As far as early season hiking is concerned, this is a great option. It's close to Calgary, has fantastic scenery, and doesn't seem to be as crowded as some of the other more popular shoulder season hikes in the area.
Old Baldy Ridge starts out at the Evan Thomas Creek Day use area. The first section in on an old road, stay left at the junction with the sign warning that the trail is not maintained after this point. There are two cairns marking where the trail along the creek and up to the ridge starts. Right before the actual turn off there is a false trail that looks like the way to go but you quickly realize that it is headed back in the direction of the parking lot. Skip this one and keep going until you see the cairns.
The usual route follows the creek all the way up the valley to a tarn, from there you could make the climb up to the ridge. The other option is to keep your eyes peeled for a route that stays left and starts a steep climb towards the top early on. We took this way and found it quite enjoyable. There is some serious elevation gain and then some navigating through a talus field but every so often the trees part and you are treated to stunning views. The trail levels out for a bit as you make your way along the edge overlooking the valley. A cairn marks a good place to stop for a snack on a ledge before you make the final accent to the top of the ridge.
The views are outstanding from the top as you overlook the Nakiska ski hill and Mount Allen. Unfortunately we didn’t get to stay long at the top. The warm May sun had given way to dark clouds and a bitter cold wind. We ran into a small group of hikers that were overjoyed to hear that there was a secondary route. They had followed the Creek all of the way to where the tarn would normally be and warned us that the snow in the valley was “waste deep” and there were huge sections of the trail taken out by the flood. We carried on as originally planned along the ridge then dropped down into the valley despite their warnings. If the tarn was there, it was completely covered in snow and not visible. There was still a fair bit of snow on the slope on the other side of the creek so we stayed high on our side to avoid a possible avalanche scenario. A bit of route finding was required due to the lingering winter conditions. At times we could see parts of the actual trail lower in the valley but we were content making our way through the talus fields that were pleasantly snow free instead. After a while we did meet back up with the trail and followed it out. There were a couple sections that were damaged but nothing that wasn’t manageable. The creek was beautiful on the way out but would have been even more enjoyable if you were hiking in that way.
Overall I would say we had a great day. The accent was challenging enough to feel like you accomplished something but not so difficult that when you reach your destination you are too tired to enjoy the fruits of your labour. The views from the top are breath taking in all directions. A great shoulder season hiking option.
Date: May 9, 2015 Distance:14.6 km Elevation gain: 932 m
From highway 1, turn down highway 40 and continue to the well-marked Evan Thomas day use area on the left side. Trailhead is well marked with signage.
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Posted By: drunknsnoshu
- Fri Dec 06 00:35:49 UTC 2019
UpsideQuiet, lots of variety, good views DownsideLots of rocks and boulders under the snow, had to walk carefully, a bit of route finding CommentDid this in winter, following the poster's quick ascent route. Very enjoyable climb and great views. I used crampons for the climb, which was a bit tricky because the snow was covering the rocks and boulders on the trail. Came back down the same way, didn't want any part of the avalanche risk in the valley.
Posted By: ChrisMarry
- Tue Mar 01 18:06:23 UTC 2016
UpsideReally nice views on a possible long ridge walk. DownsideA lot of bushwhacking on the alternative route we took on very steep terrain. CommentEdwards Rating: II (III) M M (in winter conditions, as of Feb 28 & including the summit approach further up the ridge)
6.5 to 10 hours (including Old Baldy Mountain (McDougall NW2) Peak attempt)
Elevation of 1235 m total at 2589 m (just about 100 metres before the summit at GR354415).
**** We took the shortest way up for about 10.9 km of very steep terrain and lots of bushwhacking, sometimes in dense forest. The other way explained above may be a better way to go. If you ever wanted to try this direct but painful ascent behind the Boundary Ranch, I could share our GPS track but I do not recommend it. We got to the ridge within a couple of hours but our goal was to complete the ascent of Old Baldy Mountain. We had to turn back about 50 metres elevation before the summit as there was even more snow gullies to traverse with greater exposure and we don`t have an ice axe or crampons yet. We should have brought snowshoes as well as there was quite a bit of snow sometimes.
Posted By: SamMisner
- Sun Jul 19 19:41:35 UTC 2015
Upsidedecent views Downsideeasy to go off trail due to lots of intersections/options (some route finding required), narrow trail in areas CommentDefinitely do not turn off the fire road before the large/obvious cairn! My group took the early turn off (as we were working from a map and it was about the right distance and starts off in the right direction). We wasted over half an hour heading along this route on the west side of the Old Baldy. Don't make the same mistake!
As the description above warns, the trail is not maintained in some areas.
The trail follows the creek until a point where the creek splits. Take care to choose the correct path at this junction. In June 2015, the portion of the creek that turns north (left) was pretty well dry. This is the way you must follow for the Old Baldy trail up to the lake. Some members of our party followed the other creek branch, to the right, heading east. This way leads on to what is a well marked trail with cairns at first but deteriorates into bushwhacking after 30-45 minutes. I understand this route can be used to reach the Mount McDougall summit, but it certainly wasn't what we were looking for on this particular day.