Indian Ridge to Willow Ridge

April 9, 2021

I was on the hunt for a spring hike with no wind and no post-holing. I prefer to ski on snow, but when that season comes to an end, it’s time to search out doable early season hikes. Sonya is originally from Claresholm, so she is always up for a hike down south. I had never done a hike in this area, so I had no idea about terrain or routes. The entire thing was an adventure.

This is an easy half day hike and is ideal for families, if you are camping nearby at Indian Graves or Chain Lakes, or anyone who just wants a quick day in the mountains. We made a loop, but you can easily do a There and Back from either Indian Ridge or Willow Ridge. If you’re used to big mountains or hard terrain, this might not be the trip for you. After seeing Sonya’s reaction to reaching the ‘summit’ (see video below), I am thankful that SHE picked this hike and not me.

Gear

Hiking boots, poles and regular day pack kit. If there is snow, add in gaiters and microspikes.

Overview

From the pull out on Highway 532, hike up the end of the ridge to gain Indian Ridge. Follow the crest of the ridge to the other end, and then descend west into the valley. Hike across the meadows until you hit the old road. Follow that around to the trail that leads up to Willow Ridge. There is a side trip, but we elected to head straight back down the spine of Willow Ridge. At the end, we descended down Willow Ridge, and crossed a short meadow. When we hit the road, we took it east back to the vehicle.

Parking and Trail Head

According to Alberta Parks, Highway 532 is closed from December 1 to April 30. I’m not sure when this was put in place, because I was here on April 9, 2021. Anyhoo – be sure to check if the highway is open before you go. This road is unpaved. Expect washboard, ruts, and other conditions normal for a gravel road. In the summer, watch for cattle on the road as this is a free range area.

From Highway 22, turn east onto Highway 532 (just north of Chain Lakes). Drive for 12.1 km. On the right side, there is a gate blocking the old side road. Park well off the highway.

From highway 22, it’s a straight 12.1 km to the trail head.
We parked at the small pull out on the north side of the road, beside the gate. We were not sure if it was ever used, so we didn’t block access. Indian Ridge is the rock outcrop directly above. Our return route from Willow Ridge is the road on the left.

After crossing the gate, we walked down the road for about 300 m, then ascended the slope leading up to Indian Ridge.

The trail to gain Indian Ridge is visible through the grass.

Main Trail

The ascent of the ridge is by far the most fun and scenic part of the hike. We aimed for the rock outcrop. Above that is a short but fun bit of rock to hike over.

This picturesque rock and tree stump make a great way point. From here, we hiked straight up to the rocks on the ridge.
The fun but short hike up the rock steps.
From the top of the ridge, looking back the way we just came.

After a short walk among the rocks on the ridge, we came to the old bench. I imagine for young kids, finding this old bench would be super fun. If you turned around here, that would be a great day.

There was some more fun walking along the rocky ridge until we found the bench.
The old bench. It’s seen better days, but I just love that it’s here. Indian Ridge continues straight, and Willow Ridge is the next hill to the west.

After the bench, the ridge flattens out. The trail also enters the trees. It’s now a forest walk to the other end.

The only navigation issue is to avoid following the fence line. The fence goes down to the east, which will draw you off the ridgetop and into the meadow below too early.

The only way I found the summit of Indian Ridge was by looking at my GPS. While this is technically the high point, it’s surrounded by trees with nary a view or marker to denote the top.

The fun part was behind us, and the trail is now in the trees.
Unfortunately, the high point of Indian Ridge is unmarked and unknown. I was watching closely on my GPS otherwise we would have walked right by it.

Distance to high point of Indian Ridge is about 2.5 km from trail head. Time was about 60 minutes.

From the high point, we walked to the end of Indian Ridge, which is about 3 km from start. This is now in the open, and we had a lovely 360 degree view. This is a good turn-around spot for a There and Back hike.

Thankfully, just a short ways away is the end of Indian Ridge and a great 360 degree view of the area.

At the end of Indian Ridge, I didn’t see a trail, and all tracks in the snow ended. I picked a line, and descended down into the valley between Indian and Willow Ridge.

