May 25, 2018
White Buddha Traverse is an ideal early season and beginning hike. It’s also great for young kids who don’t want to trek forever, yet still have some fun. What it lacks in distance or elevation, White Buddha more than makes up for it with spectacular limestone walls that accompany the hiker for a good portion of the trail.
With these tantalizing walls, it’s no surprise that this is a very popular sport climbing area. If you see climbers, please be respectful. Do not walk on their ropes, go underneath a climber, or between a climber and their belayer. Say hi, and ask them where they want you to walk.
As this is probably the lowest elevations you will find, the snow disappears fairly early. You can push the season a bit, but why? Regular hiking shoes and poles should suffice. If you do go in snow conditions, then dress accordingly.
From the Powerderface Parking lot, head down the Powderface Creek trail. After about 1 km, turn right to ascend the White Buddha ridge. At the top, either return, or continue across the ridge and make your way back down to Prairie Creek. This will connect you with the Prairie Mountain traverse trail, which leads back to the highway.
From Highway 66, pull into the Powerderface Parking Lot, which is the last parking lot on the right before the winter gates. Note: If you are hiking Powerderface mountain, continue to the winter gates and park there.
From the parking lot, head west to start hiking alongside the Powerderface Creek. Stay on this trail for about 1.2 km.
After crossing a small bridge, keep your eyes peeled for the trail that heads north (right) and heads straight up White Buddha Ridge. This is pretty much the only elevation gain (there is a bit on the other side) for the entire hike, so enjoy it. The path is well beaten in, with just the right amount of switchbacks. It is a short 1 km from the turn off to the top.
While ascending, make sure you look back to see the summit of Powerderface North.
After a short while (less than 1 km) you arrive at the white limestone walls of White Buddha Ridge.
Once you reach the rock face, turn right (south) and make your way along the base.
There are often sport climbers here, so again, be mindful of their ropes and give them a wide berth.
After traversing along the base of the wall, there is one more small bit of elevation through some well-packed scree.
Once at the top, you are rewarded with lovely views of the Elbow Valley below. Plus, a large flat boulder is conveniently placed to enjoy a snack.
If this is all your young hiker wants to do, then simply turn around and return to the trail head.
To do the loop, head west from the summit boulder along the right (north) side of the ridge, picking your way through the forest.
Take a moment to look around. Directly across the valley to the north is Prairie Mountain. If you look down, you can see the Prairie Creek trail as it makes its distinctive left hand turn. From this view, you can see the sheer cliff that requires this detour.
You will connect with the Prairie Creek trail to get back to the parking lot.
As the trail descends, you will soon find yourself at another limestone wall. This is another very popular (and busy) sport climbing area.
Hike along the base of this limestone wall for a ways, enjoying how the rock changes as you go. It really is a unique rock outcrop. Stay with the rock wall until it ends.
Do not be tempted to head straight down to the creek below, as there is a major cliff band, not to mention an obscene amount of bushwhacking.
Once the wall of limestone peters out, the trail leads directly down to Prairie Creek.
To cross, you can either ford the rocks if the water isn’t too high, or you can go downstream a little ways to cross on the suspended logs.
Once you cross Prairie Creek, hike up the short embankment. You will immediately find the well worn Prairie Creek Trail. Be sure to go RIGHT (south) here, or else you will find yourself climbing Prairie Mountain.
From here, follow the trail (and the many hikers) back to Highway 66. Once at the highway, turn right (west) to return the short distance to the Powderface parking lot.
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Totals – Tracked on Strava
Date: May 25, 2018
Group: Three (Alisen, Annette & Susan)
Distance: 6.68 km
Elevation: 311 m (1,026′)
Time: 3 hours 25 minutes (includes lunch and snack breaks)