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As we continue to work our way through the very long list of Kananaskis Country hikes we intend to complete, next on the list was the relatively popular Wasootch Ridge trail. We were immediately excited, mainly because of the name, which obviously sounds pretty cool, plus it pretty clearly suggests the trail involves a ridge. Which just happens to be one of my two favourite types of mountain hike, running neck and neck with alpine lake hikes (especially calm, reflective ones).
And I must say, the scenery didn’t disappoint, offering up spectacular views of the surrounding Kananaskis peaks, plus Barrier Lake and Nakiska ski area.
The other big benefit of the Wasootch Ridge hike is that it features multiple “peaks”, making it fairly simple to customize it to whatever length you choose. Wasootch Peak is generally considered “Peak 7”, but each of the peaks from #3 to #6 offer rewarding views and logical stopping points if you don’t have the time or energy to complete the entire distance.
Most people don’t actually make it all the way to the top of Peak 7 (including us) as the Wasootch Ridge trail deteriorates quite quickly toward the end and the last stretch involves some rather sketchy scrambling. Certainly manageable for experienced hikers but not necessarily recommended for everyone or in adverse conditions such as rain or strong winds.
Both Wasootch Ridge and Wasootch Creek are very popular Kananaskis hikes and when we arrived at 9 am on a Saturday in July the parking lot was already half full. Although we only saw 7 people on our way up and another 8 on our way down so it seems that the much flatter and easier Wasootch Creek hike is the busier of the two.
Wasootch Ridge Trailhead
Both the Wasootch Ridge and Wasootch Creek hikes start from the Wasootch Day Use Area. This reasonably large parking lot is not far off the incredibly scenic Highway 40 where you’ll find info boards with maps and descriptions, as well as pit toilets for final preparations.
Wasootch Ridge Hike Difficulty
Distance: 13 km (out and back)
Time: 4-7 hrs (depending on stopping point)
Elevation Gain: 930 metres (to the top of Peak 7)
The Wasootch Ridge hike is classified as moderate although, as always, those descriptions are always very subjective depending on the person doing the actual hiking. It is certainly not as strenuous or difficult as some of the highest hikes in the area such as Smutwood Peak, and the multiple peaks make the fantastic views accessible to a wide range of fitness levels.
To complete the entire Wasootch Ridge hike all the way to the top of Peak 7 you need to be in pretty good shape just to handle the 13 km and 900m of elevation gain. More important, though, is having the agility and nerve to tackle the final scramble.
However, if you choose to stop at any of the earlier peaks you can avoid this complication and shave off some of the length and elevation gain as well.
Regardless of which peak you choose as your stopping point, most people will find hiking poles useful on the steep and uneven trails. And if you’re planning to go the entire way, gloves can also come in pretty handy to save yourself a few cuts and scrapes.
Wasootch Ridge Trail
One of the main complaints about the Wasootch Ridge trail is how quickly and steeply the first portion is. Right out of the parking lot the trail heads sharply uphill through the trees, meaning there aren’t even any great views to distract you from all the sweating. However, this part doesn’t last long and within 15 minutes or so (depending on how much wheezing you’re doing) the trees start thinning out and you start to get some better views.
From that point on, the ridge gets progressively more open and the views get better and more sweeping, eventually encompassing the entire region in all directions. Here are some rough hiking times, without factoring in rest or snack breaks and to be taken with a grain of salt considering that everyone hikes at a different pace.
Wasootch Peak 1
Your first truly open viewpoint makes for a decent day hike on its own, although considering how close each peak is from here on it would be a shame to call it quits already.
Wasootch Peak 2
Wasootch Peak 3
It is definitely worth making it to Peak 3, then from there it is hard to stop because the next peak is always right there in sight.
Wasootch Peak 4
In our opinion, this is where things start to get really spectacular and we would recommend this as the minimum distance to plan for.
Wasootch Peak 5
Halfway between Peak 4 and 5 the scenery is particularly good, then Peak 5 and viewpoints a bit further on are probably the highlight of the Wasootch Peak hike. From this point on it is actually becomes a little tricky to distinguish the different peaks as it starts to look like just one rocky ledge after another.
