Distance: 6 km
Elevation gain: 875 mView mapDownload GPS track
There are two peaks named Grizzly Peak in Kananaskis. One is near Highwood Pass (accessed via Pocaterra Cirque) and is described in Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Country Trail Guide
; the one in this report is located 4.2 km south of Fortress Junction.
This Grizzly Peak is a very steep hike with a few scrambly sections. The access trail ascends the northern bank of unsigned Ripple Rock Creek (not Grizzly Creek) and is in surprisingly good condition most of the way. The trail near the col, however, was obliterated by the 2013 floods and while a new trail is developing through the mudslides and rubble, it is currently a bit sketchy and loose.
The trail is also unrelentingly steep, gaining 875 m over less than 3 km. One section ascends 360 m over just 850 m, and that's with a few short switchbacks included! Slipping is a bit of a concern over these sections and while a fall probably wouldn't kill you, you'd likely slide, roll, and bounce quite a distance down a grassy or scree slope. There is only one section with true exposure - a small cliff band about a quarter of the way in - but footing is excellent here and we didn't find it particularly daunting. You'll reach this point within 30 minutes of leaving your car too, so if you're just getting started with hikes of this sort and it's a bit much for you, there is plenty of time to dash back to your car and do one of the many other hikes nearby.
After a steep ascent, negotiating the cliff band, and steeply ascending further, the trail surprisingly becomes nearly level for a few hundred meters as it contours around the south end of the peak. A few flood washouts here are the only tricky part and they're quite easy to cross. Views also start to expand as the grassy cirque between Mounts Evan-Thomas and Packenham comes into view. As the level section ends you are once again launched skyward at an angle of ascent greater than what you've already covered. The sun beats down on this slope, so even with a reasonable air temperature you'll still bake if there is no breeze. Thankfully the trail passes by a few small stands of trees that make for excellent shaded resting areas.
A bit over halfway through this steep ascent the area where the trail was obliterated by mudslides in the flood is reached. Traction here is highly variable, but there is a bit of a trail beginning to form through the mess. Where it steepens to the point that a further ascent on scree is impractical, the trail exits to the right and moves onto grassy slopes. It's still very steep, but grassy bumps give decent footing. The col is now very close and the final ascent to Grizzly Peak from the col is the easiest part of the whole hike.
The views from the top are spectacular, but are very similar to those from Opal Ridge South
, which is slightly higher as well. Between the two I'd choose Opal Ridge, but if you've done that and are looking for a slightly more challenging hikeable ascent, Grizzly Peak is definitely worth it.