Tent Ridge is one of my favorite hikes in all of Alberta. Just an hour’s drive from Canmore in the Spray Valley is this beautiful loop trail. It’s the perfect hike with amazing views of the surrounding mountains and lakes. In summer you’ll find wildflowers and bird watching.
If you’re looking for a quick, but moderately difficult hike Tent Ridge is a must do. Let’s dig in with all the details.
Tent Ridge Hike
How Long does Hiking Tent Ridge Take?
Tent Ridge Horseshoe is a 10-kilometer loop trail. We are reasonably fit but by no means the fastest hikers in Canmore (I would call us faster than average) This trail took us about 5 hours, with LOTS of photo stops as it was too beautiful, and a lunch break near the satellite tower. If we weren’t taking any photos or video (or waiting around for great light at sunset), we would have been able to do this loop hike in four hours.
How Hard is Tent Ridge Trail?
Although AllTrails rates this as hard, I would put it slightly above moderate. There are a few steep pitches that will have you panting, but I believe the real reason it’s rated as hard is because of the scramble up (or down depending on which way you go), from the ridge. I saw all ages of life on this trail, the scramble was slightly exposed and very short lived, but nothing too sketchy.
Which Way Should I Hike Tent Ridge?
Since this is a loop trail from the parking area you have two ways you can begin your ascent. The most obvious one is to the right of the parking area because it is more visible from where you park. This will take you up a steep climb, and you’ll move counterclockwise on the ridge, ending with a steep scramble down.
I do not recommend going this way, and instead, walking to the left of the parking lot until you find the trail and going clockwise for two reasons. Number one, then you just have the steep scramble up, and not down, making it much less scary. Number two, because once you summit the ridge you’ll have breathtaking 360° views of Spray Lakes for the remainder of the ridgeline.
When Can You Hike Tent Ridge?
This trail would be best between June and October, though I’ve seen photos in the winter and the images are gorgeous. Just make sure you have gaiters, crampons, and poles if you decide to do a winter hike. You’re also in an avalanche prone area, so taking an AST1 course and having some avalanche knowledge would be extremely wise.
We hiked this trail on Canada Day weekend (July 1st). There were a few spots with slushy snow, but for the most part, it was a dry trail. It’s still the mountains though, and the weather changes rapidly. When we started this hike, it was a bright sunny day. When we reached the top of the ridge it was snowing, and the wind was howling, no views at all.
Then as we walked further along the ridge the clouds passed and the sun made a wonderful appearance again. Make sure that you’re fully prepared for any adventure out in the mountains or you’ll have a miserable/dangerous time. See our hiking gear recommendations here.
How Busy is Tent Ridge Hike?
We set out for Tent Ridge on a beautiful weekday afternoon. When we reached the car park there were about 10 other cars parked. We passed maybe 20 people on our way up, they were all hiking counter-clockwise direction – the one I don’t suggest going.
Towards the end of the day, we found a few people who just came up for sunset, but not to hike the whole loop – and one trail runner.
AllTrails rates this as a heavily trafficked trail, but compared to so many more in Banff and Kananaskis I would say this is a moderately trafficked trail, and you’ll have plenty of space to enjoy nature. You have to drive quite a ways to reach it, past Mount Engadine Lodge, which probably keeps numbers down.
What About Dogs and Kids on Tent Ridge?
Most of the trail is moderate, but as mentioned before there is a steep scramble either up or down. Only experienced trail dogs should tackle this, and young children should be left at home.
Wildlife Awareness On Tent Ridge
If you’re on any hikes in Kananaskis you should practice proper wildlife awareness. In the region, there are frequent sightings of black bears, grizzly bears, moose, coyotes, and cougars. They all a potential threat to humans and we should reduce our impact on their natural lives.
Before any hike or walk in Banff National Park or Kananaskis Country, you need to have bear spray. Remember that the bear spray is worthless if it’s in your pack, you’ll need to be able to grab this in two seconds or less in an emergency. We wear our bear sprays on our hip.
