Ribbon Creek Trail

Iced waterfall after iced waterfall. Curtains of icicles, some as tall as a man. A creek, still flowing with a swift current even in early December, filling the landscape with its gurgling sounds. Steep canyon walls, worn smooth and carved into gracefully curving shapes by the passage of water over time. Large waterfalls, still visibly flowing behind thin & transparent ice sheets, plunging into rocky, snow covered basins below. Startling blue ice clinging to cliff walls. And massive, towering mountains, like Mount Kidd, Mount Bogart and Ribbon Peak standing watch far above. This is what the narrow, Ribbon Creek Valley was like on the unseasonably warm December morning that we set out to hike her lovely trails.

There are some trails in our mountains that are very popular on a hot, sunny, summer’s day… but we really don’t enjoy hiking with the crowds. On this early December day, we decided to set out on one that is often a busy back country camping access route in the summer, to explore an exceptionally beautiful valley that we have so far, only seen from its passes far above. And it was a success! We spent the entire day hiking 25km in and out, and came across only one other couple, briefly, on our journey. That kind of solitude is magnificent!

We got to the trailhead early in the morning, so that we could maximize daylight on what would be our last great hike of the season.

Ribbon Creek rolls along like this, right beside the parking lot at the trailhead.

The first four kilometres of the trail follow a wide, multi-use skiing, biking and hiking trail in Kananaskis country, close to the Kananaskis Village.

Once you leave the main trail, it narrows at this tree trunk sculpture… a fun way to beautify the trail in a blow down section of the forest! There was a bit of ice on the trail, but nothing our micro spikes couldn’t handle.

The Wizard Stump marks access to the new trail, that goes on higher ground and adds a bit of distance to the hike, replacing the heavily damaged sections of the trail that were hit hard during the flood of 2013.

At times the creek is shallow and gentle like this.
And then at times, it narrows as it passes through a crack in a tougher band of rock in the valley floor, creating small canyons like this one. We just had to go in and take a peek.
This is what was around that corner.
Our trail headed upstream. The ice was just beginning to form on the rocks, spreading like strange, circular crystal jackets on any debris in the creek’s wake and choking its passage between rocks. Winter, ever tightening  its grip on the stream’s flow with these ice collars was having its way with this valley.
Mountains like Ribbon Peak and Mount Bogart loomed large overhead, hemming in the valley. We were so deep on the valley bottom, that we never saw the sunlight that bathed this mountain’s top.
And still there were little mini canyons, trailside… do you see where the water is disappearing as it drops into one at the top of this photo?
At one point, the creek widened incredibly, and we followed a series of cairns across the rock debris eroded from its shore.
We poked along, exploring the little canyons and chutes.

We picked a tea and cookie spot that had a natural rock bench (that would be under water with spring runoff flows!), perched on the side of the canyon, with a waterfall rushing past. It was spectacular.

The rest of our hike took us along the canyon, following Ribbon Creek to the back country campgrounds of Ribbon Creek Falls and Ribbon Creek Lake, the creek’s source (we didn’t quite make it there as the weather turned and the snows began).
Ribbon Falls were dramatic. They towered above us, and though they were covered in blue ice (a stunning beauty in and of itself), there were transparent sections where we could still see the water moving through. We stopped on a bench here and had lunch, wrapped in our reflective tarp to keep out the winds & trap our warmth. The weather was turning, so we knew we had only a short time left.
We tried to get as far as the chains, an area where you use a tethered metal cable to get across a cliff… we had wanted to see if our dog would be able to do it in the summer. But the weather was turning and we were no longer in a safe area (avalanche slope), so it was time to turn back, just shy of our goal.
As the snows fell softly on us, we headed back down the valley, past the beautiful falls, past countless mini waterfalls and rock steps, and along into the deep, protected valley, back to the trailhead.

We were so thrilled to get such a long hike in so late in the season. Hiking the first week of December in relatively mild temps with very little snow and having the trail virtually to ourselves was a fantastic end to a stellar hiking season.

If you would like to see what the hike and falls look like in the summer, with higher water volumes, click here.

Click here for more terrific hikes in Kananaskis Country (Canmore Area). And check out more hikes from Canada and our adventures around the world here.


17 Comments on “Ribbon Creek Trail

    • There’s nothing like it. Many people stay away so you get the trails virtually to yourself. You just need to have some avalanche training under your belt so you can read the slopes and pick your trails properly. Soon, it’ll be time to switch to snowshoeing. I heard that the moose have been out licking road salt off parked cars at the trailhead of one of our favourite snowshoe trails… something I need to check out soon!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Why, snowshoeing and cross country skiing, of course! 🙂 I’m heading back to Ontario for Christmas, and there’s only hills and bumps there (no matter what they might say of their ski hills! ha!) so it will have to wait until January, but I plan to post about some of our favourite hikes from this summer (from before I began my blog). I might have to get it vicariously through those pictures… but being that they’re summer pics, that might be a form of cruel & unusual punishment!

      Liked by 1 person

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