Distance: 15.5 km
Elevation gain: 760 m View map Download GPS track
Last winter on an ascent of Mount Dyson in Sheep River Provincial Park I noticed a long, partially open and mostly level ridge to the east. Back home I couldn't find any report of anyone having hiked it, but it looked dead easy and the long walk along its crest seemed like it could make for a very nice hike and I made a point of heading back to hike it some day. That day turned out to be today and so we set off to do a bit of exploring. [Update: After posting this report a few other hikers followed our track and have pointed out that the ridge is officially named Channel Ridge].
After crossing the Sheep River below the Sandy McNab day use area we picked up the hard-packed trail heading towards Wolf Creek, arriving at a large meadow about 30 minutes later. We followed the main trail along the left side of the meadow until it turned towards Mount Dyson, then picked up another trail that seemed to be following Wolf Creek. When it didn't descend to the creek where I wanted it to we simply made our own way down to the creek, crossed it, and started forging our own route up the ridge. The open and varied forest made travel easy and we were soon standing on the north end of the ridge among aspen trees and grass.
I was quite surprised at this point to discover a new ATV trail heading along the ridge. It looked like it went in this fall and hadn't been used much, and while it did make travel a bit easier as its architects had cleared a path through some minor sections of deadfall, I was a bit disappointed by the off-road vehicle traffic in an area that I'd just proven is easily reached on foot. Regardless, the hike along the ridge was very pleasant. The forest was open and varied, the forest floor was mostly wonderful grass, and while we didn't see anything larger than a grouse there was ample evidence deer and elk travel and live along the ridge.
We followed the ridge to a highpoint more than 3 km south of where we gained the ridge, climbing just 120 m along the way. Compared to some of our other hikes this was incredibly relaxing! Light snow limited the views for most of the way, but after lunch the skies partially cleared and we were treated to some fairly nice views to the west as we made our way back. Instead of following our ascent route down off the ridge I decided to descend to Wolf Creek more directly and follow it to the Sheep River, then walk back along the frozen river to the truck. Unfortunately Wolf Creek wasn't frozen particularly well and the banks were steep cliffs, meaning we had to climb nearly 200 m up a very steep bank to make our way back to the trail we'd used in the morning!
In the end Channel Ridge turned out to be a wonderful hike, and with other ridges to the east and west I'm sure this is a place I'll be back to explore further!