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Great views from the ridge section of the trail
Great views from the ridge section of the trail

Snowshoeing the West Bragg Creek Trails, Alberta

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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.

From Highway 66 you can also access the Ranger Summit – Strange Brew Loop via the Snagmore and Sugar Daddy Trail but there’s a lot of climbing involved – and you might be better off with a car shuttle. In that case park one car at the Fullerton Day Use Area.

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 recommend the 10 km Ranger Summit – Strange Brew Loop

The snowshoe 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.

You will climb a total of 381 m over the 10 km so be prepared for an aerobic workout, especially if you have to break trail.

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

Snowshoeing the Snowshoe Hare Loop Trail

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 noise 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 - on the north side of the parking lot
Close-up of the snowshoe trail 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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Tips for your snowshoe outing

There is a free public cellular hotspot immediately south of the Trails Centre at the West Bragg Creek Parking Lot, so you can now make both emergency and non-emergency calls.

Hungry after your snowshoeing outing and want to support the local commiunity? Check out Cinnamon Spoon for coffees, sandwiches and baked goods. 

The Heart comes recommended with its Phil & Sebastian coffee & espresso, kombucha, cold pressed juices, and plant-based – fresh baking.

Guys Cafe and Bakery is another good choice.

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

Such beauty at Bragg Creek after a fresh snowfall
Such beauty at Bragg Creek after a fresh snowfall

Where is the parking lot and trailhead for the West Bragg Creek trails?

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 noon on a perfect blue sky Saturday, it can be overflowing. Fortunately there is loads of parking on the road – and it’s all free.

                                                 

Where can you stay in Bragg Creek?

If you want to enjoy a night or two without the hassle of the drive to Calgary, Cochrane or wherever you live, consider booking a stay at one of the following properties.

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 things to do in Alberta in winter

You might also enjoy the 2nd edition of Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies by Andrew Nugara.

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Excellent snowshoeing trails at Bragg Creek only 40 minutes away from downtown Calgary
Excellent snowshoeing trails at Bragg Creek only 40 minutes away from downtown Calgary

 

 

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