Powderface Ridge

Multiple Trips

Powderface Ridge is one of my favourite hikes on Highway 66. It’s ideal for new hikers because it has a solid trail, no route finding, and you only go as far as you want. Its relatively lower elevation means it is a good early and late season hike when other objectives are covered in snow.

If you want a short day, then it’s a quick trip up to the south summit and back. If you have more time, then continue on to the north summit. If you go with two vehicles, then you can hike the whole ridge from north to south.

Gear

Good hiking boots, poles, and your usual day pack kit.

Overview

From the trail head off Highway 66, hike up the ridge to the pass. From there, hike up to the south summit. To nab the north summit, continue on the trail at the pass. Return the way you came.

Trail Head

You would think that the Powderface Ridge trail would start from the Powderface parking lot, but you’d be wrong. I like to stop here though, as it’s the last outhouse before the hike. Continue past this parking lot to the winter gates. This is where Highway 66 makes the big left turn. Park on the side of the road.

The Powderface Trail Head is pinned on Google Maps for easy finding. Be sure to stop PRIOR to this spot at the Powderface Parking Lot. This will be your LAST outhouse as there are no facilities at the Ridge trail head.
This is the parking at the Powderface Ridge trail head. My hiking buddy Annette took this photo of the wild horses. They apparently could not care less that she was there.

Powderface Ridge Main Trail

From the south trail head off Highway 66, there is a very prominent trail right from the highway. Start hiking up here.

The trail is in the trees for several km, however the scenery changes often.

The trail starts in the forest. As you can see, the trail is very wide and easy to follow.
The higher you get, the trail gets beat up a little bit. However, the tree roots make for lovely steps.

As you get closer to the south summit, you will hike through gorgeous meadows. Keep your eyes open for an erratic that is in a meadow off to the right. An erratic is a large boulder carried here by a glacier, and deposited when the glacier melted.

The erratic is not on the trail. It is in the middle of the first, or lower meadow. We know it’s an erratic because there is no other rock avalanche debris around it, and because there is nothing high enough for it to have tumbled off of.
Annette got up close and personal with the erratic. The rock is well covered in lichen, which shows it’s age. It is also not crushed to bits from the glacier, like the limestone chips that it sits upon.

Continue up the trail. You will leave the forest, which stays on the west side of the trail. The meadow to the east is gorgeous.

This is the second of two major meadows. You can look across to the first meadow, where the erratic lies.

Continue hiking up through the meadows, staying on the trail, until you come to the pass. You will know you are at the pass, because there is a small pile of stones. If you were to continue on the trail, it starts to descend.

This is the pile of rocks that marks the Powderface Ridge pass. This is the view looking back (south) towards the trail head. If you continue north past the pass, this takes you to the North Summit of Powderface Ridge.
Powderface South Summit

To gain the South Summit, at the pass, turn right (east) and start hiking up. Please hike up the left side of the ridge. If you look closely, there is a faint trail. Please do your honest best to stay on the trail. This is a fragile alpine environment. Hundreds of people trudge up here annually. All the vegetation would be destroyed if we didn’t take the extra care and attention to stay on the trail.

This is the view from the South Summit of Powderface Ridge. From here you can look all the way down to Forget-Me-Not Pond. You can see the massive rock beds laid down after the 2013 floods. It is a miracle that the pond was protected.

Distance to the south summit is about 4.5 km. Elevation gain is 507 m.

Years ago, there was a gorgeous inukshuk on this summit. Unfortunately, some self righteous person decided he didn’t like structures in the mountains and purposely destroyed this work of art. The debate on cairns and other markers rages on. For me, if someone is going to be creative, then go for it. It’s not like Powderface is some remote location rarely seen by humans. It’s a massively popular trail close to Calgary. Live and let live.

What once was… Thank you to whoever took the time and effort to build such a beautiful sculpture. I appreciate you! To the people who feel they need to destroy cairns or other human-made objects, please get over yourself. If you want a pristine environment, then go take yourself deep into the bush where there are no trails, and NOT on a trail within sight of a major city. Behind the inukshuk is Prairie Mountain. In between Powderface and Prairie, is the White Buddha loop, which I highly recommend.

From the South Summit, return the way you came. Go back down to the pass, and then return from there.

This is the route from the trail head to the South summit of Powderface Ridge. The big right hand turn at the end is the point you leave the pass and start up the ridge to the summit.
This is the elevation profile for the South summit of Powderface Ridge.
Powderface North Summit

To get to the north summit, continue beyond the Pass heading north. From the pass, the trail is slightly to the left, and starts heading downhill.

Do not be alarmed when the trail dips down considerably. It will climb up the other side to regain all your lost elevation.

There is a major slump in the trail. I think there is an underground spring, and the 2013 floods probably swelled it past it’s normal limits. You can see the South summit of Powderface Ridge in the background. This shows how much elevation you lose making your way to the North summit.

When you are almost at the North Summit, the trail emerges from the trees. Above this point is a lovely rock ridge. Hike up and over this, without going too far left.

Once the trail breaks out of the trees, there is a small rocky ridge. This keeps it’s snow fairly late in the year, but it’s easy to kick steps through it. Do not be tempted to go too far to the left, as the summit is on the right.
Another look at the rocky outcrop. As you can see, it’s flat on the other side.

Once on top, turn to the right and walk along the ridge to the north summit cairn.

This is the wide open expanse of the North summit of Powderface Ridge. It gets a lot less travel than the South summit, but I think it’s well worth the effort to get in a full day’s hike.
This is looking back (south) from the North summit. It’s a windswept landscape, but still beautiful. Nihahi Ridge is on the right. The light rocky part on the far left is where most people hike to.
Directly to the West of Powderface Ridge is the super long expanse of Nihahi Ridge. Most people only get to the view point WAAAYY to the left (south). The actual summit is on the right. The ridge itself is quite narrow in places, with enough wind to knock you right over.

Distance to the North summit is about 5.6 km. Elevation gain was 589 m.

While I have hiked the North summit from the main trail head, I only have GPS tracks from when I did the traverse. The North summit is where the red line crosses the ridge on the furthest north part of the map. The South summit is the little squiggle 2/3rds of the way down.
Again, this is the elevation profile for the traverse. However, this elevation profile shows just how much higher the North summit is over the South summit. If you do decide to do the traverse, start at the north end, and head south. This is because you start higher up in the north, and can enjoy the steep slope back to the car at the end of the day.

Powderface Ridge Return

Return the way you came to the pass. From there, continue back on the main trail back to Highway 66.

If you found this post useful, please do me a huge favour and click the Star button to “Like” it. You can also follow my blog, follow me on Instagram, or join my FaceBook page Al’s Adventurers.

Alisen

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in Adventures, Hiking
9 comments on “Powderface Ridge
  1. Love that photo with the horses! How cool!

  2. francisashis says:

    Love the photographs of the meadow and the summit if Powderface Ridge.Great photography.Thanks a lot for sharing.Take care.🌹👍🙏

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: