Monday, July 23, 2018

King Creek Ridge - Family Hiking in Kananaskis

Climb the steep trail up King Creek Ridge in Kananaskis and you'll feel as if you've been magically whisked away to the Swiss Alps. This hike is so gorgeous I've actually done it twice now this season, once with a girlfriend and a second time as a family outing.

Family hiking along King Creek Ridge, Kananaskis 


Trailhead Location


Drive down Highway 40 past the turnoff for Kananaskis Village and watch for the King Creek Day Use Area on your left hand side (just before the winter gates and immediately before you'd turn right into the campgrounds of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.)

You can see a map with the location of the day use area here.

Looking up at the ridge and the faint trail beside the highway from the day use area

Stats for King Creek Ridge


Distance - 3.5 km to the summit one way

Height gain - 731 metres to the summit

Time it took my group - 5 hours round trip (at a relaxed pace with many breaks)

Age of children hiking - We had four children ages 8-9.

Our group hiking along King Creek Ridge (highway far below)

Hiking up the Steep Trail to the Ridge 


Hiking up the steep trail to the top of the ridge 
From the parking lot, walk back up to the highway and watch for a faint trail heading through the grass beside the highway - heading off to your right as you face the highway.

Take this trail and follow it steeply up the ridge into a forest. Hike through the trees for a ways and follow every obvious path whenever you come to an intersection. Some of the wrong paths have rocks or logs across them, and you'll always be looking for cairns on the correct path.

For a complete route description, invest in a copy of Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, Volume one. (Amazon affiliate link.)

There are several faint animal trails leading off the main path but you should be fine if you always take the more well-trodden path. You'll also want to keep climbing at a steady grade. If you find yourself traversing way to the left on a relatively flat trail, turn around. You want to be going UP. 

You also want your path to look very obvious (like the one in the photo to the right.) Turn around if it ever feels like you're bashing your way up the mountain with no trail. 

Fortunately, the main trail soon becomes very obvious as it climbs all the way to the top of the ridge. Within 20 minutes of leaving the forest you should be well on your way, and you can't get lost once you're on the very well established trail. 

It  took us 1.5 hours to reach the top of the ridge (not the summit) where we stopped for lunch break number one.

Distance to reach the ridge: 2 kilometres

Final steep push to the ridge top

Hiking along the Ridge to the Summit 


From the ridge top, we spent another 1.5 hours hiking to the furthest summit, having a second lunch, and taking many breaks.

Rest break along the ridge
It's hard to keep moving when the scenery is this gorgeous

We stopped a lot, I took many dozens of photos, and we took many rest breaks as we walked to the main summit following the beautiful ridge

Group photo on the ridge facing Mt. Wintour 
There's another great opportunity for photos every 5 seconds along the ridge

Hiking along the ridge is very pleasant and never overly narrow. You'll still want to keep a close eye on the kids, but you certainly won't have any exposed spots. 

Distance along the ridge to the summit: 1.5 kilometres 

Approaching the main summit of King Creek Ridge
Main summit on King Creek Ridge with the large cairn 


Hiking to the Second Summit


From the main summit we dropped our packs and then continued on to a second summit (a 5 minute walk past the first summit.) 

Hiking to the second summit on King Creek Ridge

The second summit was the prettiest point on the whole ridge but it required a bit of light scrambling to reach, so stick to the main summit if you have a fear of heights. Once on top though, it was very wide and not overly exposed.

Scrambling up to the top of the second summit 
Small summit cairn on the second summit

Rest break on the second summit 

Back to the Main Summit 


We returned to the main summit where we'd left our bags. We had a second lunch here and took yet another break before returning back along the ridge.

This kid never stops running 
Second summit before dropping down and returning to the main summit
Fun scrambling on the descent from the second summit 


Hiking Back Along the Ridge 


The hike back along the ridge took a lot less time and we were back at the parking lot after 2 more hours.(Still a long time, but we weren't exactly hurrying on the 3.5 km return hike.)

Hiking back along the ridge
Never a moment when the scenery wasn't amazing
I was worried that the descent would feel even steeper than the ascent or that the kids would fall many times on the loose trail. In the end though, they were all quite sturdy on their feet and my band-aids stayed in my pack. (Success!)

Descending the King Creek Ridge Trail
Switchbacks on the descent trail off King Creek Ridge 

Cooling off in the Creek at the End 


The hike ends beside King Creek where you can cool off, play in the mud, and relax before driving home. We stayed and played here for a good 40 minutes.

Playing in the creek at the end of the hike
Mud pit beside King Creek

Safety Notes and Recommended Reading:


While this is primarily a "hike," children should still have some solid experience with steep trails along with loose rock and scree. Adult leaders should have experience with route finding and it's encouraged that you hike in a group, making lots of noise, to warn bears of your presence.

Recommended Reading:

First Summits for Families in the Canadian Rockies

Parting shot of King Creek Ridge 


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