The Wasootch Ridge hike in Kananaskis follows a challenging route over multiple peaks and features an optional scramble. Along this route you can expect to find stunning mountain top views as well as dramatic valleys on either side of the ridge.
Wasootch Ridge is a Kananaskis fan favourite!
Looking for more hikes in Kananaskis? Click here.
Now, let’s go hiking!
- How to get to the Wasootch Ridge trailhead
- About the Wastootch Ridge trail
- Summiting Wasootch Ridge
- Recommended hiking gear
- What to wear hiking
- Where to stay in Kananaskis Country
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How to get to the Wasootch Ridge Trailhead
The Wasootch Ridge trailhead is located in Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park which is in Kananaskis Country; my favourite hiking destination in the Canadian Rockies! The trailhead is around 1 hour away from both Banff and Calgary.
The trailhead parking lot, located just off Highway 40 (AKA Kananaskis Way) isn’t overly large, so you may have to park alongside the road. If you want to ensure you get a spot, arrive early.
Note that you’ll need a Kananaskis conservation pass to visit Kananaskis.
About the Wasootch Ridge Trail
- Distance: 13.4km
- Elevation gain: 931m
- Rated: hard
- Type of trail: out & back
- Estimated time: 5.5 hours
The Wasootch Ridge trail is a challenging hike that features multiple peaks; 5 smaller peaks and one larger peak with a scramble. The trail is well trafficked and is best hiked from April to October.
The Wasootch Ridge hike can be completed earlier in the season, however there is oftentimes snow until late in the season, so it’s recommended users bring micro-spikes. I hiked Wasootch Ridge mid May and luckily came across no snow or icy conditions.
Of course, pay attention to conditions and check out the Kananaskis Valley trail report prior to hiking. Users can hike Wasootch in the winter, however it is very steep and slippery: bring micro-spikes and poles for sure. And ONLY attempt the final peak you have mountaineering experience/avalanche training.
The trailhead is unmarked and is located on the East side of the parking lot; behind the wooden picnic tables. If you’ve reached the big trail sign, you’ve gone too far.
Summiting Wasootch Ridge
As I previously mentioned, the Wasootch Ridge trailhead is located behind the picnic tables. It’s unmarked, but you’ll know you’ve found it if the trail starts gaining steep elevation through a forested section.
The initial part of the Wasootch Ridge hike is an absolute leg burner; this is where you’ll gain the majority of the elevation. However it doesn’t last too long (30-45 minutes) until you break the tree line and things start levelling out.
Once you break the tree line you’ll find views of Barrier Lake to the North and Nakiska ski resort to the South.
Traversing Wasootch Ridge
Once you reach the ridge, you’ll come in and out of a few forested sections as you trek across multiple small(er) peaks. This section is not overly strenuous which gives you a chance to chill and take in the surrounding views as you make your way across.
Note that this hike gets quite chilly and windy, so it’s advised you bring layers and a jacket. I’ve put together this guide which outlines what to wear for Rocky Mountain hiking, however I’ve got my favourite jackets linked here.
The photo below outlines the “end” of the hike, unless you’re up for a scramble.
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Scramble up the Final Peak on Wasootch Ridge
Once you see the final large peak, the scrambling begins. For a short while you’ll continue waking along flat terrain, until the trail moves downwards and to the right.
^You’ll notice there’s one point in the trail where you’re not sure if the trail goes straight up or down to the right… It’s down to the right. Although I did see a handful of people climbing straight up to the top of the ridge. Only attempt the top of the ridge if you’re a very experienced scrambler as it can get quite sketchy.
This section of the Wasootch Ridge hike gets a little nervewracking for those afraid of heights. As you trek alongside the ridge, there’ll be a steep drop to the valley floor to your right.
After a while the trail will start gaining more significant elevation. This section is where you’ll need to use your hands and where the Wasootch Ridge hike turns into a scramble.
This scramble is a bit technical as you’ll face loose rock as well as large rocks you’ll need to navigate around. Take your time, be aware of other hikers, and engage in proper scrambling safety.
Once you reach the top of the ridge again it’ll only be a quick trek to the final peak!
A Word on the Return Hike
It’s highly recommended that users take the same route on the descent as they did on the ascent. There is a route that takes hikers down directly from the final peak and back along Wasootch Creek. This route however is extremely steep and very dangerous for those who have minimal scrambling experience.
