If you’re in Calgary and you want to get to one of the most beautiful areas in the world, Kananaskis is just 45 minutes away. Bonus – There is no park pass required to visit Bragg Creek and the Elbow River Valley. You’ll find hundreds of kilometers of trails for hiking with your kids, horseback riding, cycling, cross country skiing, and off-roading.
There is a lifetime of hikes in Kananaskis alone. Panoramic vistas of the Rocky Mountains to the west and the foothills, beautiful prairies and the City of Calgary to the east.
There are a few other great hikes in the area including Nihahi Ridge, Nihahi Creek, Rainy Summit and Prairie Mountain. The little elbow parking lot also offers access to a beautiful crystal clear mountain pond called Forgetmenot. Bring your canoe, paddleboard or small boat, I have even seen people chillin’ on inflatables as well. Scuba diving is also popular at the pond and if you are a true mountain man/woman or just a crazy person you can jump right in for a 0-degree swim.
The Forgetmenot Ridge hike is a hard one for sure. Bring your kids for the first half or if they are seasoned champs go straight for the summit. The hike starts off nice and mellow and then goes straight up and just before you start wondering why you decided to hike this one, the trail mellows out again. Forgetmenot Ridge offers some fantastic views of Forgetmenot pond and the front ranges of the Kananaskis mountains. Well worth the grind.
The hike starts in the easily accessible little elbow parking lot at the very end of Hwy 66 a short 45-minute drive from Calgary.
The first 3KM of the hike is relatively flat and starts easy on a wide gravel on the way to Chapman Bridge and the first crossing of the Elbow River. Below is my 5-year-old son posing in front of Mt. Glasgow.
Follow the wide gravel path from the parking area until you come across a pedestrian sign with the Big Elbow Trail marker.
Follow this marker to the Harold Chapman Bridge.
These are popular trails for equestrians – if you are horseback riding you will have to ford the river here as horses are not allowed over this bridge.
A view over the chapman bridge.
The little elbow trail map has seen better days but the most important parts are still there. My 8-year-old son is keeping us on track.
Through the gravel flats and one very a”ford”able river crossing. Make sure you bring a pair of sandals, water shoes or someone who is willing to carry you across.
We hiked this in late summer – other times of the year this area of the river could be dangerous. If it looks dangerous it probably is – Don’t risk it. Check out this link for tips on how to safely ford a river.
A few smaller streams through the gravel flats on the way to Forgetmenot ridge.
Elevation is gained rapidly through the next section of the hike. The little ones didn’t care too much. The DW, on the other hand, commented on how much she enjoyed the burning in her legs. Stop often, have a snack, breathe deep and take in the views.
Taking a rest below on a random stick cemented in the middle of the trail. Well worn from other hikers with the same idea.
Partial view of “Forget me not” pond in the distance.
Breaking through the treeline. Some interesting rock formations – great for a bit of rock scrambling (my youngest sons favorite activity). I always say something like “Ready to scramble some eggs”. He laughs – no one else does – Dad humor, I guess. Perfect for another break and a picture under the beautiful blue sky.
We spent the next half hour or so looking for rocks for the holey trees along the trail. Place your rock on the tree and make a wish. I’ve seen this happening on a few other hikes in the area. Not sure what’s up exactly but the kids thought it was great!
It was this caterpillars lucky day. Little L relocating his new buddy to the side of the trail in an attempt to help him avoid an early death.
Another way to keep things fun for the kids on the trail is geocaching. We were able to locate two small geocaches on the trail to Forgetmenot Ridge.
This small one attached to a tree was rather difficult to find, especially when you expect it to be on the ground. This geocache was classified as micro. Basically a small tube with a registry inside to sign your name.
Continuing up a scree slope to the final ridge top.
Almost there. In front of Mount Glasgow and Banded peak.
You can see the DW in the distance. Reminds you how small we really are. The ridge top resembles a prairie but I assure you it’s not.
Climbing down a rock band on our way to the summit and the second geocache.
Just passed the summit there is a very large rock cairn. If you squint from Hwy 66 you can see it. Little L declares himself the king of the mountain.
At the very peak of the ridge below is a very different view of this spot. I saw a couple of groups turn around at this point. Don’t turn around! This is where the elevation actually starts to flatten out – you have already done all the hard work. Keep on going you are almost to the summit.
A full view of Forgetmenot pond in the distance, the little elbow campground, and parking area. You can see a full view of Nihai Ridge in the background. Awesome!
Interesting things happen everywhere and the mountains are no different. If you have never heard of “Mountain Golfing”, no worries because I haven’t either. The couple in the picture below were “Moutain Golfing”, with full-size clubs and all, never seen it, probably will never see it again. But whatever floats your boat. Just go out and have some fun!
Overall a wonderful but difficult full-day hike with some rewarding views from the top of the ridge. If you look at our GPS tracks below you will see a slight detour for kilometer number 2 – you don’t need to take this unless you want to add some extra miles onto your hike. It was an oops but a very nicely forested detour. Have fun out there!
Random Kananaskis Fact O’ The Day: The limestone mountains that makeup Kananaskis are in part the result of thousands of fossilized sea creatures that are millions of years old.
Ancient pieces of coral reef, shark teeth, and oyster beds have been found in this area. They come from the sea that once covered Alberta. The mountains themselves are covered in a glacier that was once over a kilometer thick – now that’s a lot of ice!