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
Kananaskis Hikes: Opal Ridge South

Kananaskis Hikes: Opal Ridge South

If you’re looking for Kananaskis hikes that deliver big time on mountain views be sure to include the steep hike up Opal Ridge South. The hike is full of surprises – the good kind – especially after you get through a steep, rather nasty section of scree.

Expansive views of Highway 40 and beyond on the Opal Ridge south hike

Expansive views of Highway 40 and beyond on the Opal Ridge south hike

The route up Opal Ridge South

Start at the north end of the parking lot at the gas station across from the Fortress Mountain turn-off on Highway 40. Hike up a small creek – on either side – to reach a road with a powerline overhead. It’s ugly for the next 10 minutes but it’s mostly flat so enjoy the warm-up before you start a stiff climb.

After crossing a small creek, look for a trail about 20 metres later on the right (unmarked) heading steeply up. There are also arrows made of stones lying on the ground pointing to the trail. You’ll be in the trees for about the next 20 minutes so make lots of noise to scare off any bears.

Read:Tips for Staying Safe in Bear Country

An uninspiring start to the hike beneath a powerline

An uninspiring start to the hike beneath a powerline

Leave the powerline when you see this trail on your right; also marked by an arrow made of stones

Leave the powerline when you see this trail on your right; also marked by an arrow made of stones

When the trail moves out of the trees you get great views looking south along Highway 40. From here continue up on one of the myriad of trails created by hikers over time looking for a way through rockbands.

There is no wrong trail to take but some are steeper than other. It took us 75 minutes from leaving the car to get to the top of the scree section.

Arrive at a large cairn and then continue on a much easier trail for 10 minutes (at the most) to reach a grassy top from which the views are nothing short of surprising. Enjoy the in your face mountain before continuing up grassy slopes, a delight after all the scree.

In short orders enjoy views south towards Kananaskis Lakes

In short orders enjoy views south towards Kananaskis Lakes

In your face mountains once out of the scree

In your face mountains once out of the scree

Continue on the obvious trail that isn’t as hard as it looks through the rockbands in the photo below. From the top of the rockband it’s a quick, easy walk on a good trail to reach the low point on the ridge.

Grass is totally unexpected after hiking through nasty scree

Grass is totally unexpected after hiking through nasty scree

Kananaskis Hikes: Opal Ridge South

Panorama of the area after getting through the scree band – Photo credit: Faith Pirie (@teeknee50 on IG)

Kananaskis Hikes: Opal Ridge South

The Opal Ridge hike is full of good surprises – including an easy to follow and easy on the feet trail once you’re through the notch

Kananaskis Hikes: Opal Ridge South

Heading for the ridge

Superb hiking once you’re on the ridge

On the ridge, peer into the valley hidden from the highway. It looks wild, lonely and very beautiful. Keep your eye out for bighorn sheep here. We saw their dung and they are known to frequent this area.

We also saw marmots and a Clark’s nutcracker just below the ridge. It’s another 1.5 kilometres to reach the ridge crest from the low point on the ridge but you’ll find the hiking to be some of the easiest of the day.

Kananaskis Hikes: Opal Ridge South

Exceptional views from along the ridge

Kananaskis Hikes: Opal Ridge South

A valley and set of mountains we’d never seen before

Kananaskis Hikes: Opal Ridge South

Looking out and dreaming of hiking other peaks

There’s a small wind break at the top and you can tuck in behind some other rocks if it’s blowing really hard.

I’m never shy about offering advice when it comes to hiking and being prepared for a hike in the mountains. It would seem that I need to take my own advice. The wind pounded us for a good stretch of this hike and the temperature, despite sunny appearances was close to freezing.

Don’t forget to dress in layers and bring warm clothes

I had long pants but I did forget a proper hat and gloves. Thankfully my husband had brought two pairs. Not only did they keep my hands warm but they helped prevent cuts on the descent through the scree.

Kananaskis Hikes: Opal Ridge South

Notice the Kananaskis Lakes off in the distance on the right

Kananaskis Hikes: Opal Ridge South

It was bloody cold on top and guess who forget her gloves

The descent from Opal Ridge

I always prefer the going up to the coming down and really wasn’t looking forward to the steep scree. It turned out to be easier than expected but the rocks on these mountains are really sharp so for safety’s sake, wear gloves so you don’t beat up your hands on the descent.

Kananaskis Hikes: Opal Ridge South

Heading for the scree zone

All told it took us 5.25 hours, including lunch to do the return hike. It’s approximately 8 kilometres return with 1,012 metres of elevation gain. Be prepared for sore legs the next day as I find you tense up on steep descents. Even my arms were sore from hanging onto trees and rocks on the way down.

If you bring your dog, take lots of water. I wouldn’t call this a particularly family-friendly hike unless you’re out hiking every weekend on a variety of terrain.

More reading on Kananaskis hikes

Visit the Kananaskis website for up to date information on trails.

Click on the photo below to share to Pinterest.

Kananaskis Hikes: Opal Ridge South

 

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 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

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.

Pin It on Pinterest

Close search

Cart