Distance: 19 km
Elevation gain: 800 m View map Download GPS track
Each year Sandra and I try to end summer on a high note with big trips over the September long weekend, but this year it rained and snowed Friday through Sunday and left much of the Rockies buried under a foot of snow. As much as I hated doing it this early, I turned to my list of late-season hikes and settled on Volcano Ridge in the front country. At just 2127 m in height I hoped that the summit wouldn't be buried under snow and that most of the approach would be snow free too.
We started the hike at the permanent southern closure of the Gorge Creek Road, which we accessed via Highway 546. It was the same trailhead we used to hike to Mount Ware
last year. Initially the trail was incredibly muddy, largely as a result of cows that roam freely in the area, and while it did improve after the first 500 m it continued to have extensive muddy sections for the first 2 km. A kilometer from the parking lot we crossed a bridged creek, passed the turnoff on the left that heads to Mount Ware
, and continued straight/right towards Volcano Ridge. At the 2.5 km mark we encountered another fork and went left, but had we gone right we would have also reached the summit. The trail network here got a bit complicated, but we used the maps
and directions in Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Country Trail Guide
to find our way with no difficulties. For reference, our route from the car and back followed the trail sequence of 43-->49-->53-->51-->52A-->49-->43. Other than the muddy mess of #43, the only difficulty we encountered were alders on 52A that had fallen over the trail from the recent snow.
Thankfully, my snow predictions turned out to be mostly accurate and we were only hiking through snow for the last 2 km, and only about half that was strenuous. The weather mostly cooperated too and we were unexpectedly treated to mostly clear and sunny skies for the first couple hours of hiking. It did, of course, cloud over just in time for our arrival at the summit, but given the weather we've had lately anything better than a blizzard was welcome! After a chilly and quick lunch near the summit we headed back down to the car, and after a cow-related traffic jam on the narrow and muddy Gorge Creek Road we were on our way home. It wasn't exactly the end of summer scrambling extravaganza I was hoping for, but given the mounds of new snow in the Rockies it was an acceptable alternative!