Distance: 11.5 km
Elevation gain: 675 mView mapDownload GPS track
Raspberry Ridge is a premier early season hike that is typically hikeable by the third week of May, so long as you don't mind the occasional snowpatch. As of today, the entire trail was snow free. The trailhead is located roughly 11.5 km south on highway 940 from Highwood Junction. It is a moderate sized pullout on the right with a black gate blocking access to an old gravel road. Park here, but avoid blocking the gate.
The trail to Raspberry Ridge is the grassy old road peeling off to the right from the gated gravel road. Ascend gently along this road for a few minutes. Immediately after it curves to the right, reach a Y-junction; the right hand trail is the one you want for Raspberry Ridge. Continue following this very old road/good trail for the next 3 km or so until you reach a grassy meadow with poplar trees surrounding it. A small cairn marks this point as the usual ascent route peels off to the right here and begins steeply ascending the ridge. Before you take this trail, however, examine the ridgecrest. If a large continuous cornice is present it will block your ascent via this route, but if you continue further on the main trail (heading SW) to where the old road once ascended, you may find a gap through which you can gain the ridge.
Today there was no large cornice present, but we missed the turnoff and so ended up ascending via the old road route. While there wasn't necessarily anything wrong with this route, it was much longer than the direct ascent and we ended up kicking ourselves for not having turned back and taken the usual route up upon realizing our mistake. Thankfully both routes offer wildflower explosions in season and today we saw an enormous number of prairie crocus', shooting stars, and calyspo orchids (in the woods before the ridge). Later in the season
the wildflower display is spectacularly diverse.
The north end of the ridge is the summit and is adorned with a fire lookout and all the support buildings. At this time in the season it was unoccupied and so we went all the way up to it, but a steel cable fence and a sign imply this shouldn't be done when the lookout is occupied (or perhaps ever...). The views, however, are absolutely fantastic from the summit (which is of course why it is a fire lookout
) and many other hikes we've done or will be doing sometime soon are visible.
We descended from the ridge via the usual route. As the exact point at which one normally descends from the ridge was a large cornice, it took a bit of searching to find a suitable way down, but we eventually found one that worked for us both. I had originally planned to exit the ridge to the south, but this route takes you into the Cataract Creek valley. As that area was decimated by the flood of 2013 I decided to avoid it and the mess and routefinding that it would likely entail (if you know if this is still a reasonable route, let me know!).