Distance: 11 km
Elevation gain: ~900 m, including regaining lost elevationView mapDownload GPS track
This is a very popular early season hike just over an hour from Calgary. The trailhead is located in the Wasootch picnic area off highway 40, just 17 km south of the trans Canada. Watch for it on the left immediately after crossing signed Porcupine Creek.
From the parking lot, the trail begins behind a lone picnic table and ascends very
steeply up the ridge, gaining nearly 150 m over a very short distance. The trail then temporarily levels before gaining another 200 m or so on an equally steep section of trail. Arrival at the top of this climb grants views southeast down Wasootch Creek and along the ridge you'll be following, as well as in all other directions. A nice view northwest encompasses Barrier Lake and further away, Yamnuska.
From here onward the trail follows the ridgecrest. A few short sections require attention as the trail comes close to some very steep dropoffs, although there is certainly no scrambling or particularly concerning exposure involved. The primary concern, however, is the fact that the ridge resembles the back of a stegosaurus, with at least half a dozen not insignificant dips, a few of which are downright discouraging! After each dip you're confronted by a slightly higher ascent, and it is this constant descend-ascend that makes this hike more tiring than you might expect. While the view doesn't change dramatically after reaching the initial highpoint, the landscape and trees of the ridge are surprisingly varied; each bump seems to sport increasingly twisted and warped pines, many of which I imagine are hundreds of years old. Occasional views down to Porcupine and Wasootch Creeks - some unnervingly vertical - likewise serve to push you along. While not particularly plentiful, we also saw several flowers along the way, including calypso orchids near the beginning, lots of prairie crocus', and some tiny purple ones near the top I haven't yet identified.
After 5.5 km, arrive at the end of the hikers trail on a broad gravelly bump marked by a large cairn. While the trail continues past this point, some moderate scrambling is required to summit the peak at the end of the ridge, making this bump a good place to stop. While heading back is much easier, you will still need to re-climb all those dips you descended on the way, so rest up well now!