This alternate route is especially dangerous during the offseason when snow and ice is abundant on Wasootch Ridge.
On the regular return route – if you plan to backtrack down to the lower trail again – make sure you take the same trail as you did on the ascent. I accidentally started descending too early and got caught in a little rockslide that could have been deadly.
Wasootch Ridge is an excellent hike, but users do need to take necessary precautions and be aware of their surroundings on the scramble!
Explore More Hikes In Kananaskis
Kananaskis is an area just outside of Banff that’s made up of multiple Wildland Areas and Provincial Parks. Kananaskis is my favourite hiking destination in the Canadian Rockies, so I urge you to explore more hikes in the area!
Click here to explore more of Kananaskis.
Featured Kananaskis Hikes:
- Cool Experiences: Yamnuska scramble, Mist Mountain hot springs, Grotto winter canyon walk.
- Ridge Walks: Pocaterra Ridge, Sarrail Ridge & Rawson Lake, Opal Ridge, Tent Ridge, and Wasootch Ridge.
- Summits: EEOR and Ha Ling.
- Incredible Scenery/Lakes: West Wind Pass, Picklejar Lakes, and Grassi Lakes.
Explore Kananaskis Country by Area:
Visit National Parks Nearby:
Looking for more hikes? Click here to explore all of my trail guides.
Recommended Hiking Gear
The following items are some of my favourites – I never hit the trail without them!
The Capture Clip by Peak Design is a sturdy, safe, and super convenient way to carry your camera while hiking or backpacking.
Find it on Amazon (CAD).
Find it on Peak Design (US).
A hydration reservoir is SO important. It holds 2L+ of water and keeps you hydrated on-trail. I use the 2L Hydrapak; it never leaks and has a detachable tube.
What To Wear Hiking in the Rockies
For a detailed guide on what to wear hiking in the Canadian Rockies, check out this post.
Choosing what to wear hiking can be confusing, but the secret to properly dressing for a hike is layering. You can mix and match the tops and bottoms you already own to make up your base layers, however in addition to those clothes you’ll need a few extra things:
A waterproof jacket is the most important layer for hiking – it keeps you warm and protects you from wind and rain. I use the Marmot Eco Precip Jacket (men’s version) which is totally a bang-for-your-buck. If rain is in the forecast, don’t forget to pack waterproof pants (men’s version) too.
A good pair of hiking boots are Gore-tex, provide ankle support, and are durable. I use the Scarpa Kailash boot (men’s version) and they’ve never let me down. You’ll also want a good quality pair of socks. I use Smartwool – they’re great quality and last an entire season.
Rocky Mountain hiking exposes you to different natural elements and conditions – it’s imperative that you’re prepared for whatever nature throws at you. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way!
More: Day-hiking Gear Guide
Where to Stay in Kananaskis Country
Unless you plan on camping, there are very limited options for accommodations within Kananaskis Country itself. Here are a few options for every budget:
- Camping – Kananaskis offers tons of camping facilities scattered throughout the area and they almost always have availability. If you’re one to free-camp, Kananaskis has PLUZ (Public Land Use Zones) and Wildland areas, both of which you can random camp in for free. This is something I have yet to figure out in the Kananaskis region, but if you’re interested you can find more information about it here
- Hostels – Hostels are almost always cheaper than staying in a hotel or air bib. Kananaskis is home to the HI-Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel.
- Budget Hotel – Crosswaters Resort in Kananaskis Village.
- Luxury Stay – the Kananaskis Mountain Lodge is one of the most luxurious getaways in the Banff-region. The mountain lodge is home to the Kananaskis Nordic Spa which has the nicest heated pools and saunas! Alternatively, check out the Mount Engadine Lodge.
- Stay nearby – as I mentioned, accommodations in Kananaskis are limited. Instead you may want to look for hotels in Canmore or Banff.
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About The Author
Hey! I’m Taylor – the voice behind The Holistic Backpacker.
After moving to Banff National Park in 2020 I became an outdoor adventure enthusiast and vowed to never stop exploring.
I’m now focused on travelling the world and seeing everything our beautiful home has to offer.
I created The Holistic Backpacker so I could share my adventures and help connect people like you with the same amazing experiences.
I am also an advocate for the environment and do as much as I can to take care of our planet.
Get to know me and my story more here 🙂
I can’t wait to share my adventures with you!