When time is short or when the front ranges are still blanketed in snow the Foran Grade trail makes for a nice objective. Located in the Sheep River area west of Turner Valley, it’s not that far from Calgary, and it’s an easy hike to a to a low ridge that has stupendous views of the hills and mountains to the west. In other words, a big reward for little work!
The trail starts at a spot along Highway #546. There is sign announcing the start and there is a pull out that allows parking for several cars. If you do the trail after December 1st, but before May 15th, you’ll have to walk down the highway a little bit – and in this case parking is at the winter gate at the Sandy McNabb recreation area.
From the parking spot the trail heads north, travelling through the trees shortly before breaking out into a large meadow. Here the trail turns west and almost immediately the climbing starts. However the grade is always gentle and the overall elevation gain quite modest. Even so, in the spring before you get your summit legs, it can seem like a mountain.
Heading into the trees now, the trail continues its climb following a path along a rocky spine. Occasionally there are breaks in the forest which allow you some nice views to the west. These views get even better as you gain more elevation.
This is an official Kananaskis County trail which is good since it means any blow down will get removed. On this ridge the wind howls like crazy at times and if not cleared fallen trees would soon make it impassable.
Before long you reach the high point and here the trees are thin enough giving unobstructed views to the west. Below and to the south, the Sheep River can be seen snaking its way through the valley. Just to the north of it the highway takes a similar path. Directly across to the west is Windy Point Ridge, which is slightly higher than the hill we are on. Further west there are a couple small mountains, Green Mountain, the oddly named Missinglink Mountain and Mount Hoffmann. And further behind them, the big boys can be seen. Mt Burns, Junction Mountain, Gibraltar Mountain, so named because is resembles the namesake rock in Europe, and many others. If you look hard, you can also see the old ranger station located a bit west on the highway.
If you wish you can return the same way you came, as we did. Or you can take the Windy Point trail back to the highway, following that road back to your car. You can also tackle Windy Point Ridge, which we spoke of earlier. There is no real trail up, but the way is always obvious. Lastly you can take the Windy Point trail but heading north this time, which eventually meets up with the ominous sounding Death Valley trail, which then takes you back to the highway, making a long loop.
While it’s not an exciting trail or even much of a workout, we still had a great time exploring the route and I am certain we’ll return. We’ve done the Foran Grade trail perhaps a half dozen times before, often in conjunction with other connecting trails in the area.
If you wish more information on this trail, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: May 2011.
Location: Sheep River valley west of Turner Valley.
Distance: 6km return. Add a few more kilometres if the winter gate at Sandy McNabb is closed.
Height gain from start: 230m.
Height gain cumulative: 230m.
Reference: Kananaskis Trail Guide by Gillean Daffern.