Wasootch Peak 6
Things get a little confusing between peaks 5 and 6 as there are multiple “paths”, each with their own challenges and complications. However, the most straightforward one goes up the narrowest section. Even though it looks a bit like a dead-end from a distance, up close you should be able to follow the faint track up over the rocks.
Wasootch Peak 7
Sometimes referred to as the Wasootch Ridge scramble, the last bit is steep and exposed and in order to make it to the very top you’re in for some bouldering. Only attempt this in good weather and if you are very comfortable on rough terrain.
We are always partial to loops since they don’t involve any backtracking. However, on a truly scenic hike like this one, going back the way you came isn’t such a hardship since it actually feels more scenic much of the way. You get a very different angle and the sun is no longer in your face, making the photos even better than on the way up.
Then those steep parts that had you panting and sweating on the way up will now test the endurance of your thighs going down. There are some stretches of loose shale to navigate as well but it is not overly tricky if you take your time, and these sections only graded out as about a 5 on Laynni’s frowning and grouchiness scale (notoriously not a fan of loose downhill).
All told, we only went as far as Peak 6 and were back at the car in just under 6 hours. That included 3 sit-down breaks (2 to eat and 1 to just soak in the view) and a total hiking time of around 5 hours.
Wasootch Ridge Weather
Being a ridge and all, the Wasootch Ridge hike is very exposed and should probably be avoided in bad weather. Experienced hikers can still manage the trail even on windy or rainy days but be sure to pack for quick weather changes and take care on slippery sections.
The highest point on Wasootch Ridge is just under 2,300 metres and because most of the ridge is exposed to the sun it tends to be snow-free earlier than some of the other popular Canmore hikes. And experienced hikers with proper gear have even been known to tackle it in winter.
However, in general, the best time for the Wasootch Ridge hike is between June and September – just make sure you pack a lot of water on hot days since the sun can be relentless above the treeline. For a cooler, quieter experience, visit Wasootch Ridge in either May or October, and some years even April and November are possible.
Is Wasootch Ridge Dog-Friendly?
Yes, dogs are allowed on the Wasootch Ridge hike but your four-legged friends may find some of the last sections a bit tricky (as well as two-legged ones, to be fair).
Kananaskis Conservation Pass
Since 2021, every vehicle parking at trailheads in Kananaskis Country or the Bow Valley Corridor needs to purchase a Kananaskis Conservation Pass (with a few specific exceptions). The passes cost $15/day per vehicle or you can get an annual pass for $90 that covers 2 vehicles.
More Kananaskis Country Hikes
There are many more superb hikes very close to the Wasootch Ridge hike, from short, easy strolls to intense (but spectacular) day summits. Some of the standout easy hikes are Rawson Lake (great reflections), Elbow Lake (with an optional glacier add-on) and Ptarmigan Cirque (especially in larch season).
If you’re looking for something a little more challenging with big view payoffs, consider adding Sarrail Ridge to the Rawson Lake hike, or venture over to the Smith Dorrien Trail (Highway 742) and dedicate an entire day to Tent Ridge Horseshoe or Smutwood Peak.
Not so much a hike but still a great photo op, tiny, man-made Wedge Pond is very popular with day-trippers on the weekend but is typically empty early in the morning when you can get some insane reflection photos of Mount Kidd.
For a more thorough look at the Kananaskis trails, check out our specific hiking posts:
Wasootch Ridge Hike Summary
Offering up stunning 360-degree views all the way along the ridge, the Wasootch Ridge hike is one of the most scenic in Kananaskis Country. It is a particularly good choice for those staying at nearby Mount Kidd RV Park and because of the multiple scenic peaks it can easily be customized to fit a variety of fitness and experience levels (although probably not “beginner”).
Altogether, the Wasootch Ridge hike is definitely a must-add to your Kananaskis hikes bucket list even if, like ours, it seems like every time you check one off it seems like you add two more. Not necessarily the worst problem to have…
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