|Ptarmigan Cirque, Kananaskis|
There's really no "best" time to do this hike because it's beautiful at any time of the year. Go right now however and you'll be greeted by golden larches on your way up into the alpine bowl. We arrived a week or two too early to see the larch trees at their peak and most of them were still green. By now, the hike would be absolutely spectacular! (in other words, go this weekend!)
|Autumn at Ptarmigan Cirque - Larches just starting to turn golden|
I'm still trying to figure out exactly how many families we had out for the hike two weeks ago but I'm estimating it was around 15. We lead our small army of children up to the Cirque and I'm pretty sure it was the most preschoolers the trail has ever seen at one time. There were kids walking, others riding on parents' shoulders, and more in child carriers. Somehow though they all made it up to the top and most went further to a pretty little waterfall where we met to have lunch.
|Starting our hike to Ptarmigan Cirque|
We met at the Highwood Meadows Day Use Area on Hwy 40 in Kananaskis. From there we followed a short interpretive trail before crossing the highway and ascending the steep switch backed trail to the Cirque. If you find yourself out of breath on this section, take frequent rest breaks and carry on because the trail flattens out once you reach the cirque. It's absolutely worth it to do whatever you have to, to get the kids (and yourself) up the first challenging part. At the top you'll find yourself in a meadow that looks like something straight out of a scene from the Sound of Music. You just may find yourself wanting to dance across the meadow singing.
|Starting out on the Interpretive Trail|
|Almost at the top of the switch backs|
|My son and I hiking to Ptarmigan Cirque (Photo: J. Sollid)|
The pace and mood picked up once we reached the top of the switch backs, and we made our way around the loop trail through the alpine cirque. The trail is well signed so you don't have to worry about getting lost. Alberta Parks is also very diligent about placing bear warnings on the trail when there have been sightings in the area. In fact, the trail is often closed in summer to protect hikers from encountering bears. Regardless of warnings (or lack there of), it's always a good idea to carry bear spray and travel in a tight group while hiking this trail.
|Approaching the Cirque|
|Hiking towards the back of the Cirque|
|Now this is where the fun begins with scrambling and tons of rocks to play on!|
|Scrambling off trail to reach the waterfall at the back of the Cirque|
|Lunch at the Waterfall|
|Climbing the wall next to the waterfall|
|Every child, big or small, had to give the big wall a go|
|Love this little climbing princess!|
|Back on the trail and finishing the loop of the cirque|
|Lower waterfalls as you round the other side of the cirque|
|Nearing the end of the loop before we head back down to the trees|
|Back to the larches and forest|
|Leaving the Cirque on the well maintained forest trail|
|Tired little princess on her way back to the parking lot|