Standing on top of a mountain – the very top, is the pinnacle of hiking. The 360 views, seeing the land, and the other mountains all around gives you a beautiful perspective. The ridge or the summit of Opal gives that beautiful perspective of Kananaskis as you can see the Rocky Mountains erected like a wall as far into the distance. Opal ridge hike is also a great introduction hike to those who are new to this types of hikes; you will either think the effort is too much or maybe just once in a while is good enough.

It’s always good to remember that when you are on top of the mountain you are exposed to all elements. Be prepared for all weather conditions, especially wind and sun. I got cooked into a medium well on this hike.

Getting There

From TransCanada, Highway 1, take the Kananaskis Trail aka Highway 40 turnoff (exit #118).  In about 40km you will want to turn into the Fortress Junction Gas station. As soon as you drive in take a left to the far end of the parking lot – opposite of where the gas station is. The convenience store of the gas station is actually super good, loaded with all sort of treats. It’s a great place to stop by before or limp over after the hike for some ice cream. Make sure you don’t go into the Opal day use area.

The hike starts by the stream at the far end of the parking towards the mountains.

Opal ridge, Kirk Lubimov, Kananaskis, Alberta

The Hike

I won’t sugarcoat this; Opal Ridge hike is a steep uphill pretty much all the way to the top of ridge. It is a heart pumping leg burning hike. If you are new to summit/ridge hikes this is the one to find out on if you really want to do them. Having said that, make sure to check out Tent Ridge as well. I find Tent Ridge a more enjoyable ridge hike in comparison to Opal.

The trail is fairly well marked. Follow the stream up the hill a short ways, and you will have to cross it to the left, continue up through the woods. Exit the woods to the left, and follow the pole line for a short ways crossing another stream. Enjoy this moment of rather flatness to catch you breath from the first part of the hike. Consider this a warm up.

You will come across a path on your right, and this is where the real grind work starts. The trail will consist of some dirt paths, rocky sections that you will have to use your hands on, and scree. No technical scrambling is required however, which what makes this hike inviting to more people. Just remember to not rush, and take your time. Safety always comes first.

The path through the scree section can be a little confusing but just try to stay close to the side of rocky hills as much as possible, and keep climbing up. It will offer you more protection but also something to rest against or hold on if you wish. After you conquer the scree section you will come up to the vista in the picture below which is also the last section to the ridge.

Many people hike just to this point as it also offers amazing views but you might as well keep going as you just finished the hardest part of the hike.

The path on the ridge has a small elevation, and can still have snow on it into spring, and first part of summer. If you look carefully around you might spot some wildlife. This is grizzly country.

False peak below is where most of the people end at. The continuing ridge trail to the summit is short but becomes more technical, and will offer you the same views.

The views are stunning! You can see many peaks you can never see from the road, and the grand the spine of Rockies.

Well worth the effort!

Just remember hiking down such steep scree can be very hard on your knees, and slippery. Take your time, and if you have bad knees I do not recommend this hike.

Distance: Some places have it as 7.2km but we had it closer to 9km.

Elevation: 1035M.

Difficulty: Hard.

Time: 6 hours. You would want to enjoy, and rest at the top.

Season: Mid May – October. Check for snow levels.

Dog Friendly: The avid hiker ones. The scree can be very hard to their pads. I don’t think this one is worth the risk to bring a pup on.

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