Snowshoe up Crystal Ridge

Canada Helen Lake Trailhead

  • Activities:

    Photography, Snowshoeing, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Winter

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    4.3 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    2099.7 Feet

Easy Parking
Forest
Scenic

Crystal Ridge is a great snowshoe objective in the Icefields Parkway that gives fantastic views of Dolomite and Cirque Peak. Offers some pristine powder for stomping around in snowshoes or backcountry skiing.

For anyone looking to leave crowds behind but still have a killer day, Crystal Ridge might be up your alley! On an unseasonably warm January Saturday, I was the only one to access the trail. My singular trail was the only blemish on the pristine field of snow.

The trailhead is located in the northwest end of the Helen Lake parking lot -- in winter, this parking lot is closed but you can park on the south side of the road at the Crowfoot Mountain pullout. I had a bit of trouble taking the correct turn, so it wouldn't be a bad idea to download a GPX file to access on your trip -- there are plenty you can find by doing a quick Google search. The most important turn to take is the one that veers off the Helen Lake trail and onto Crystal Ridge. It's the first left after a small dip in the trail -- you'll absolutely know what I mean when you come to it, about half a foot deep and couple feet long. If you find yourself on the south aspect of the ridge, you've gone too far; the southeast side of the ridge is what you're aiming for.

Once you get on the southeast side of the slope, you'll exit out of the trees and into a small rock garden. Scoot around the base of the slope and you'll start gaining elevation. If the trail hasn't been broken yet, you just need to make sure to keep heading a bit more north instead of going straight up as there's much more room to make switchbacks (which you'd need, especially if breaking trail!).

The treeline ends right as you crest over a sub-ridge and then you can see the summit of the south end of Crystal Ridge on climber's right. The only thing separating you from it will be a beautiful field of snow. As you get closer to the col, you'll see Dolomite Peak and Cirque Peak -- two more objectives to put on your list.

Getting to the south summit was pretty spectacular. You're faced with the unique peaks of Dolomite Peak, the big wall of Crowfoot Mountain, and a clear view of a long stretch of the Icefields Parkway -- pretty awesome for such an unsuspecting ridge.

Photography tip: sometimes it's a bit difficult to get great shots with a ton of snow in them, so try out some black and white photography to really bring out the features in the snow!

Pack List

  • Hiking boots
  • Snowshoes
  • Hiking poles
  • Lots of layers!
  • Water and snacks
  • Camera
  • Bear spray
  • Avalanche report from avalanche.ca
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Reviews

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Did this on Skis in the early season. Mediocre trip with marginal turns. Not worth coming back for. Nice views, and would make a far better snowshoe trip. With that said.... a bit of a rant. The writer fails to mention there is a great deal of potential avalanche slopes on and around this area. Without a trail, even experienced hikers, not trained for winter conditions, could very quickly get themselves in trouble. Without and AST 1, (and ideally 2) avalanche beacon, probe and shovel, a avalanche.ca forecast is useless. People have been killed on green/green/green days. Avalanche.ca has lot's of great resources in their learn tab for more information.

about 2 months ago
about 2 months ago

James HueserExplorer

Some call me the Jerry Macguire of the outdoors. The places special to me should be special to everyone. It is not my intention to hoard the best views around me. It's my responsibility to invite everyone to join, and give them every opportunity to do so.

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