If you want a moderate hike that gets your heart rate up, delivers Rocky Mountain views and wildflower filled meadows do the Powderface Ridge hike near Bragg Creek.
The trailhead for Powderface Ridge is about an hour’s scenic drive from Calgary – about 10 minutes past Elbow Falls and the trailhead to the popular Prairie Mountain hike. While there are several variations of this hike, we did the straightforward up and back hike from the trailhead to a cairn with a flag – which is definitely not the full ridge hike.
Note that the road to access this hike is closed from December 1 – May 15 every year.
What it’s like to hike Powderface Ridge
The Powderface Ridge hike starts off strenuously – in the same vein as Prairie Mountain but with none of the early views. Reportedly it’s a climb of 400 metres over two kilometres, enough to get the attention of your heart.
Fortunately once you reach the meadows the closed in feeling goes away and the trail moderates in grade. In about 700 metres reach a col. Head right to reach the flag and cairn – along with great views of Mount Glasgow, Cornwall, Outlaw and Banded Peaks.
This seems to be a popular turnaround point judging from what we saw. It took us just two hours to get up and down from the flag.
But to actually do Powderface Ridge requires more effort – and it wasn’t until I got home and started reading more descriptions that I realized we hadn’t done the whole thing – by a long shot. From the col head left into the trees following a trail for 2.3 kilometres to reach the northern end of the ridge and the summit.
Options to do the whole Powderface Ridge
There are options to do the Powderface Ridge but a map is recommended along with some prior planning.
From the intersection of three trails (Three Trail Pass) on the ridge you could do an out and back on gentle slopes at the north end of the ridge and then descend on one of three routes described below. To return, retrace your steps.
Another option is to descend west for 1.3 kilometres on Three Pass Trail to reach the dirt Powderface Trail road – where you will have either left a car, are prepared to walk 6 kilometres on a dusty road or you find someone on the road willing to drive you back to your starting point.
Or head east down Powderface Creek towards Highway 66, about 8 kilometres away. Again you would need a car shuttle or the kindness of strangers to return to your vehicle.
Here’s a look at the ridge hike to the flag and back
Check the Alberta Parks website for current trail reports.
Other hikes close to Bragg Creek to consider
- The Fabulous Forget-Me-Not Ridge Hike in Kananaskis Country
- The Nihahi Ridge Hike in Kananaskis Country
- The Fullerton Loop Hike in Kananaskis Country
- Prairie Mountain – A Year Round Day hike from Calgary
- The Moose Mountain Hike in Kananaskis Country
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