The Prairie Mountain hike, accessed near Bragg Creek in Kananaskis Country Alberta, is one of the top year-round hikes if you live in the Calgary area. Nothing beats it for the workout and the views – especially during the winter months. And you don’t have to worry about avalanche danger if you stick to the main trail.
The Prairie Mountain hike is similar to Vancouver’s Grouse Grind but offers better views. However there is no sky tram at the top to whisk you down to a Starbucks at the bottom. You have to hike down – but you can get a coffee 12 minutes later at a locally owned cafe in Bragg Creek.
The hike climbs 726 metres (2381 feet) in only 3.8 kilometres one way. It’s the middle section through the trees that is take your breath away steep. But once you pop out of the trees, not only are you rewarded with expansive mountain views, but the grade moderates all the way to the top.
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A year round day hike close to Bragg Creek and Calgary
The Prairie Mountain hike is one of the few that you can literally hike 365 days of the year. Obviously you have to use some common sense on your choice of days in the winter months but if you’re properly attired and prepared then it should be quite doable. If there’s a major winter storm with awful visibility, give it a pass.
Never forget the 10 essentials and starting when the snow falls I’d also HIGHLY recommend carrying “icers” especially for the descent along with a pair of hiking poles. Take a thermos of something hot to warm you up along with a few energy bars.
Shop: The Canadian-made icers made by Hillsound are the ones I swear by. Click here to purchase.
Finding the Prairie Mountain trailhead
The trailhead is just 45 minutes from downtown Calgary via Highway 66 near Bragg Creek. It’s roughly 22 kilometres from Bragg Creek to reach the parking area beside Elbow Falls.
There is a parking lot that holds about 15 cars on the south side of the highway, just past the entrance to the Elbow Falls parking lot. It’s free. If it’s full park along the shoulder of the highway.
The trailhead itself is across the highway from Elbow Falls, just before the winter gates. To get on the trail, cross the highway, then cross Prairie Creek and look for the trail going up. The Prairie Mountain trail climbs immediately.
People that park on the shoulder often start up right from the highway. It’s doable but often very muddy. It joins the main trail after about 10 minutes of solid uphill hiking.
There is another trail that follows the Elbow River Valley, paralleling Highway 66. You do not want that one. There are no trail signs once you’ve begun your climb.
Details about the Prairie Mountain hike
Strong hikers should allow three hours to do the 7.6 kilometre return Prairie Mountain hike. Slower hikers could take upwards of five hours to go up and come down.
It’s a quick descent in the winter as the snow makes it easy to descend but it’s rocky and more difficult the rest of the year. Poles come in very handy and icers/cleats if there is any ice.
The Prairie Mountain hike is a popular one and in all likelihood you’ll meet many people going up and coming down. I’ve never seen so much as bear scat but they can be around. I’ve seen deer and I’ve heard of people seeing cougars.
Further reading about hikes near Bragg Creek
- The Fullerton Loop Hike in Kananaskis Country
- The Moose Mountain Hike in Kananaskis Country, AB
- The Fabulous Forget-Me-Not Ridge Hike
- The Nihahi Ridge Hike in Kananaskis Country