This is the view at the end of Indian Ridge, looking west at Willow Ridge. We descended down the hill to the meadow below, then back up the other side to the road that cuts across the bottom of Willow Ridge.

At the bottom, we met the fence that descended down earlier. We found a spot to get through it, and continued across the meadow.

This the same fence we were careful not to follow while on the top of Indian Ridge (behind Sonya and Pyro). We crossed the fence, then continued across the meadow.

To head back up the other side towards Willow Ridge, I picked a line through the trees, trying to stay somewhat on course. After gaining back some elevation, we came to an old road, which we followed for a bit.

Heading across the meadow between Indian and Willow Ridges. I’m sure there is a trail here somewhere. Winter hiking/skiing means finding your own route.
After angling up the side of Willow Ridge, we came to an old road. I should have stayed on this section longer.

Knowing what I do NOW, I’d have stayed on that road and followed it to the backside of Willow Ridge. Why? Because there is a lovely wide trail that leads from the road to the summit of Willow Ridge.

Instead… I bee-lined it to the summit of Willow Ridge. Just a good old bushwhack straight up the side of the ridge. Nothing pretty about it. We popped out on the ridge just south of the summit, and went back north to tag the high point. THIS is where I saw the other lovely trail coming up the north side, nicely flagged and all. Oh well.

This is the high point of Willow Ridge. This view is looking north. See the nice wide trail that is flagged on the left? It’s well worth taking the time to walk around the backside of Willow Ridge to get onto this trail.

From the summit, there is an optional side hill directly west, but we’d had enough of tromping around in the trees for one day.

This trail heads straight west, and leads to the second hump of Willow Ridge. We elected to give it a miss.

Willow Ridge Return

We decided to head back instead of taking the side trip to the west. While the trail descended the west side of Willow Ridge and followed the meadow back to the road, I decided instead to remain on top of Willow Ridge for a few reasons:

  1. I could stay on a straight line,
  2. there would be less snow on the ridge top than down below, and
  3. I could avoid any willow wallowing down in the valley if I couldn’t find the trail in the meadow.
We did get some nice views before heading straight south on the spine of Willow Ridge.
The top of Willow Ridge, while in the trees, was actually quite enjoyable. There wasn’t much snow, and it was easy to keep on the spine of the ridge.

At the end of Willow Ridge, there was an easy and gentle descent on the east side that lead into a meadow. We kept heading south, and came to a bridge on the old road. We followed the road east, and it took us back to the car.

This is the end of Willow Ridge (left). It was a gentle and easy descent down to the wide open meadow.
The trail heading south towards the old road was clearly visible in the snow.
At the end of the meadow, we crossed a few trees.
After leaving the trees, we came to the road, and started heading east back to the car. This photo is looking north, with the lower portion of Willow Ridge on the far left.
The road back sported some lovely rock work on the left. The sheer flakes were quite beautiful.
This is a free range cattle area in the summer. Please be a good hiker and close the gates you go through.

The Indian Ridge to Willow Ridge loop was a half day hike with little in the way of navigation, but also views. To round out our day, Sonya and I drove into Nanton, and spent several hours sipping coffee and walking through the many antique shops.

Thanks for visiting! Please click the Star button to “Like” it. You can also follow my blog, join my FaceBook page Al’s Adventurers, or follow me on Instagram

Alisen

Totals – Tracked on Strava

Date: April 9, 2021
Group:  Two (Alisen and Sonya)
Distance:  8.48  km
Elevation:  257 m (848β€²)
Time:  3 hours 55 min (includes lunch & breaks)

The hike starts up Indian Ridge, and then heads west to Willow Ridge. Either ridge can be a There and Back hike, or return down the meadow between the two ridges.
There is actually very little elevation gain and loss going up and down Indian and Willow Ridges.
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Posted in Adventures, Hiking
7 comments on “Indian Ridge to Willow Ridge
  1. Spring??? Spring Hike??? I think your definition needs some adjustment!! πŸ˜‰

  2. Congratulations on completing 1k followers.

  3. I love how the landscape changes from being out in the open to hiking through a dense forest. And hey, at least you were not in the wind on the β€œsummit”! The view from Indian Ridge Viewpoint is gorgeous with all those rolling hills.

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