Distance: 12 km
Elevation gain: 800 mView mapDownload GPS track
Wind Ridge is a great hike just to the east of Canmore, making the drive to it from Calgary pleasantly short. It is closed, however, from Dec. 1 to June 15 and, being outside of a park, is open for hunting in the fall. To reach the trailhead, take the Dead Man's Flats exit from the Trans Canada and then make a series of right-hand turns to cross the highway via the overpass. Continue straight along this road for about one kilometer, then turn right into the trailhead parking lot at the Banff Gate Mountain Resort sign.
The trail to Wind Ridge departs the far end of the parking lot, initially heading south. In a few minutes, continue straight at the power line, shortly entering a small meadowy area. In a few more minutes, descend to the first of two stream crossings that have been extremely damaged by the floods of 2013. The first, Pigeon Creek, can be rock-hopped at low water and currently has a rock bridge just downstream of the old road. The second stream, West Wind Creek, is a disaster and requires a bit of route finding. The banks are unstable and about 6 feet high where the road used to cross, but are lower a short distance downstream. The stream is currently running along the far bank and can be crossed on any number of logs bridging it, although some are slick and most still have branches. At only 6-12 inches deep, however, even those with lousy balance can cross by debooting.
If you stuck to the direct route and have connected back up with the old road on the far edge of the stream, walk 10 seconds and intersect what appears to be a dry stream bed. This is actually the old road; head left (south) along it. When you shortly encounter a huge mass of trees across it, head into the woods on the right (a trail is developing here), then turn back towards to the old road on the other side of the washout. The majority of the flood damage is now behind you. Continue following this road south, turning right at a major intersection in a few hundred meters. In a kilometer or so, encounter a cairn in the road. Turn left up the hill here, then turn left on the old road you encounter a few minutes later. This takes you all the way to the ridge, although it becomes trail instead of road once the real ascent starts.
The ascent of Wind Ridge is very steep, but the trail is good and the surroundings grassy. The only real challenge is a rock band near the top. The trail easily avoids the first rock band, but then terminates at a vertical cliff about 8 feet high. While there are excellent hand and foot holds here to help you climb up, if you would like to avoid climbing, head right along a faint trail that soon becomes very distinct as it enters trees. While steep, this route avoids any cliff-climbing.
Once above this cliff band the going is once again easy, although still steep. The high point is a little over 500 m (100 m or so vertical) from this point and the views are spectacular. Some people continue onwards from the high point to the end of the ridge; we didn't, but only because we had a commitment back in town that afternoon. I have also seen reports of people descending off the far end of the ridge and exiting via West Wind Creek. Given the damage along the creek further down, however, I wouldn't recommend this unless you're sure it's still possible (and let me know if it is!).