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.
Powderface Ridge hike details
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 m over 2 km, 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 and what is actually the Rainy Summit Ridge – 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 hike 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 km 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 Pass Trail) 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 km on Three Pass Trail to reach the dirt Powderface Trail road – where you will have either left a car, are prepared to walk 6 km 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 km 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