Distance: 27 km
Elevation gain: 1550 m View map Download GPS track
This past week we were faced with a choice if we wanted to go hiking: Hike in the smoke from Kananaskis northwards, or hike in the heat down south in Waterton. We love Waterton and have been dying to get down there, so the heat beat the smoke and we drove down Wednesday morning to camp at Crandell Campground. Our first hike was to two peaks on the northern border of Waterton National Park: Avion Ridge and Newman Peak.
Crandell Campground is just 7 km from the end of the Red Rock Parkway where the official trail to Avion Ridge begins, so we were easily able to start hiking early and made quick progress along the first 4.5 km of trail. This section of trail is an old fire road, nearly flat, and is usually biked, but as we didn’t have bikes we just walked it. As we turned onto the trail to Goat Lake the ascent steepened, but as with all trails in Waterton it remained well-graded and was in very good condition. This allowed us to continue our quick ascent and we were able to complete the hike to Goat Lake entirely in the cool shade of the morning.
From Goat Lake we followed the trail to a col between Avion Ridge and Newman Peak, weaving through forest, open meadows, and hiking up a few cliff bands (no scrambling) along the way. Three hours after we set out we arrived at the col and had our first of three lunches. The weather was hot and sunny, but a cool breeze kept the temperature pleasant, and I was looking forward to the hours of pleasant ridge walking that awaited. This is what I love so much about Waterton: Fantastic scenery and easy, pleasant ridge walking. I haven’t yet found another place like it in the mountains.
After our break we followed the trail towards the summit of Avion Ridge, contouring around a more easterly highpoint (which can be easily ascended if you’d like), descending to another low point, then ascending to the official summit. The entire route was dead easy and the views along the way and from the summit were absolutely beautiful. The lush forests and meadows, blue sky, and red argillite make this such a gorgeous place.
Our appetite for spectacular mountain scenery partially satiated, we retraced our steps back to the Avion-Newman col and hiked up Newman Peak. While the view in most directions was largely similar to that from Avion Ridge, the view of the Yarrow Creek valley to the east, formerly blocked by Newman Peak, was absolutely spectacular. At some point I’ll have to hike up the valley to see the view from below.
Newman Peak is a bit of an odd peak, being nothing more than a bump on a long ridge and with a prominence of barely 50 m. An unnamed point on the same ridge 1.5 km to the east of Newman, however, is 130 m higher and far more visible from other peaks in the park, and thus we hiked over to it as well. Coined “Newman Senior” by Andrew Nugara, the view from the peak was more complete than that from the official Newman Peak, whose southeastern panorama had been completely blocked by Newman Senior.
We had a short break on the summit of Newman Senior, then headed back down, shortcutting down an easy scree slope to reach the official trail just below the Avion-Newman col. The descent was uneventful with the exception of meeting a family on the bikeable main trail who came up behind us and asked if we’d seen “the bear”. It turns out that we were being followed by a large grizzly! The family had biked up behind it, then followed it at a distance for about 20 minutes waiting for it to move into the forest. Once it did and they passed it, they encountered us! Talking to them it looks like the bear came out onto the trail shortly after we passed it (perhaps it moved off the trail for us; I yell often on trails), then came back onto the trail moving in the same direction as us. Had we stopped it likely would’ve caught up to us! It would’ve been quite the adventure!