Wasootch Ridge is an easy choice as one of the best hikes near Canmore. Once you are up on the ridgeline, the valley feels isolated, with no other sounds or trails visible. This is a great day out!
Take Highway 40 West off of the Trans-Canada Highway towards Nakiska and Kananaskis Lakes. Follow Highway 40 for roughly 17.0km, passing Barrier Lake and then turn left into Wasootch Day Area. Follow the short drive for roughly 750m to the parking lot.
|When to do|
June through October
Out and back
From the very beginning, this is not a hike that you ease into. As you leave the parking lot, head southeast. There are several trails leaving the parking lot that are quite steep. With the creek to your right, the route rises quickly through trees – a great test for your hiking fitness. As you come through the forest, take a moment to look back at your car and see how far you’ve gone!
As you rise to the first of the bumps along the ridge, you’ll quickly notice there are still more to come. Hiking along the bumps is pleasant, as the path is wide with several braids of trail meandering throughout. Unfortunately, what goes up must come down, and each bump has a drop down before the next bump rises.
As you get farther along the ridge you get views down into Wasootch Creek on your right. You also can look back on the ski hill Nakiska. Looking ahead there is a dead-end valley. The views are truly magical, and if the trail isn’t busy, you’ll feel like you have the whole world to yourself.
The path ahead will be clear, so continue to stay on the ridge top following the well-defined trail. There are occasional sections that require some care, but hiking poles can overcome the need to use your hands. As the trees clear the views become exceptional – just remember to keep looking down so you don’t trip.
Eventually, around 5.5km, you’ll meet your first real test of scrambling. This section requires you to scramble up a rocky area through some trees to continue on the ridge. There appear to be routes branching off to both sides, though we recommend taking the route over the little hump. This is not a major scramble, however as you progress, the technical nature of the trip gets more pronounced with the trail narrowing and a descent of some big boulders.
At approximately 5.8km there will be a point where proceeding further becomes more exposed and requires more scrambling. There is a nice rock windbreak here (in 2015) to sit and admire the views before turning around. It’s recommended that only experienced scramblers proceed with tackling the scramble to the summit, which actually descends off the ridge and up on scree farther along the trail.
The route down is the same as the route up. Unfortunately, what is steep and hard to ascend can also be tricky to descend!
Bring poles, this is a steep one and they help greatly on the descent.
If you are a big eater, consider stopping at the Stoney Casino on the way back home. The food is good value, and they have a buffet in the evenings on weekends.
Watch out for ticks, they love it here. Check your hair and body before getting back into your car.
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