Vents Ridge is a fun, short hike near Bragg Creek that passes the White Buddha climbing and bouldering area.
As we head southwest on Highway 66, along the Elbow River, the mountains get bigger and bigger. Cows graze on the side of the road, and raptors ride the thermals. Elbow Falls Day Use is busy, as usual, but there’s still parking at the end of the lot.
Since the winter gate is closed, we must walk a kilometre on the road to Powderface Creek Trailhead. The crowds dissipate after Prairie Creek, and soon we’re on the forested trail, climbing steadily uphill. About a kilometre from the trailhead, we cross a bridge; and 400 metres later, we take the small, unsigned turnoff to Vents Ridge. The trail heading up the steep hill on the right is narrow, but well-traveled.
Most of the elevation gain takes place after the turnoff: over 200+ metres of gain in 600 metres. Halfway up, we stop to catch our breath, and admire Myosotis Peak. As we approach the cliffs (White Buddha / Prairie Crag climbing and bouldering area), we put rock helmets on and hike close together to avoid kicking rocks on each other.
Following the trail to the right, along the base of the cliffs, we pass a few small groups climbing and bouldering. Although we never saw what looked like a Buddha, we had fun looking for faces in the rocks. When the cliffs peter out, it’s a short scramble uphill (to the left) to the ridgetop. This section is steep with loose rock, and there is some exposure at the summit, so keep kids close.
From the summit, you can see Nihahi Ridge on your left (west); Prairie Mountain, the large mountain straight in front of you (north); and downtown Calgary on the right (east). Explore the ridge and return the way you came. While it’s possible to descend the other side of the ridge and return via Prairie Creek, it’s super steep and some bushwhacking may be required.
Fun fact: Vents Ridge is named for five vents near the summit that you can see on a frosty/snowy day (though I don’t recommend going here when the slope is snow covered).
Vents Ridge at a Glance
- Distance: 2 km one way (add on 1 km from Elbow Falls from December 1 – May 14; see note below)
- Elevation Gain: 300 metres
- Chariot-friendly? No
- Nearest washrooms: Powderface Creek Trailhead (may be closed in the off season)
- Trailhead: Powderface Creek Trailhead
- Parking: Powderface Creek (May 15 – November 30) or Elbow Falls (December 1 – May 14)
Seasonal Road Closure: From December 1 – May 14, you must park at Elbow Falls Parking Lot and walk 1 km past the winter gate to the trailhead. Parking along the road is not permitted.
Know Before You Go
- There is a risk of rockfall as you travel below and along the cliffs – and on the final section to the ridgetop. Rock helmets recommended.
- The last 50 metres is very steep with loose rock (good intro to scrambling). Be sure to yell “Rock!” if you accidentally dislodge a rock.
- DO NOT THROW ROCKS from the top. Climbers below!
What to Bring
In winter conditions, traction devices such as Kahtoola Microspikes (Available from Amazon, MEC, and Camper’s Village), or Hillsound Trail Crampons (Available at Amazon, Hillsound, and Sport Chek) are recommended.
More Elbow Valley Hiking Trails
- Elbow Falls
- Forget-me-not Pond
- Fullerton Loop
- Prairie Mountain
- Powderface Ridge
- Sunrise Hill and Powder Puff