Time: 4 hours
Distance:10 km (return)
Elevation Gain: 650 m
How To Get There: From Longview, drive west on Highway 40 until you reach Kananaskis Village (right before the winter gate). Turn south on Highway 940 for exactly 11 km where you'll find yourself at a gated turn off. Park in front of the gate.
What's the best cure for a self-induced headache? Going for a hike (of course)! Matt and I went to a dinner the night earlier and found ourselves in High River, which is only about twenty minutes away from Longview which happens to only be a half hour away from Raspberry Ridge. So with my boyfriend begrudgingly in tow, we woke up at 9 am on Sunday and started our drive out. The weather was really nice for the middle of March. It was the first day of spring so the fact that it was plus 14 C in Longview was a nice surprise. There was a slight overcast hanging over Raspberry Ridge but there was almost no wind.
Some people have trouble finding the right trail for Raspberry Ridge. Luckily, I had attempted this hike a few weeks back (but had started too late and was only able to get 1 km in before turning back around) so I had already figured out which way we had to go. This area is a popular place for snowmobilers so when we got to the trailhead, there was another family there just finishing with packing up their snowmobile for the day. Matt and I got all of our gear on and then proceeded past the first gate.
After a few hundred meters there is a 'Y' in the road and you turn off to the right (the road that goes gradually uphill). A few yards later, you'll know you're going the right way when you pass a second gate. Not too long after there is a a fence post with red writing on it saying "Raspberry Ridge" telling you to turn right again.
It was around this time that we decided to put on our microspikes. While winter in Alberta has been especially mild this year, that doesn't stop the snow from falling in the mountains. For the most part, the trail itself was covered in snow, slush or was incredibly mucky so the microspikes were a must. The first 3.5 km or so of the trail is an old fire road (that is becoming more of a hiking trail in many parts) that gradually climbs through the forest, opening up from time to time as you go around several bends.
At the first real break in the trees you can see Raspberry Ridge off in the distance.
Not long after you make your way down and up a gully, the trail reaches another opening where someone has left a cairn in between a fork in the trail, stating that you can either go left or right to reach the ridge. The left is the easier (albeit longer) way while the right leads you to a 300m elevation gain in 1 km).
Matt and I decided to go right. The steep climb starts immediately and we did our best to stay on the trail. Because of the deep snow in some places, all we could do was follow the post-holes left behind by a previous hiker and his (or her) dog. Though not steep enough to be considered a scramble, the climb was vigorous and we had to stop several times to catch our breath.
Of course, the further up we went, the deeper the snow became and we eventually were forced to punch some holes in the snow ourselves to continue upwards. Not too long afterwards, we spotted a break in the ridge and were able to pull ourselves over the top. Our legs were tired but we had made it!
The air was calm and we quickly made our way north on the ridge towards the active fire lookout, passing a row of gorgeous cornices as we went.
Just below the small hut is a sign stating that you have reached Raspberry Ridge along with a single picnic table for eating.
Matt and I walked up a little further so that we were a few hundred yards from the fire lookout to get some pictures of the surrounding mountains. We didn't go past the roped fence that surrounded the fire lookout since it's a private property and we didn't want to distract anyone who might be working there.
The snow was so wet and sticky that it was attaching itself to our microspikes!
Then we made our way back to the picnic table for lunch. We chowed down on some cliff bars, nuts and nutella, enjoying the beautiful view that surrounded us.
Raspberry Ridge is right smack dab in the middle of vast mountains such as Mt. Burke, Mt. Armstrong, Mist Mountain, Mount Bishop…the list goes on and on!
You can see for miles on a clear day- it was a bit hard to make out, but we could even spot downtown Calgary from on top of the ridge!
Once we were finished our lunch, we both agreed that it would be a good idea to try going back the easier, longer route (heading south on the ridge) instead of attempting to go back down the slippery steep way.
Again, the deep snow had us route-finding for the trail several times. Luckily, all we had to do was look over the ridge to see where the trail circled around to the bottom and we were able to push on.
Finally we made our way down to where the two separate trails reach up at the cairn again and we continued on our way. The bears are starting to come out of their dens so every time we came around a corner we made sure to shout and slap our hiking poles together to make some noise. Matt spotted a really big bird (though didn't get a good look at it so he doesn't know what kind it was) and we were able to listen to the sound of its babies chirping somewhere in a nest in the trees. Every time Matt whistled, they would chirp back – it was pretty cute. Once we were back on the fire road, we spotted someone's old drawing in the snow. I think maybe they should keep their day job…
It took us about four hours to complete the hike and when we made it back to my car, we were happy to take off our hiking boots. The trail isn't official and it's not always easy to spot but it was still a fantastic experience and the perfect way to welcome the first day of spring!