Panorama from the Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National Park
Panorama from the Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National Park

Crystal Ridge Snowshoe Trail

Banff National Park
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Going up on Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National Park, AlbertaA rocky slope on Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkThe views of the peaks around Bow Lake on Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkOpen slopes at treeline on Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkMount Jimmy Simpson and Bow Lake on Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkTricky avalanche slopes on Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkLooking south at Bow Peak on Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkStunning scenery from Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkLooking up at Cirque Peak on Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkThe summit on Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkView northwest from the Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkTracks on Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkGoing upon Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkSnowy peaks on Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkView from the northern summit on Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkCirque Peak view from Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkDolomite Peak view from Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkIcefield Parkway views from Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkNorthern Summit on Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkView south from Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkCrowfoot Pass view from Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkPanoramic views from the Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkView from the southern summit of Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkView east to the meadows of Helen Lake and Dolomite Peak on Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkViews from Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkWest side of the ridge on Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkStrange rocks on Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkIncredible scenery from Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkCrystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National Park has beautiful viewsTrail down on Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National ParkAmong the trees on Crystal Ridge snowshoe trail Banff National Park

Crystal Ridge Snowshoe Trail

Distance: 4.7mi
Elevation: 2,129ft
Time: 3-6h

Difficulty Rating:

User Ratings:
9 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty

A snowshoe trip to Crystal Ridge, along the Icefields Parkway, takes you through fascinating boulders, giant crystals, and awe-inspiring views of the Wapta Icefield and its enormous peaks. We love this trip, however you should have avalanche training to go on this snowshoe.

Crystal Ridge Snowshoe Trail Map

Getting there

Drive on Highway 93 North towards Jasper for 20.4mi from the highway turnoff (or head 2.1mi south from the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge turnoff). The parking lot is listed as “Helen Lake” and is on the east side of the road.

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About

When to do

December - April

Mountain Huts

None

Toilets

Trailhead

Pets allowed

Yes - On Leash

Avalanche Risk

Complex

Family friendly

No

Route Signage

None

Crowd Levels

Low

Route Type

Out and back


Crystal Ridge
Elevation Graph


Route Description for Crystal Ridge

Anyone on a snowshoe trip should have Avalanche training, we recommend AST 2 for all backcountry travellers, and AST 1 is the minimum. It is important to note that when travelling through avalanche terrain it is extremely valuable to always have a companion.

Crystal Ridge is the unofficial name given to the ridge south of Cirque Peak by Bob Spirko after he found enormous crystals on its lower slopes.

This trip has a high potential for avalanches. While there are no big slide paths and the few medium-sized ones can be fairly easily avoided, the rolling terrain has many convexities and tons of places for wind slabs to develop and slide short distances. Despite a low avalanche rating for our chosen day of ascent, there was still some concern as just a few days prior, a small slab slide was reported to the north that initiated on a convex terrain feature.

Park at the Crowfoot Glacier viewpoint, cross the road, and start snowshoeing up the well-packed Helen Lake trail. After about 1969ft on the official trail turn onto a snowshoe track heading off to the left and start ascending a steep pitch through the forest. When you emerge at the base of a rocky slope in an opening, travel north to ascend a less steep aspect. From here simply head up, carefully choosing your route to avoid any suspect slopes.

When you reach the ridge, at a low point, travel left to ascend to the high point. You will see another high point to the northeast, however this may be too dangerous to ascend. Head south to a bump in the terrain that many people call the summit. Avoid a cornice along your way here. Wander the ridge, and admire the beautiful views in all directions. This is one of the most scenic snowshoe trips around, and we even saw a ptarmigan on our trip!

Follow your route back down to your car.

Insider Hints

  • This is an unofficial route, that goes through some challenging avalanche terrain. You should be trained and experienced in winter travel in avalanche terrain to go on this trip.

  • Always keep in mind that winter routes are constantly changing with conditions, if this route seems unapproachable on the day you head out, turn around and come back another day!

  • Snowshoeing in the Banff takes you into remote terrain. Make sure you are prepared for an emergency with warm clothes, extra food, matches and ideally a satellite transceiver, like a Garmin InReach. Cell phones do not work until you get to Canmore.

  • Always check the avalanche forecast for Banff before heading out.

Comments

Lisa B 2 years ago

The snowshoe along Crystal Ridge is spectacular!

9.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
1 Comment

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