The Trail Creek parking area and Trail Creek trail has always struck me as being completely useless for hiking up to Powderface Ridge. However, I have recently come across a trail that connects to the top of North Powderface Ridge, resulting in a very pleasant loop from this little trailhead.
Compared to the popular, but unofficial trailhead at the high point of the Powderface Road, the Trail Creek trailhead is 100 m lower in elevation and nearly twice as far from Powderface (Three Trail) Pass. If you are just hiking up onto Powderface Ridge, it makes more sense to start higher and arrive at the pass after a short 1.3 km walk. But if you can make a loop hike, then it seems sensible to start and finish at the lowest point. The section between the north end of Powderface Ridge and the Trail Creek trailhead can be hard to find from the top, so I’ll describe the route in a clockwise direction.
From the spot where the Trail Creek Trail crosses the Powderface Road, walk north along the road for about 300 metres, past a creek to the point where a grassy rib meets the road on your right. Turn east and walk up this grassy rib, then follow the edge of the embankment for another 300 m. The route then turns north (left) and follows an open rib uphill for a short distance before making several switchbacks up about 250 m elevation to the ridge-crest. The route is clear of deadfall and is marked with some old blazes, a few bits of flagging and some small rock cairns.
Once you get to ridge-crest, you can see the wide open, broad, grassy ridgeline of North Powderface Ridge, curving around in a great arc back towards Powderface Pass. Just follow the ridge-top around to the high point at the NE corner of the loop. This is the the end of the North Powderface Ridge hike (#56A) as decribed in Volume 2 of the 4th edition of the Kananaskis Country Trail Guide. Just reverse the directions in the guidebook to get yourself to Powderface (Three Trails) Pass. This section is a glorious walk on a broad ridge, with views in every direction. The western view is dominated by the full length of Nihahi Ridge. Looking north, you can see past Jumpingpound Ridge to Yamnuska and the Fairholme Range on the other side of the Bow Valley. Turning to the east, you see Moose Mountain, Prairie Mountain and the Elbow Valley all the way back to Calgary. As you head south, you get ever changing views of Powderface Ridge, Iyhare Ipan and the Banded Peak-Glasgow-Cornwall peaks, looking especially impressive with a blanket of snow.
From the trail sign at Powderface (Three Trail) Pass, turn west (right) and follow the official trial downhill for 1.1 km. At the junction, keep right to stay on the official Trail Creek trail. If you miss this junction, you’ll end up at the popular (but unofficial) trailhead within 200 m. Just backtrack and return to the Trail Creek trail.
From the junction, it is a gentle 1.3 km descent back to your car. Despite the fact that this section of trail roughly parallels the Powderface Road, it is a pleasant trail with a couple of nice viewpoints. The total loop is about 7 kilometers in length, with approximately 450 m of elevation gains and there are excellent views for over half of that distance. It’s a great loop for the fall shoulder season and for early June flowers!
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