For this adventure we return to Mist Ridge, a simply wonderful hike. We’ve done it before and it’s in line to becoming one of our favourites, The trail is an old and easy to follow exploration road and we use it to get within metres of the ridge’s south summit. From here you can enjoy the views or you can continue on for many kilometres, gaining and losing some elevation as you travel from high point to high point.
On our last trip we visited in the late fall. This time we do it in the summer and we’re rewarded with a wonderful clear blue-sky day (with a bit of wind), perfect for soaking up the views and for taking lots of pictures.
Like our past trip, one just follows the old zig-zagging exploration road to within a stone’s throw of the south summit. The going is always easy though. You can bail west down from the ridge at nearly any point, intercepting the Mist Creek trail to make a loop. But why would you – that trail is mind numbingly dull – and it’s much more fun to return the way you came.
The trail head starts at the Mist Creek day use area (picnic tables and biffys), south of Highwood Pass on Highway 40. The trail leaves the north end of the lot and almost immediately you cross the highway. Into the trees, right away you come to an old road, a section of the realigned highway. Turning north now there is a boggy area to pass through, the only one you’ll have to deal with, and once past the trail is pretty easy and flat, almost ho-hum, until you get to a junction. Here’s where the fun begins. Take the right branch – the left branch is a continuation of the Mist Creek trail you are on.
Plunging into the alders the trail is almost a tunnel here, and follow the road as it gently gains elevation. Here and there are breaks in the trees and you can occasionally see your objective. There is only one junction left to worry about, a road branching off and back to your right. That is the trail to a col below Picklejar Ridge. Instead, stay straight and enjoy a short level section not long after. Along here, we spotted many huge plate-sized mushrooms. I wish I could ID shrooms, as we come across many in our hikes.
Then the worse thing happens and the trail heads down and down again until we come to a creek crossing. How is that bad? On returning we’ll have to gain that elevation lost – no fun after a long day. Crossing the creek the trail heads north again and switchbacks up a side hill a few times. The trees thin here. Coming to a meadow, the final route to the summit can be seen heading up and away.
After one more switchback, we’re are just below the south summit of Mist Ridge. The exploration you were on seems to end, however if you look close you can see a faint cat track that goes all the way to summit. Odd, perhaps the operator did this for fun?
From this point you can follow the undulating ridge until you’ve had your fill. We elected to visit the next high point and return from there. One day I want to do the complete ridge all the way to Rickert’s Pass.
From this vantage point, there is always a clear view of Mist Mountain to the west and the high and barren ridges and peaks to the east. They are one long unbroken wall and I am not sure of all their names. One shows evidence of scramblers being on it and there are obvious people tracks in the scree. In the north Gibraltar Mountain can be seen. It looks relatively tame here and can be scrambled. The opposite side however is sheer and precipitous, quite a different personality from the one we see.
Just in front of Mist Mountain is Eagle Ridge and to our south we can see Picklejar Ridge (not an official name) a delightful little hill we’ve been up. Below it is a branch of the exploration road that takes a crazy path clinging to a steep hillside. The people who built it must have had BIG kahunas.
Through a gap in the mountains Calgary could be clearly seen. It looks so close, except when you drive to it. In the west Highway 40 can be seen snaking through the valley.
Talking to others who have visited Mist Ridge, it’s often windy at the top, and this day was no exception. On our previous visit things were calm however.
This visit was an absolute hoot and the only change from our last trip were the the alders. On lower parts of the trail they choked the path and sometimes it was hard to tell you were on it – much worse them our last visit. Bears seem to like to hang out in the shade they offer too, adding to the potential for excitement.
The old exploration road, which makes a hiking trail by the way, was constructed by a company looking for coal. The black stuff does exist in the area but I could not see any real evidence of it here. They’d send a cat cutting across a hillside, in hopes that they’d expose a seam. These roads date from the late 1940s and early 1950s. Other ridges in the area that have similar roads include Mt Lipsett and Pasque Mountain.
In spite of being up here twice, I’d love to return to Mist Ridge to hike it in its entirety. It would be a loooong day, but probably quite satisfying.
To read our previous trip report, click this link…
If you wish more information on this trail, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: July 2012.
Location: South Kananaskis.
Distance: 18km return. You can go further if you wish or make a loop with the uninspiring Mist Creek trail.
Height gain from start: 803m.(which differs a bit from our previous trip – either the ridge shrunk or GPSs are not always consistent).
Height gain cumulative: 955m (see above).
Technical bits: None.
Notes: A prime bear habitat.
Reference: Kananaskis Trail Guide by Gillean Daffern.