Located up the Sheep River Valley, Windy Point Ridge is a modest sized mound in an area of Kananaskis comprised of low rolling hills and ridges – the big mountains are still a good way off. Surprisingly rugged near the top, with drop-offs, cliffs and loose scree, it’s a short but steep hike to its summit. In spite of that modest elevation, the views from it are superlative, even if some directions are obscured by trees at times.
This was my second attempt up Windy Point Ridge, and Connie’s first. I was hiking solo a week ago on that earlier trip which ended prematurely on account of a bear. We got face to face, within metres of each other – my closest encounter yet. Surprisingly it was not the terrifying experience one wold expect and the bear remained calm, quiet and still while I made my way back. I stayed calm too – thank God!
This is a popular place for birdwatchers and we saw a good number of them, equipped with binoculars and scopes and cameras with looooong telephoto lenses. Oddly, the whole trip Connie and I only saw a couple Crows or Ravens. Surely the birding must be more interesting than this? I can see these birds every day in my front yard.
The parking spot is approximately five kilometres beyond the Sandy McNabb winter gate, west of Turner Valley. The ridge will come into view as you head past the signed Foran Grade parking spot. It’ll be directly in front of you as road turns north and dips down, Pass some cliffs and park at the pull out on the opposite side of the highway at the ridge’s western side.
Climb up the embankment on the north side of the road and pass through a small gate. There is no real trail here but it does not matter as long as you head up. The west facing grassy slope is quite steep but the footing is solid. A few trees are scattered here and there.
Before long the views start and looking back there are many mountains to see. Rolling hills and ridges in the front include aptly named Green Mountain, the ridge north of Green Mountain (exact name unsure) and Missinglink Mountain. In behind are the big boys, all snow covered. Peaks that can seen include Burns, Gibraltar and Shunga-la-she. Almost directly below, to the south, is the Sheep River, located in a deep and what appears to be scenic gorge.
Arriving at the top of a cliff band, the trail is squeezed between a drop off and some trees. It levels momentarily before changing personality and heading up steeply on loose scree. The solid footing is gone.
The trail heads up, switch-backing some of the time. It’s here I had the bear run-in mentioned earlier. Continuing on, we have a good view of the first high point, crowded with bird watchers. At times the trail runs close to the edge but the modest height means it’s not terribly scary (although a fall would still likely be fatal).
We top out for a time and for the next bit the trail is either flat or it dips a bit. In short order, we arrive at the first high point, one of three. There must have been a half dozen birders on top, armed with all manner of expensive optical gear. Most were so engrossed in what they are doing to even notice us. Off to the side is a plastic owl perched on a post and I wonder what purpose it serves.
Connie, who’s been struggling with some nagging knee problems, stays behind while I proceed on. At the second high point, the views are to the east only – the west is obscured by trees. From here we can see Foran Grade Ridge spoken about earlier, then Pine Ridge behind it and in the far distance Carry Ridge, all places we’ve been up. The highway can be seen in the south.
While I was gone, Connie managed to catch some horseback riders on the Windy Point Trail which traverses the col between Windy Point Ridge and Foran Grade.
Back in the trees momentary, the trail dips a bit before topping out at the third high point, the actual summit. Trees block the view to the east and south now, but to the north and west the slope is open. I have an even better view of those westerly hills and mountains mentioned earlier.
Sitting north of and easily reached from where I stood is Gleason Ridge. You can, if you wish, continue your trip, although I didn’t – a faint trail continues on for those who feel more ambitious. While the ridge looks nice enough, it’s heavily forested (at least from this angle) and so the views must be limited. Unless you like views of trees.
Heading back, I make quick time to the high point where Connie is resting. We take some time to enjoy lunch, all the while listening to the birders talking about this bird and that and where they last spotted one. Chirp chirp!
Reluctantly leaving we travel slowly along the cliff top, enjoying the airy views from the edge. It’s over too soon though and after a quick descent on the grassy slopes, we’re back at the car.
This was such a short trip that we decided to do a second trail to visit High Noon Hills to the east. It’s easy and short, but quite pleasant with nice views at the end.
In spite of being a short hike, we thoroughly enjoyed this outing and highly recommended it.
Calling Windy Point Ridge a summit may be a stretch. Many “hikes” we’ve done require more elevation gained then this hill offers. None the less, it fits the definition of a summit and so will be included in that category.
The Windy Point and Foran Grade Ridge trails mentioned earlier are other popular hikes in the area and to see a report we did on them, click the link below…
Death Valley – Windy Point – Foran Grade loop.
Another trail mentioned is the one on Pine Ridge and to see our trip report on it, follow this link…
Sandy McNabb XC ski trails to Pine Ridge.
If you wish more information on this trail, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: October, 2013.
Location: Kananaskis, Sheep River area.
Distance: 3km out and back.
Height gain maximum: 310m
Height gain cumulative: 320m
Technical bits: Loose scree near the top.
NOTE: all heights and distances are approximate.
Reference: Kananaskis Trail Guide by Gillean Daffern.