How to Hike Wasootch Ridge in Kananaskis Country

Wasootch Ridge is a favorite hike near Canmore in Kananaskis Country. This Kananaskis hike is straightforward to follow and gains quick elevation, then travels along a ridge that delivers spectacular views. The roadway slowly evaporates from view on the ridge before a challenging scramble to the peak.

There is a scramble at the end of the ridge, which can be avoided, and the trail is plenty wide enough for the first 5km with no exposure. The result is a dog/kid-friendly hike that doesn’t need to be completed in its entirety to enjoy, as the views are great early on the trail. It also happens to be the first hike we completed in the Canadian Rockies.


Wasootch Ridge Key Stats

Infographic for hike length
Length

13.4 km

Infographic For Hike duration
Duration

3 – 7 hours

Infographic For Hike Elevation Gain
Elevation

931 m

Infographic for difficulty of hike
Difficulty

Moderate

Infographic For Trailhead
Trailhead

Wasootch Day Use Area


Hiking Wasootch Ridge Trail

Wasootch Ridge starts off hard at the beginning with a leg-burning climb right out of the parking lot. The parking lot is a little confusing as there are several trails through the woods leading up the ridge and a path along the creek. Head up through the woods near the beginning of the parking area in a southeast direction.

wasootch ridge
The start of Wasootch Ridge, where most of the elevation gain comes in
wasootch ridge

The trail through the woods is not technical, with plenty of traction on dirt. Once you come out of the forest takes 20-30 minutes; depending on your fitness, you’ll be treated to some fantastic views of Barrier Lake to the North and Nakiska to the South.

wasootch ridge in kananaskis
On the ridge

The hike then continues along the ridge for several kilometers, where you’ll climb up and down a series of five “peaks.” Towards the final and tallest point, the ridge turns into a scramble.

wasootch ridge scramble
The exposed scramble section

The scramble is difficult with several moves that are high exposure. Its first technical move may be the most exposed, with a rock less than a meter wide and a tall rock wall on either side. This section of the trail should only be attempted by advanced hikers/scramblers. The vast majority of hikers either turn around before this point or at the beginning of the scramble.

The view above is towards the end of the scramble before the last few moves arrive at the final peak. Most hikers do not see this view.

In hindsight, I’ve researched that it is possible to avoid the scramble by descending the ridge on the and traversing before ascending for the peak again. From here, it’s only the halfway point as you turn around and make your way back to the parking lot along the same trail. It is possible to descend the backside of the peak for a circuit, but the descent involves bushwacking and loose scree.

wasootch ridge scramble
We turned around shortly after this.

Past reviews discourage this route as it’s dangerous, a pain, and then ends with a long walk out of Wasootch Creek, so it’s best to return the way you came making Wasootch Ridge an out and back hike and not a loop.

wasootch ridge
Heading back down

Gear We Recommend

Salomon Speedcross 5

Salomon Speedcross 5

The vast majority of hikes and easy scrambles in the Rockies, you’ll find us in our trusty Salomon Speedcross.

Arc'teryx Cerium Hoody

Arc’teryx Cerium

Arc’teryx Cerium is our pick for the best down jacket. It’s incredibly light, and we bring it on almost every hike in the Rockies.

Peak Design Capture Clip

PD Capture Clip

This nifty clip from Peak Design secures a camera to my backpack strap for easy reach. No more digging in the backpack!

Hiking Poles

Hiking Poles

A pair of durable and lightweight hiking poles are a great asset on the hiking trail. 

Gregory Nano Backpack

Gregory Nano 20L

20L feels like the ideal size for quick hikes and scrambles. We love the Nano from Gregory with a hydration reservoir.

Garmin Inreach Mini

Garmin Inreach Mini

There is not much cell service in the Canadian Rockies. In case of emergencies, we carry an emergency beacon with GPS.


Wasootch Ridge Trail Duration

wasootch ridge hike in kananaskis

The trail is 15.4 km in length and has an elevation gain of 850 meters. You should expect a long hike day out. We spent around 7 hours on the tail and took time for photos and lunch with no rush to finish. It’s a stunning hike and the perfect place to unwind in nature.


How Hard Is Wasootch Ridge Trail?

wasootch ridge hike
Look at those views!

Although AllTrails rates this as hard, we would put it slightly above moderate. The initial onset is very steep and will have your legs burning, but it’s a very moderate trail once past that. The other reason for a hard rating is the exposed scramble that can be avoided on the trail. We saw all ages of life on this trail.


When Can You Hike Wasootch Ridge?

Wasootch Ridge is a great trail to do all year round. This trail would be best between April 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.

It receives a lot of sun exposure, and since it’s not as high as many other trails, it is one of the first for the snow to melt. We hiked in early June, and the path was dry with only a patch or two of snow underneath a few trees. With a pair of microspikes, gaiters, and poles, you could easily handle this trail with a bit of snow in February or March.


How Popular Is Wasootch Ridge?

Wasootch Ridge is one of the most popular hikes in Kananaskis country, so I wouldn’t expect to have the trail to yourself. With that being said, it’s nothing like the more popular easy trails of the Bow Valley Parkway or around Banff.

We hiked Wasootch Ridge on a beautiful weekend day and found a full parking lot. On the trail, it’s easy to find your space, but you’ll pass another group every so often. Families and people are walking their dogs on the trail. If you’d like a more crowd-free experience, head out on a midweek day!


Is Wasootch Ridge Family and Dog Friendly?

Most of the trail is moderate, but there is a steep climb up and down, as mentioned at the beginning. However, once you’re on the ridge, it’s a moderate hike. Big dogs should handle the trail just fine, and it’s widespread to see dogs on the trail. Rember to bring a leash harness.

rIt’s the law and proper trail etiquette. Children above eight should be fine. We did see one family on the hike, but of course, every child is different, and you’ll know their fitness best.

Kananaskis Conservation Pass

Visitors are now required to hold a Kananaskis Conservation Pass. The area covered in the pass includes Kananaskis and the Bow Valley corridor. Passes may be purchased online and are attached to a license plate number. Requirements are around vehicles and parking, not the individual. This includes parking at the Canmore Nordic Center or Grassi Lakes.

This is a new law in effect for 2021, and we hope the newly generated revenue increases the budget for Alberta Parks. Better conservation and visitor experience is a win for all.

Kananaskis Conservation Pass Prices
  • Daily Pass: $15 (registers one vehicle)
  • Annual Pass: $90 (registers two vehicles)
About Natasha

Natasha Alden lives in Canmore, Alberta. After traveling across six continents and 80 countries with Cameron, she settled down in the stunning Canadian Rockies. She loves to help others travel and make their planning easier. She is a winter enthusiast and loves to snowboard, ice skate, and snowshoe and enjoy all the fantastic summer opportunities in Banff like hiking, scrambling, and biking. You can find her in the mountains or enjoying a coffee by the river.

Learn more on the about us page.

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