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Snowshoeing The West Bragg Creek Trails, Alberta

Snowshoeing the West Bragg Creek Trails, Alberta

The West Bragg Creek area is home to a fantastic network of hiking, biking, snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails. I only seem to visit in winter for snowshoeing and skiing when I know West Bragg Creek has had a fresh dump of snow. It’s less than an hour’s drive from Calgary and ideal destination for full or even half day trips, if that’s all the time you have.

There are two main snowshoe loops at West Bragg Creek described below. One is short (Snowshoe Hare) and one longer (Ranger Summit – Strange Brew Loop) with a lot more elevation gain. Scroll to the bottom to see the trails on a map.

The mountains are beckoning on the way up to the West Bragg Creek Trailhead

The mountains are beckoning on the way up to the West Bragg Creek Trailhead

I highly recommend the 10 kilometre Ranger Summit – Strange Brew Loop that starts to the south of the closed road at the Bragg Creek Trailhead

For the first few hundred metres you share the trail with cross-country skiers. But then you take off into the woods on a snowshoeing trail and start climbing for the better part of four kilometres.

It’s aerobic but at a moderate pace you’re at the high point in just over an hour. Along the way we crossed a ski trail and met a lone skier who said he hadn’t seen another soul in three hours. That’s the beauty of this loop.

There’s a spur trail, about 20 minutes past the summit, that takes you down towards the Elbow River and onto the Fullerton Loop. If we hadn’t had such a late start, I know I would have liked to continue on it for many kilometres. But with the sun starting to go down by 3 PM in December, it wasn’t the prudent thing to do.

I’ve done the loop many times now and I don’t actually see many people on snowshoes. And yet this is one glorious trail especially after a fresh snowfall as you’ll see in the photos. 

Snowshoeing in West Bragg Creek

The start of the Ranger Summit Trail

Snowshoeing the Ranger Summit Trail at West Bragg Creek

Look for diamonds on the trees marking the trails in West Bragg Creek

Look at how much snow there is!

Look at how much snow there is!

The view of Moose Mountain from Ranger Summit, part of the West Bragg Creek trails

The view of Moose Mountain from Ranger Summit

A hot drink on a -20C day is helpful

A hot drink on a -20C day is helpful even though we’ve worked up a sweat snowshoeing

You can sure see our breath on a -20C day

You can sure see our breath on a -20C day

Great views from the ridge section of the trail at West Bragg Creek

Great views from the ridge section of the trail

Gorgeous lighting late in the afternoon on the West Bragg Creek snowshoe trails

Gorgeous lighting late on a December afternoon

We did see one fat tire biker on the West Bragg Creek trails

We did see one fat tire biker on the West Bragg Creek trails

The Snowshoe Hare Loop 

On our first trip to the West Bragg Creek area it took us some time to find a trail that catered to the snowshoeing crowd. But we found a loop – the 5.5 kilometre Snowshoe Hare Loop, an easy, dog-friendly loop you can knock off in a couple of hours.

The trail is sometimes so firmly packed down that you didn’t actually need snowshoes. 

The trail is an utter delight – especially if there’s been a big dump of snow. Perhaps I should rephrase that. Sometimes if you snowshoe it in a clockwise direction, the first kilometre offers up the annoying buzz of wood chippers in the distance. But after that disappears you’re met with silence.

The Snowshoe Hare trail is easy to follow

The Snowshoe Hare trail is easy to follow

My Caribbean dog prefers snow over the heat

My Caribbean dog prefers snow over the heat

Really pretty woods for snowing at West Bragg Creek

Really pretty woods for snowshoeing at West Bragg Creek

The snowshoe trail is in pink - on the north side of the parking lot

The snowshoe trail is in pink – on the north side of the parking lot

"The snowshoe trail is in pink"

The snowshoe trail is in pink – on the north side of the parking lot

Map of trails on the south side of the parking lot

Map of trails on the south side of the parking lot at West Bragg Creek

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What to wear snowshoeing on a really cold day (-20°C) in winter

Be smart and go prepared because if anything goes wrong it won’t be pretty. Take extra high energy food, along with lots of hot drinks. You might even want to bring a wide mouth thermos so you can enjoy some hearty soup.

Everyone should have a headlamp. Don’t forget matches and fire starter too.

Consider bringing some extra clothes. My brother wasn’t wearing gaiters so his socks got wet and it took hours for his feet to warm up. Another pair of dry socks would have made his day more comfortable. Never, ever wear cotton or you’ll freeze. 

If you want to sit down, it’s way more comfortable and you won’t lose as much heat if you have an insulated sitting pad like this one

Where is the parking lot and trailhead?

The West Bragg Creek trails – which are largely for cross country skiers – can be found at the far end of West Bragg Creek Road – just 8.5 kilometres from the one major shopping area in Bragg Creek itself. There’s a big parking lot though by one in the afternoon on a perfect blue sky Saturday, it can be overflowing. Fortunately there is loads of parking on the road – and it’s all free.

Do you like to get outside in the winter? Would you agree with this quote?

A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water. ― Carl Reiner

Further reading on snowshoeing in Alberta

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Snowshoeing in West Bragg Creek, Alberta

 

 

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 10 Comments
    1. @Mette I need to get you to Canada to show you all the truly wonderful things there are to do. And yes snowshoes look like tennis rackets though they now come in many different forms – from light weight ones meant for running to big heavy duty ones meant for carrying heavy loads through deep snow.

  1. What a great hike! I’m not a fan of cold but I think snow is so beautiful and I love the quiet of a good trek in the snow-covered woods. Your dog looks so cute and happy, what is her/his name?

    1. @Krista Once you’re moving it’s not cold and in fact I was so warm I had my hat and mitts off or most of the hike. My dog’s name is Torrie. She is from the island of St. Maartens in the Caribbean – hates the heat, loves the snow.

  2. Check out Snowy Owl, a new snowshoe trail at West Bragg that’s not on the official map yet.
    We are also preparing another snowshoe blog with more ideas for snowshoeing/winter hiking at West Bragg.

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