Wasootch Ridge is a favorite near Canmore in Kananaskis Country. The trail is straight forward to follow and gains quick elevation then travels along a ridge that delivers spectacular views. The roadway slowly evaporates from view on the ridge before a challenging scramble to the peak.
The scramble can be avoided, and the trail is plenty wide enough for the first 5km with no exposure. The result is a dog/kid-friendly hike that doesn’t need to be completed to enjoy as the views are great early on the trail.
Wasootch Ridge Trail
Wasootch Ridge starts off hard at the beginning with a leg burning climb right out of the parking lot. The parking lot is a little confusing as there are several trails through the woods leading up the ridge along with a path along the creek. Head up through the woods near the beginning of the parking area in a southeast direction. The trail through the woods is not technical with plenty of traction on dirt. Once you come out of the forest which takes twenty to thirty minutes, depends on your fitness, you’ll be treated to some fantastic views of Barrier Lake to the North and Nakiska to the South.
The hike then continues along the ridge for several kilometers where you’ll climb up and down a series of five peaks. Towards the final and tallest peak the ridge turns into a scramble. The scramble is difficult with several moves that are high exposure. Its first technical move may be the most exposed with a rock less than a meter wide and a tall rock wall on either side. This section of the trail should only be attempted by advanced hikers/scramblers or at least people of strong fitness. The vast majority of hikers either turn around before this point or at the beginning of the scramble.
The view above is towards the end of the scramble before the last few moves to arrive at the final peak. Most hikers do not see this view. I went for the summit on my own as the Natasha did not feel up the to exposure. In hindsight, I’ve researched that it is possible to avoid the scramble by descending the ridge on the and traversing before ascending for the peak again. From here it’s only the halfway point as you turn around and make your way back to the parking lot along the same trail. It is possible to descend the backside of the peak for a circuit, but the descent involves bushwacking and loose scree. Past reviews discourage this route as it’s dangerous, a pain, and then ends with a long walk out Wasootch Creek.
Wasootch Ridge Trail Duration
The trail is 15.4 km in length and has an elevation gain of 850 meters. You should expect a long hike if you finish at the peak. We spent around seven hours on the tail and took time for photos and lunch with no rush to finish. It’s a stunning hike and the perfect place to unwind in nature.
How Hard is Tent Ridge Trail?
Although AllTrails rates this as hard, we would put it slightly above moderate. The initial onset is very steep that will have your legs burning, but once past that it’s a very moderate trail. The other reason for a hard rating is the exposed scramble that can be avoided on the trail. We saw all ages of life on this trail.
When can you hike Wasootch Ridge?
Wasootch Ridge is a great trail to do all year round. This trail would be best between April and October, though I’ve seen photos in the winter and the images are gorgeous. Just make sure you have gaiters, crampons, and poles if you decide to do a winter hike.
It receives a lot of sun exposure, and since it’s not as high as many other trails, it is one of the first for the snow to melt. We hiked in early June, and the path was dry with only a patch or two of snow underneath a few trees. With a pair of microspikes, gaiters, and poles you could easily handle this trail with a bit of snow.
How Popular is Wasootch Ridge?
Wasootch Ridge is one of the most popular hikes in Kananaskis country, so I wouldn’t expect to have the trail to yourself. With that being said, it’s nothing like the more popular easy trails off the Bow Valley Parkway or around Banff.
We hiked Wasootch on a beautiful weekend day and found a full parking lot. On the trail, it’s easy to find your space, but you’ll pass another group every so often. There are families and people walking their dogs on the trail.
What About Dogs and Kids on Wasootch Ridge?
Most of the trail is moderate, but as mentioned at the beginning, there is a steep climb up and down. However, once you’re on the ridge, it’s a moderate hike. Big dogs should handle the trail just fine, and it’s widespread to see dogs on the trail. Rember to bring a leash harness, it’s the law and proper trail etiquette. Children above eight should be fine we did see one family on the hike, but of course, every child is different and you’ll know their fitness best.
Another Great Hike?
If you loved Wasootch Ridge and you’re looking for another popular hike. The next step up would be Tent Ridge, a shorter hike that is more technical with a small scramble and mild exposure. The views from Tent Ridge are even better than Wasootch Ridge! You need to check this hike out!
Wildlife Awareness On Wasootch Ridge
If you’re on any hikes in the area you should practice good wildlife awareness. In the region, there are frequent sightings of black bears, grizzly bears, moose, elk, and cougars. They all present a threat to humans and we should reduce our impact on their natural lives.
Before any hike or walk in Banff National Park or Kananaskis Country, you should pack bear spray, check the park websites for wildlife information (Parks Canada and AB Park), and then check again for notices at the trailhead.
When you’re on the trail make noise by banging hiking poles, talking, whistling, clapping, or singing. This is particularly important around blind bends and corners, although there aren’t many on Wasootch Ridge. It’s also a busy trail so you generally don’t need to make too much noise, but always be bear aware.
