Distance: 9 km (5.5 miles) round trip. Duration: 3 hours. Elevation gain: 300 m (1000 feet). Easy and fun hike along the White Buddha cliffs. Opportunity for bushwhacking and exploring.

Whether it was the unseasonably warm weather; the forested, uneven, foot-wide, root-covered trail; limestone cliffs towering above me; the view of Myosotis Peak from the ridge; or exploring along Powderface Creek on the descent, this trail was an absolute blast.

If you do this hike in February like I did, Hwy 66 past Elbow Falls Parking Lot will be closed (from December to May every year) so park at the road closure and set off from there. The beginning of this trail, called Powderface Hiking Trail, is after the bridge over Prairie Creek - a few hundred metres (~1000 feet) past the gate on the north side of the road. The trail follows Prairie Creek on a wide and well travelled trail. It crosses a bridge to the wrong side of the creek early in the trail and gains elevation, but don't worry, it drops back down close to a fallen tree bridge to gain access to the correct side of the stream - this is around 2.7 km (1.7 miles) into the hike.

Once on the south side of the creek there might be some route finding involved (depending on snow cover). If a discernible trail isn't available, head west until an exposed cliff is encountered - a trail should be evident along the base of this that takes you back east to gain the ridge. From then on, it's just a (mostly) straight walk along the base of cliffs. The trail here is only about a foot wide and has some high steps to be made, but as you look down to ensure you don't trip, don't forget to look up often! The trees, moss, cliffs, and sky come together to make for some really terrific photos!

Once on top of the ridge, Prairie Mountain is to the north, Myosotis Peak is that really good looking mountain to the southeast, the Bryant range in the distant northwest/west, and Jumpingaround Mountain to the northwest. Don't forget about Calgary popping up like an oasis on the prairie to the east on a clear day!

You can simply back track on the Powderface Hiking Trail for your return trip but don't be afraid to walk along the creek to do some exploring. There's also something really fun about picking your way through the trees and climbing over deadfall. Going off the main trail always leads to some memories like walking into a section where Old Man's Beard are as numerous as leaves, or a partial rock shelter that's a perfect place to eat your lunch.

In the Rockies, it's easy to get summit fever; however, walking up scree typically doesn't inspire. Some much needed time being surrounded by a forest is a must for everyone - especially for the summit hungry.

To get to the trailhead from Calgary, begin by driving west on Hwy 8 for 25km. Make a left onto the 22 south and drive 13.8 km until you reach the junction for the Hwy 66 W. Head west for about 18km and you'll reach the road closure where you park you car if you make this hike in the winter. If you're hiking in the summer you can drive an addition kilometer and look for the pull off on the left side of the road, the trailhead will across the street.

Pack List

  • Hiking boots
  • Hiking poles
  • Winter layers
  • Water and snacks
  • Camera
  • Bear spray - a populated area, but cougars are still out in winter!
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Activities Photography, Snowshoeing, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Features
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
River
Scenic

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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