Distance: 11 km
Elevation gain: 750 mView mapDownload GPS track
Prairie Mountain is a popular hike close to Calgary. Most people - us included - use it as a training hike as the ascent is steep, rising 700 m over just 3.5 km. While the view from the top is nice, the ascent is largely viewless and this is typically repeated on the descent. This time we descended via an alternate route that exits off the west slopes of the mountain.
The route off the west slopes is relatively straightforward. To find the descent route, follow the ridgecrest of the mountain northwest from the summit until you reach a large cairn. The cairn is less than 5 minutes from the summit and impossible to miss. At this point turn towards the west and begin descending towards the trees and other cairns, keeping an eye out for flagging on the trees that marks the trail. This flagging will lead you down to a treed saddle, at which point turn left (south) and follow the gully down to the Prairie Creek trail.
Be aware that the west side of the mountain has a lot more snow than the east side and if the trail isn't broken you'll need snowshoes.