Which means staying alert, traveling in a group, minding children and pets, and finally carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it. If you’ve come to the park without bear spray Valhalla Pure Outfitters in town sells spray and holders with employees who will demonstrate how to use properly.
What To Wear On A Day Hike?
The most basic principle of what to wear hiking is layering. Anyone that has spent time in wilderness or mountains can speak to the fact your temperature can fluctuate a lot on a hike.
So the goal of clothing is to help regulate your body temperature, element protection, and moisture management. Temperature management is best done through a layering system. If you want to learn more about what to pack for a day hike or what to wear on a hike you can see ours.
Our Outfits on Wasootch Ridge
Fjallraven’s Keb Pant
Both Cameron and I have Fjallraven’s well known Keb pants. Fjallraven’s Keb pants are a mountaineering staple, but they are heavyweight and not excellent for quick dry properties yet extremely durable.
They kept me warm throughout this entire hike and are windproof. When I was too hot at the base of the mountain, I was able to unzip the sides for airflow. These are, without a doubt, my favorite pants to hike in the Canadian Rockies. If you think it’s going to be a cold day you can easily wear long johns under these as well.
Outdoor Research Shirt Echo Series
I have six Outdoor Research Echo shirts and rotate them on all my hikes. They are lightweight and moisture wicking. Seriously, you don’t want to be stuck with a cotton shirt while hiking it traps all your sweat and then when you get cold it becomes a problem.
Outdoor Research shirts provide full coverage with their long sleeve collections, but you won’t get hot under the sun. These shirts are built with UPF sun protection, AirVent™ moisture management, and ActiveFresh™ odor control technology.
I ALWAYS have a down jacket with me on every single hike I go on. It’s a just in case jacket that I usually end up wearing when I reach the summit, and it gets cold.
Down jackets pack up light and small so there is no reason NOT to have one in your bag. Seriously it could save your life in a bad situation. We wrote a whole post on our favorites (hint – Arc’Teryx Cerium LT Hooded Jacket, Patagonia Down Sweater, REI Coop Down Jacket)
I also always have a water-resistant windbreaker/rain jacket in my hiking backpack. This is for if it rains (which it did on this hike) or if it gets windy. I have never regretted having a windbreaker in my back.
Again, it’s another piece of clothing that is super light and could save your life. The one I wore on this hike is by one my new favorite companies – Topo Designs. They make a Global Jacket that is waterproof, with a structured hood, and venting pockets.
I bring a Buff on everytrip in case my ears get cold or I want to have one to cover my face (which I did on this trip). We have a collection of buff headbands and bring them everywhere. They’re great for a multitude of reasons such as sun/wind protection, a scarf, headband, or an ear warmer.
We always have one in our suitcase or backpack no matter the destination and consider it one top travel accessories. I imagine most people have one or two of these by now!
I have a pair of Outdoor Research gloves in my hiking pack at all times. They are great for when you are scrambling and I always end up using them. I never want to come back with bloody hands and they protect against that.
We’ve learned to love our feet with a good pair of merino wool hiking socks. You will want to keep your feet nice and dry while you walk around. Most importantly wool socks stay fresh for several days as they have natural antimicrobial properties.
We travel with a couple pairs of the Darn Tough Merino socks and our feet have never felt cold or wet. As a bonus, they’re produced in Vermont!
If you’re not on a long hike a large multiple day hiking backpack may not be necessary. Expect to still carry several pounds of gear on your pack so it’s important to have a backpack that sits well on your back with good suspension. However, you don’t need a 50L+ backpack instead opt for a size around 35L that should be enough to carry all of your necessities.
We have a large number of hiking backpacks and they range in sizes. If you have plans for other short treks that may or may not have a porter you can go with a 50L that will lend more versatility without being so large its unnecessarily cumbersome on the trail.
We personally like to use between a 30-40L pack for most day hikes in the mountains as it allows for us to carry everything we could need. Major plus side is a large bag means we can bring things like a stove to make coffee or a hot meal for a nice rest. As far as our recommendation on smaller backpacks we love the Traverse from REI and the Exos/Tempest from Osprey.
While I like having a water bottle on my hikes I like having a bladder even more. A bladder keeps me drinking regularly since I never have to stop hiking and take out my bottle. It’s always readily available for when you need it.
You should consume at least two liters a water a day while hiking in the mountains, often this means you either carry two bottles of water. The better option for carrying that much water on your treks is to carry a water bladder. A water bladder additionally allows for you to carry extra water if needed.
Most hiking backpacks and even daypacks designed for hiking have a sleeve for carrying your extra water.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun since you’ll likely spend a lot of time hiking in the sun at elevation. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes. Sunglasses are particularly important if you plan to visit any glaciers or high alpine passes as sun reflection from the snow is damaging to your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses; however, we love ours and will never buy cheap ones again. Polarized glasses are great at enhancing vision in bright environments and removing glare from windshields and the water.
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