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The Fantastic Pocaterra Ridge Hike In Kananaskis

The Fantastic Pocaterra Ridge Hike in Kananaskis

The Pocaterra Ridge hike in Kananskis Country deserves to be on your must-do list. It ranks as one of the best day hikes I’ve done in Alberta.

I did this hike with three women around the third week in September when the larches were at their peak. Pocaterra Ridge was absolutely stunning in September and truly a memorable hike. A summer hike would also be very beautiful as much of the day is spent on a long ridge above tree line with views in all directions – and the wildflowers are reportedly prolific.

The best way to hike Pocaterra Ridge

Do Pocaterra Ridge as a one way hike so you can dawdle on the ridge itself. My recommendation is to start at the Highwood Pass parking lot and finish at Little Highwood Pass as you’ll save yourself 280 metres of elevation gain.

You’ll need to organize a car shuttle unless you’re super energetic. If that’s the case leave a bike at Little Highwood Pass and cycle back to Highwood Pass at day’s end.

Trip report for Pocaterra Ridge

The hike starts and ends with a bit of route finding. To get going leave the north end of the Highwood Pass parking lot and follow the interpretive trail until it starts climbing.

This part of the trail is shared with the hike to Grizzly Col and Grizzly Peak – so make lots of noise in this area. There are obvious trails climbing through the woods; some of these can be quite muddy. Eventually you pop out and get the view you see in the photo below. Pocaterra Ridge is off to the right (north).

Read: The 10 Hiking Essentials Everyone Should Carry

The Fantastic Pocaterra Ridge Hike in Kananaskis Country
This is definitely one of the top hikes in Alberta to do during larch season

Once you’re out of the woods you can count on following a more defined trail all the way through to the descent to the Little Highwood Pass parking lot.

The trail is well defined for 90% of the hike
The trail is well defined for 90% of the hike
Looking back in the direction of Highwood Pass
Looking back in the direction of Highwood Pass
The only water you pass on the hike
The only water you pass on the hike
Happiness is hiking in a forest of yellow
Happiness is hiking in a forest of yellow
There is one major slog on the hike and this is it - but what a backdrop
There is one major slog on the hike and this is it – but what a backdrop

There are four summits to climb along the ridge with the first one being by far the hardest from the aerobic standpoint. Once on top you can see the route very clearly.

The descent from the first summit is steeper than all but the final descent to the parking lot. Some people may feel more comfortable using hiking poles.

The Fantastic Pocaterra Ridge Hike in Kananaskis Country
It’s a straightforward hike to the high point of the day
You can see Highway 40 from sections of the hike
You can see Highway 40 from sections of the hike
There's another snow covered trail up to Grizzly Col off in the distance
There’s another snow covered trail up to Grizzly Col off in the distance
Sweet place to hang out on top of Pocaterra Ridge
Sweet place to hang out on top of Pocaterra Ridge
The trail is well-worn in places
The trail is well-worn in places
Four summits need to be climbed along Pocaterra Ridge
Four summits need to be climbed along Pocaterra Ridge
The Fantastic Pocaterra Ridge Hike in Kananaskis Country
Humans look so puny in the mountain environment
Admiring the view to Elbow Lake accessible via a popular mountain biking trail
Admiring the view to Elbow Lake accessible via a popular mountain biking trail
 Sublime views along the Pocaterra Ridge
Sublime views along the ridge
Another patch of in your face yellow larches on the descent from the ridge
Another patch of in your face yellow larches on the descent from the ridge

The descent to Little Highwood Pass

After you’ve climbed the fourth summit you can look forward to a steep descent to the Little Highwood Pass parking lot – visible in the photo you see below.

The trail is obvious for a good chunk of the descent. Once the well-defined trail disappears follow whatever animal trails you can find as you switchback down the ridgeline. There may be occasional pieces of flagging tape.

Despite the lack of trail, it’s actually quite straight forward to descend, mostly because the trees aren’t too dense. You will eventually reach a creek you must cross. Certainly by September it was obvious what route to take. Early on in the season you might need sandals to avoid getting your feet wet. We literally finished the hike beside a bush marked with flagging tape directly across from the entrance to the parking lot.

When to hike Pocaterra Ridge

This is a stunner of a hike almost from the moment you start. When you can hike it will very year to year depending on snow levels. The road to Highwood Pass is closed to cars until June 15th. In most years your window to hike the ridge will be from late June until late September – with mid-September ideal for the larches. Enjoy this fabulous hike.

The Fantastic Pocaterra Ridge Hike in Kananaskis Country
The last of the views before getting into the trees

Pocaterra Ridge Hike Details

  • Trail length: 9.3 kilometres one way
  • Elevation gain/loss from Highwood Pass: 550 metres gain; 875 metre loss
  • Time needed: Allow six hours one way with breaks.
  • Don’t forget: Warm clothes. The wind can be ferocious at times. Everyone should carry bear spray.

Other Kananaskis hikes you might enjoy

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Pocaterra Ridge - one of the best day hikes in Alberta

 

 

 

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 2 Comments
  1. Wow. Absolutely beautiful! Everything I’ve seen about Alberta makes me think I need to take a trip there, but not in the winter!

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