beautiful spring day
Easy vertical on this section of trail
Easy vertical on the Foran Grade trail
Gorgeous views from the Foran Grade trail
Gorgeous views from the trail
Next stop is the ridge in the photo
Heading for an intersection near the snow patch on the right
Rosie cooling off in the snow
Rosie cooling off in the snow
This is the map you'll find at the intersection
This is the map you’ll find at the intersection

Windy Point

Reach a signed intersection after the descent from the Foran Grade trail. There is an option to follow the Windy Point Ridge Trail – but in early April, we found it hard to follow.

Instead, we hiked steeply off trail, contouring up to reach the ridge line. When we got there, we went right at first to see where the trail went. After reaching a high point, we retraced our steps and settled in the lee of some trees to enjoy lunch with a view. We could see the office towers of downtown Calgary from our perch.

Looking out to Calgary from the Windy Point trail
Looking out to Calgary from the Windy Point trail

Then we went the other way to check out Windy Point itself – a place with great mountain views including Banded Peak and Threepoint Mountain.

Looking out from Windy Point trail to the west
Looking out from Windy Point trail to the west
Checking out the trails at the top of Windy Peak
Checking out the trails at the top of Windy Point
A great view from Windy Point
This view in fall would be spectacular 
The Windy Point Trail offers excellent views
The Windy Point Trail offers excellent views to the west

The descent back to the road

It’s a very steep descent down to the trail from Windy Point. We picked our way down carefully and I for one was happy to have a hiking pole. Once we got into the woods, we just headed in the general direction of the trail we’d seen from above and followed it to the road.

There is the option to take a trail on the far side of the highway – above the river – back to the parking lot. This would normally be a good option but it was very muddy, so we stuck to the highway and walked back in about 20 minutes.

Looking steeply down to the Sheep River Road from near the top of Windy Peak
Looking steeply down to the Sheep River Road from near the top of Windy Peak
Walking back to the Sandy McNab parking area
Walking back to the Sandy McNab parking area; there is a trail to the right of John in the trees

Bighorn sheep reside in the area year round

Bighorn sheep live in the Sheep River Valley on a year-round basis. In fact, the road is closed to protect their winter range. According to a researcher we met at the winter gate, there are approximately 100 bighorn sheep living in the area.

Bighorn sheep seen on the descent from Windy Point
Our dog saw the bighorn sheep before we did

Foran Grade – Windy Point Trailhead Location

Get to Turner Valley. At the four-way intersection by the gas station, head west on Highway 546. Take it for about 21 km to reach the winter gates by the Sandy McNab Campground. If the gates are open (which they will be from May 15 – November 30) continue for another 1.5 km to reach the trailhead and small parking area.

Further reading

The Sheep River Road is ideal for biking, especially when it’s closed to traffic. In April there was only a minor amount of snow on the road that could be easily avoided. 

If you’re into biking, you might also enjoy the ride up Highwood Pass from the Longview area before June 15th – when it opens to cars.

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

 

The Foran Grade - Windy Point hike near Turner Valley In Kananaskis Country is a great early season or fall hike offering mountain views

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has One Comment

  1. hiking is a very healthy and exciting activity there are a lots of hiking points in Dubai too even with the deserts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close search
Cart

Pin It on Pinterest