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The King Creek Ridge Hike In Kananaskis Country

The King Creek Ridge Hike in Kananaskis Country

The fabulous 3.5 km King Creek Ridge hike off of Highway 40 in Kananaskis Country offers truly exceptional mountain scenery. But it’s definitely not a beginner or even a family-friendly hike. Once you reach the ridge itself after about two kilometres of hard, steep hiking, the grade moderates and the rest of the hike is positively glorious. It’s one of the best ridge walks I’ve done – though I’d also highly recommend nearby Pocaterra Ridge.

Views like this make the stiff climb entirely worthwhile

Views like this make the stiff climb entirely worthwhile

The route up to King Creek Ridge

I was a bit confused once we got into the woods as the trail leveled out for a while – mostly paralleling the road without climbing very much. I’d read that it was two kilometres straight up. The straight up part starts soon enough, perhaps after about 10 minutes of hiking in the woods, but it’s not immediate. The ascent may be hard on the breathing but as you’ll see, the descent is far trickier. You may want to take poles on this hike.

Views part way up the steep part of the hike

Views part way up the steep part of the hike

The minute you hit the ridge – and even a bit before – the magic unfolds. Turn left once you reach the ridge top and follow it for about 1.5 kilometres enjoying sweeping views of the mountains, especially of Mt. Wintour. Its shape has been described as being “like whipped ice cream or the Matterhorn.” 

One of the first big views you get on the ridge

One of the first big views you get on the ridge

Look across the valley and you’ll feel like you’re looking at the Swiss Alps. Even the grass looks groomed. Maybe it’s the numerous bighorn sheep that keep it looking so good. And if you look southwest it’s easy to pick out Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes as well.

Kananaskis Lakes off in the distance

Kananaskis Lakes off in the distance

An easy to follow trail along the ridgeline

An easy to follow trail along the ridgeline

The ridge climbs at a gentle grade for its 1.5 kilometre length. You’ll see a lot of wildflowers along the route. I was surprised to see prairie crocus blooming in mid-June. The snow must have recently left.

Prairie crocus blooming in June

Prairie crocus blooming in June

Small patches of snow can be seen in mid-June along King Creek Ridge

We let Rosie off the leash for a few minutes so she could cool down in the snow

Some people turn around at a big rock cairn you’ll see near the end of the ridge. But I think it’s worth continuing to the very end. That does involve a small scramble up some rocks with a minor amount of exposure for a few feet. We had a big Bernese mountain dog with us – so she was a far bigger concern than our own safety. She took her time, both coming and going, so it worked out just fine.

The last part of the King Creek Ridge hike

The last part of the King Creek Ridge hike

The last few feet of vertical on the King Creek Ridge trail

Note the exposure on the right hand side

At the end of the ridge look over to Opal Ridge (another steep hike I’d recommend) and Fortress Mountain. Sit back, eat lunch and enjoy the scenery before retracing your steps.

Looking across to Opal Ridge from King Creek Ridge

Looking across to Opal Ridge

For the descent

As there is no signage anywhere take note on the way up of what the scenery looks like when you reach the ridgeline. You don’t want to miss the turnoff for the descent.

I think the rest of the route finding is straightforward if you pay attention to what trail looks to be well-traveled. There is a bit of braiding in places but it was minor compared to other trails I’ve done in K-country.

Be cautious on the descent. There are some really nasty parts with those ball-bearing like small rocks where you could turn your ankle in a second. Take your time.

John and I did the hike up and down in four hours at a relaxed pace. At the end of the ridge we spent about 40 minutes enjoying the view over lunch.

Finding the start of the King Creek Ridge hike

A lot of people seem to have trouble finding the trailhead – especially since nothing is signed. The parking lot is easy enough to find. It’s on the east side of Highway 40, roughly 100 metres north of the winter gate for Highwood Pass.

To get to the start of the King Creek Ridge trail walk back out towards Highway 40 and look right (north). You’ll see a trail taking off through the grass just in from the road. Follow it as it climbs up to an intersection. Take the left branch and head for the woods.

The start of the King Creek Ridge hike

The start of the King Creek Ridge hike

King Creek Ridge hike

Head left up on the King Creek Ridge hike

Before you head out on the hike it’s always prudent to check the Kananaskis trail report.

This is grizzly bear country so be sure to carry bear spray. If you need a refresher read Tips for Staying Safe in Bear Country. We didn’t so much as see any bear scat.

I think the King Creek Ridge hike is a marvelous one. I loved the scenery and views at the top. But with 731 metres of elevation gain and lots of steep trail to deal with, choose your hiking partner carefully. You want them to enjoy it as much as you do.

More Kananaskis hikes nearby you might enjoy

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The King Creek Ridge hike in Kananaskis Country

 

 

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
  1. The views look amazing!
    Kananaskis country is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen!
    I spent a few days in the area a few years ago when we traveled down the Ice Field’s Parkway. Plan on getting back there soon so I can spend more time enjoying the place.
    ps, please stop telling everyone about it so we can have it to ourselves. Lol

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