I love a good waterfall. The Ribbon Falls hike has been on my list for a while now. It’s a fairly long day, but the reward at the end is worth it. Located in Alberta’s Kananaskis Country, you’ll find several smaller waterfalls and mountain views surrounding the trail leading up to the main attraction. If you want something more challenging, continue on to Ribbon Lake (I didn’t do that…maybe next time!).
I had no idea what to expect. At the last minute, I joined Leigh McAdam of HikeBikeTravel and her husband John for this full-day hike to Ribbon Falls. The end of May was a great time for this one. I’d heard enough about it to know it’d be fun, and it was nice to have good company on the trail. The towering mountain views and spectacular waterfall makes for a great way to spend the day.
About the Ribbon Falls Hike
Location: Kananaskis Country
Distance: 21 km out and back
Elevation: 447 metre gain
Time: Approx. 6 – 7 hours
Dog-friendly: Yes, but must be kept on leash.
Features: The hike to Ribbon Falls follows Ribbon Creek with several smaller waterfalls along the route. While it’s not technically challenging, this long hike still requires preparation—but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. In fact, you’ll cross 7 or 8 newly constructed bridges on the way to falls. Ribbon Falls is very impressive and the trail scenery of Mount Kidd and Mount Bogart is almost constant.
Finding the Trailhead
The Ribbon Falls trailhead is found at the Ribbon Creek Day Use Area. From Highway 40, turn off onto Mt Allan Drive toward the Nakiska Ski Area. Then turn left at Centennial Drive and then right onto Ribbon Creek Road. You’ll find the trailhead at the far end of the parking lot. There are toilets available here, too.
Hiking Along Ribbon Creek Trail
You may or may not find this hike to Ribbon Falls challenging, but the trail is decently long and still requires preparation. We hiked about 21 km with an elevation gain of 447 metres (if you go about 10 minutes past the falls). This beautiful trail follows Ribbon Creek with several scenic waterfalls throughout.
The nearly constant views of Mount Kidd and Mount Bogart are very impressive. For a hike with modest elevation gain, it doesn’t get much better than this!
Read more: 10 Waterfalls in Alberta That You Should See
Ribbon Falls Backcountry Campground
We enjoyed our lunch at the Ribbon Falls Backcountry Campground, just a few minutes before Ribbon Falls itself. This campground has food storage lockers, 10 tent sites, picnic tables, and group fire pits. However, firewood isn’t provided, so you’d need to pack it in. This scenic spot would make a great base before trekking up to Ribbon Lake. There’s another backcountry campground at Ribbon Lake too, though it requires steeper hiking/scrambling—including climbing up chains bolted into the mountainside. Reserve with Alberta Parks.
Arriving at the Falls
It wasn’t long after finishing lunch and leaving the campground that we came across destruction from a recent avalanche. Ribbon Falls is on an avalanche chute and trees were recently snapped like twigs. That was a sobering reminder of the importance of avalanche safety.
The falls cascades down from Ribbon Lake to the remarkable 25-metre sheer drop. For anyone who loves a waterfall hike, you’ll enjoy Ribbon Falls in the beauty of K-Country.
Ribbon Lake is about 2 km from the falls, but we didn’t go up. There were reports of waist-deep snow near the lake. At some point, I’d like to experience to steep scramble and chains to get up there. One of these days!
Know Before You Go
Ribbon Creek provides plenty of freshwater alongside the trail. If you’re like me, you may drink your full 2-litre reservoir halfway through the return. I always keep a water filter in my bag, but my friend John happily shared some of his stash. Bella the Berner appreciated having access to a cold drink, too. This is a great hike for dogs overall.
You also may want to bring a first aid kit along. This is another essential in my pack that could have been needed if the hike was any longer. I was breaking in new boots and developed some hot spots that turned into a blister by the end.
It might be helpful to note that this is a popular trail. Prepare to be among others. If you’re a solo hiker, you might enjoy knowing that other people will be nearby (especially on a weekend). There were less folks closer to the falls, but you likely won’t have this one to yourself.
Have you hiked or camped at Ribbon Falls? Did you make it to Ribbon Lake? Share your experience in the comments below!
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