Pocaterra Ridge in Kananaskis Country is for those who love 360 degree Rocky Mountain views and a good workout. I did this hike solo at the beginning of October. The morning trail was snow-covered, but the bright yellow larches shined through.
Pocaterra Ridge in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Location: Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country
Distance: 11 km one way
Elevation: 746 m gain
Time: 6 hours
Dog-friendly: Yes. There were some dogs on this trail, but I didn’t bring Belle along (since I planned to bike back to my car).
Features: This is a phenomenal ridge hike with gorgeous mountain views from beginning to end. This is also a great hike to find yellow larches from late September to early October.
The road to Highwood Pass is closed from December until June 15.
Finding the Trailhead for Pocaterra Ridge
The trailhead for Pocaterra Ridge is the Highwood Pass Day Use off of Highway 40. The parking lot is very easy to find, and is incredibly popular in the fall with the Ptarmigan Cirque trailhead here as well. You could also park at Little Highwood Pass to start Pocaterra Ridge from the north.
I decided to hike this trail solo, leaving my bike at Little Highwood Pass and then parking at Highwood Pass to start the hike. When I finished, I rode my bike back to the car. I loved this hiking direction, but the bike ride was all up hill…. If you choose to hike solo, I’d suggest leaving a bike at Highwood Pass instead of Little Highwood. That way you can easily coast all the way back to your vehicle at the end of the hike.
Pocaterra Ridge in the Shoulder Season
I recommend hiking Pocaterra Ridge as a one way hike. This will allow you to really enjoy the ridge and the gorgeous surrounding views. If you’re hiking with friends, leave one car at the Little Highwood Pass parking lot and then head south to the Highwood Pass Day Use parking for the trailhead.
There are four different peaks along Pocaterra Ridge. The first one is the biggest slog, and more so when it’s covered in snow. I didn’t come prepared with crampons because I wasn’t expecting the winter wonderland I found. Luckily, my hiking boots have decent tread. I wouldn’t want to be out there in sneakers. There were many people turning back after the first peak due to snow on the ridge. You have to be prepared for anything in the shoulder seasons. The temperature was below zero and I needed winter gear: toque, gloves, multiple layers, and good hiking boots.
Hiking the Pocaterra Ridge Trail
Pocaterra Ridge begins in the forest and then opens up with mountains towering above. The trail eventually comes to a small tarn (mountain lake) before heading up the first peak. The hike up to this initial peak is the most difficult ascent. However, there are some other technical challenges on the ridge, especially with slippery snow and ice. I want glad for my mid-layer and shell to protect from the strong wind. After descending from the first peak, the hike along the ridge is fairly moderate. There are plenty of great spots to take photos along way.
Before you go, it never hurts to download the GPS map from AllTrails. This trail is pretty straight forward and well-marked, but it never hurts to have some extra assurance (especially when hiking alone!).
Descending to Little Highwood Pass
The descent from Pocaterra Ridge to Little Highwood Pass is fairly straightforward. The trail can be tricky with lose rock and gravel, so hiking pole are definitely helpful here. The well-defined trail leads through the forest and down to Highway 40. Cross the road to reach the parking area. When I finished, I cycled 6.5 kilometres to reach my vehicle.
Pocaterra Ridge is a great day hike with incredible views throughout the hike. The snow was most challenging on the first peak, but eased up as I continued along. This is a challenging hike at times, but should be doable for intermediate hikers with good fitness level. I’d love to do Pocaterra Ridge again.
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