When you’re on the trail make noise by banging hiking poles, talking, whistling, clapping, or singing. This is particularly important around blind bends and corners, which there are many at the start and end of the Tent Ridge hike. You’re through the deep woods during these times, and it’s prime time to sneak up on a bear. Once you’re on the ridge, you’re safer as you can see wildlife from afar, but still, don’t let your guard down and keep the bear spray on you just in case.
As always while hiking you need to stay alert, travel in a group, mind children and pets, and finally carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it. If you’ve come to the park without bear spray Valhalla Pure Outfitters in town sells spray and holders with employees who will demonstrate how to use properly.
Things to do in Nearby Canmore
- Grab A Beer at the Tavern 1883: It doesn’t matter the season, but to end any day with a local craft beer in the stunning Rockies is the perfect day. The drink and food here are great and we always have a good time.
- SUP: There is no secret that Canada has some stunning lakes, more than any country in the world. Canmore has a wide selection of waterways itself and there are so many water activities that visitors can do in the area. One of those things that have made its way from the coast is stand up paddleboarding. Bow Valley Stand Up Paddleboarding has been operating in Canmore for the past five years and offers rentals, lessons, and sales.
- Grotto Canyon: An easy hike that’s good year-round is Grotto Canyon. Even in the winter, this famous canyon with rock art is possible to walk along the frozen creek. In the summertime, it’s popular for families seeking to enjoy the narrow slot canyon and climbers looking to scale its walls. At only 4km in length, you can check this one off the list in an hour or two.
- Indoor Rock Climbing at Elevation Place: Though rock climbing isn’t for the faint of heart, you don’t have to put your life at risk clinging to a sheer rock face thousands of feet up to experience it. That’s just what they had in mind when they created Elevation Place – the place to go in Canmore to see what the climbing hype is all about. It’s also a great place for expert-level climbers to practice their moves.
Advice on Hikes in the Canadian Rockies
If this is your first time hiking in the Rockies take a conservative approach. Pick an adequate hike for your fitness, plan for plenty of time, pack water and food, and don’t be afraid to turn around. If you want to learn more about what to wear hiking we have a great post.
For long hikes, set a turn around time at the departure. Any time we set out for an objective I determine a time at which we need to turn around in order to arrive at the parking lot or campsite by dark. I would recommend not hiking in the dark as it’s easy to get lost and it’s not fun in bear country.
On that note, always carry bear spray if you plan to hike in the park. We carry ours in the neighborhood and bears have been known to stroll through town and busy parking lots. Always practice wildlife awareness when you’re on a trail, and please give animals space.
In regards to times keep in mind your mountain fitness — different than the gym. The low end of the times in this post is a constant fast pace uphill with little to no breaks and a brisk pace downhill. Most hikers should plan for a middle of the road time with the estimated duration.
It’s also super important to know that there are limitations and to come prepared. These are very serious mountains and it easy to get in well over your head with life-threatening consequences.
Lastly, a GPS tracker could save your life – it’s one of those backpacking essentials I like to have on me just in case I need to hit SOS.
Alltrails is our favorite app to have on a hike. It shows the correct trail way, elevation, and other hiker reviews. We paid the subscription fee so that we could download all the data we need to our phones. Best $2.50 (per month) ever spent!
What to Wear On a Hike?
The most basic principle of what to wear hiking is layering. Anyone that has spent time in wilderness or mountains can speak to the fact your temperature can fluctuate a lot on a hike. You can easily start off cool at the base of the mountain and get hot as soon as you begin moving.
The goal of hiking clothing is to help regulate your body temperature, element protection, and moisture management. Temperature management is best done through a layering system if you want to learn more about what to pack for a day hike or what to wear on a hike, you can see our full post! Here are the best hiking clothes for men and the best hiking clothes for women.
Other Kananaskis Country Hikes
There are so many more great hikes in the Kananaskis Country Provincial Park or you can check out some awesome Banff hikes. Both are home to some of our all-time favorite hikes and scrambles in the region. To learn more, we’ve got a post on our favorite hikes in Kananaskis Country.