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Johnson Creek Ridge
Kananaskis, Alberta
February 2, 2013
Distance: 12.0 km
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 599 m

Winter hikes in the foothills are usually bland affairs, but once in a while I find a trip that is surprising, filled with adventure. However, this isn't one of those trips. Still, the unnamed ridge, the highest point in what Gillean calls the Johnson Creek Hills, has much to offer, including an easy approach on ATV trails (half the trip was on trails) and sweeping views of the foothills. The approach is longer than the one Gillean suggests, but it avoids wading Johnson Creek. Also, it's not stopped by a winter gate closure.

Dinah and I parked just past the bridge on Hwy 532, near Indian Graves Ridge. We made our way to a gate on our left: the trailhead. The trail runs straight as an arrow for the first kilometre before reaching a clearing where it forks. We continued straight ahead. A kilometre later, the trail split again. We kept right. The trail wended right and climbed over a low ridge, but we wanted to take this ridge to the lower slopes of Johnson Creek Ridge. So we left the trail and followed the ridgeline (very easy offtrail stuff) to a cutline where we picked up another ATV trail. After 400 m, it made a sharp right so we left it. The rest of our ascent was offtrail.

After hiking a short distance in the same general direction (southwest), a deep gully barred the way. No surprise as it shows on the topo map. We stayed on the ridge until the gully rose up and drew nearly level with us. We dropped down a bit and crossed the gully at a cutline. The cutline soon ended, but it pointed us in the right direction: up. We encountered few difficulties bushwhacking up the slope, but the snow depth increased as we climbed until we were hitting pockets that were knee-deep. When we gained the ridge, the summit lay just 800 m south.

Thankfully that 800 m wasn't solid forest. Huge, windswept expanses of grass and rock broke it up, sparing us the misery of prolonged bushwhacking and postholing. And those same large clearings provided substantial vistas northwest, including Hailstone Butte and Sentinel Peak.

After crossing the last clearing, we entered the forest and found a tiny summit cairn. Because of the trees crowding it, summit views were left to our imagination. Okay, so the summit on Johnson Creek Ridge isn't great, and the journey to it isn't ever likely to be exciting, but we still thought it a pleasant hike considering it was the middle of winter.

KML and GPX Tracks

Johnson Creek Ridge from Hwy 532. We parked at the bridge below and gained the ridge left of the small point on the right.

The trailhead

Snowmobilers had kindly pounded down the snow on the trail for us

The trail continues over the ridge, but we left it at the top and followed the ridgeline left (mouse over to look back)

After leaving the trail, Johnson Creek Ridge still appears far away

A break in the trees provides a view northeast, including Corral Mountain (right, mouse over)

At the cutline, we caught another trail but left it when it turns right. The summit is ahead.

After leaving the trail, we skirted the deep gully on our right until it became easy to cross

After going around the gully, we started up a cutline

Gentle at first, the slope steepened as we climbed

Breaking out into the open on the ridge well before the summit

The clearings always ended, forcing us back into the trees

Climber higher, the views only improved

Standing by the summit cairn (under my left pole)

Heading back down

82 J/1 Langford Creek

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