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If you’re looking for a great hike that won’t take all day and is relatively close to Calgary, you would do well to choose the Nihahi Ridge hike.
The trailhead for the Nihahi Ridge hike located at Little Elbow Campground, is just an hour’s drive from Calgary via Highway 66 near Bragg Creek. There is road access to get to the trailhead from May 15th until November 30th.
The hike is approximately 4.1 km one-way but that is from the trailhead kiosk west of the campground to the rock scramble near the ridge top. Add another kilometre for the walk from the parking lot so round-trip, count on at least 10.2 km with an elevation gain of 415 m.
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Walking along the trail beside the Little Elbow River is a very pleasant way to start hiking – but it is a means to an end as the actual trail up to Nihahi Ridge is a few kilometres from the parking lot. The initial part of the hike is flat and easy.
Finding the turnoff to the Nihahi Ridge hike
At the end of the Little Elbow Campground you must continue past a barricade on a dirt road. You’ll finally see some signage for the Nihahi Ridge hike. Continue for about a kilometre until you find the turnoff on the right to Nihahi Ridge.
Then the real work begins. You start climbing through the woods, albeit on a gentle grade initially. After about 40 minutes of hiking on an increasingly steep trail you reach a meadow and the grade flattens.
From the meadow you get a good view of where you’re going as you can see the ridge in the distance. (Photo below.)
You’ll be through the meadow and back into the woods in no time. The next notable spot you’ll reach is a rocky ledge with a drop-off though steel cables are on one side to prevent you from falling. It’s not as scary as it sounds.
A few minutes later you get quite lovely views of the meadow you just crossed along with a view of Forget Me Not Ridge across the river.
The trail steepens but the views on either side of the ridge are quite marvelous, despite the day being a little smoky and hazy. We stick to the left as we approach the ridge and follow the outcrop for about 15 minutes until we reach an opening where we can scramble up.
In total it took us about 45 minutes to go from where the guard rails were to the south end of the ridge.
From where we stopped it’s a scramble to the summit with reportedly a bit of exposure near the end. With two hot dogs, we were content to call it a day and enjoy our lunch with a view.
Don’t forget the water
The descent went quickly and we were back at the river in 90 minutes. If you do bring dogs, especially on a hot day carry a lot of water as there is none on the trail.
We gave each dog 2.5 litres of water and that wasn’t enough. I don’t think we appreciated how hot the day was going to be when we started.
How to find the trailhead for the hike
Take Highway 66 from Bragg Creek all the way to the junction with the Powderface Trail. Turn left to stay on asphalt and follow it towards the Little Elbow Campground.
When it turns to dirt road, continue straight for about 200 m. Look for parking for about 10 cars on your right – across from the Harold Chapman pedestrian bridge. (You won’t be able to see the bridge immediately from the road.)
If you can’t find parking here, retrace your steps to the stop sign. Turn right and follow it around to find a larger parking lot.
To start hiking look for a trail leading down from the small parking lot. You’ll see the Harold Chapman pedestrian bridge. Don’t cross it but follow the trail to the right as it parallels the road in the campground. The Little Elbow River will be on your left.
Follow it for about a kilometre on mostly level ground to reach the end of the Little Elbow Campground and a barricade. You’ll find a map here which will help you sort yourself out.
Go past the barricade and continue walking down the dirt road. After about 10 minutes you’ll see a sign on your right pointing to Nihahi Ridge. From there it’s about 2.2 km one way to the top.
A few things you might find useful on the hike
The map to take is Gem Trek Bragg Creek and Sheep Valley.
And if you’re in need of hiking poles I’d suggest carbon ones because of their weightless quality.
Further reading on more hikes in the Bragg Creek area
- The Powderface Ridge Hike near Bragg Creek
- The Year Round Prairie Mountain Hike near Bragg Creek
- The Fabulous Forget-Me-Not Ridge Hike
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