Pincher Ridge

Difficulty
This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
Moderate
Duration
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
5-8h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
11.7 km
Elevation
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
849 m
User Ratings
These ratings are completed by users who have completed this trail and not subject to reviews by 10Adventures.
Overall Rating
This is the average user-submitted overall rating on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest.
9.9
Physical Difficulty
This is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Technical Difficulty
This is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
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Directions to Trailhead
Panorama on Pincher Ridge scramble in Castle Provincial Park, Alberta

Pincher Ridge is located near the heart of Castle Wildland Provincial Park, a spectacular part of the Canadian Rockies. The scramble up Pincher Ridge provides a stunning aerial view of the surrounding ridges of red argillite, lush green valleys, and the intersection of the mountains with the prairies.

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Route Description for Pincher Ridge

Pincher Ridge is a long ridge running southwest to northeast in the newly created Castle Wildland Provincial Park. This route involves some bushwhacking to gain the ridge on an indistinct trail, so having a map and/or GPS unit with the map pre-loaded will definitely help.

Begin this scramble by following the road for about 4.0 km. If you have a bike, then bring it and ride this boring 4.0 km stretch.

Keep your eyes open, as at a minor high point of the road, just before it ends, you will go right and begin the steep ascent of Pincher Ridge. The initial bushwhack looks quite ferocious, but it is not nearly as bad as it appears and is interspersed with man-made trails. A steep climb up a grassy and bushy slope follows, but serves as a good warm up for the upcoming scree slope.

On the lower section of Pincher Ridge, there is a steep scree section. If you are not accustomed to scree, and even if you are, it can be quite arduous as every step forward tends to result in a little slide back.

Things improve dramatically when you reach the crest of a minor rib to the east (climbers right). While we went up the scree, consider heading towards this rib earlier as you can possibly cut out some of the scree climb.

From the top of the minor rib turn east and head to the summit. From below it had looked like this would involve a short down climb, but in the end the drop is only an insignificant meter or two. Over this final traverse to the summit the scree is replaced by bits of grass and larger rubble, but the going remains very easy.

The views are spectacular from Pincher Ridge, and the red rock, spring greens, blue sky, and winter snow make the panorama incredibly beautiful. On a peculiar note, a few square meters of the summit are home to hundreds of swarming ladybugs at certain times of the year. It is a pretty fascinating site to behold.

After a long, relaxing summit stay, turn around retrace your steps back down the Pincher Ridge. The terrible scree faced on the way up is beautiful on the way down!

Insider Hints for Pincher Ridge

  • This route involves bushwhacking. It’s best to have downloaded a map onto your phone for help making your way off-trail.
  • The Castle area is notoriously windy, so be prepared for increased winds once you’re in the alpine.

Getting to the Pincher Ridge Trailhead

From Pincher Creek head south on Highway 6 after about 20.0 km then a turn right onto Township Road 43A, signed for Shell Waterton Complex. Continue on Township Rd 43 and onto Range Rd 304. Go past the Shell Industrial Complex and go left when you reach a lake (Butcher Lake). Follow this for about 2.2 km until you reach a gate.

Route Information

  • When to do

    June - September

  • Backcountry Campsites

    None

  • Toilets

    None

  • Pets allowed

    Yes - On Leash

  • Scarmbling Rating

    Grade 1

  • Exposure

    None

  • Family friendly

    Yes

  • Route Signage

    None

  • Crowd Levels

    Low

  • Route Type

    Out and back

Pincher Ridge Elevation Graph

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