Opal Ridge {Kananaskis Country}

Opal Ridge {Kananaskis Country}

Opal Ridge
8-10 km, 900 meters elevation gain

If you’re like me, you love hikes which are off the beaten path and somewhat hard to find (aka no sign or map at the trailhead) because then you have a gem of a hike all to yourself.

If you’re like me, you also hate hikes which are off the beaten path because you drive around like an idiot wasting time trying to find them and then the trail is often less than ideal which means you may or may not fall on your head at some point during the hike.

  • Finding Opal Ridge took more time than it should have, after all, once you know where it is, it is ridiculously easy to find.

After hearing about the hike and following some poor internet directions, we were unsuccessful in finding the trailhead for Opal Ridge the first time we looked for it. After taking a few minutes to properly google once back home, the trailhead was located.

Luckily, Kananaskis Country is full, and I mean FULL, of amazing hikes, so driving around looking for something isn’t a waste of time. You can simply abandon the search, pick another hike, and be on the trail for a gorgeous destination in mere moments.

Back to Opal Ridge.

Another thing about hikes which aren’t well known – usually you have no idea what the trail is like or what to expect, which leads to ridiculousness.

For some reason, I just didn’t read past the one website which explained where to find the trailhead. Researching the technical aspects of the hike was not done, after all, it is only 10 km – how hard can it be?


It turns out it is actually a scramble. Some things would be good to know before you hit the trail …

Some advice for the trail.

  • Wear hiking boots, not trail shoes.
  • Be prepared for a scramble … since it is one.
  • Bring more water than you normally would – the whole trail is exposed and there is no water on the trail after the first three minutes.
  • Bring a coat, even on a hot day. The wind picks up and being hot and sweaty and then encountering a fierce wind on the ridge can lead to the chills.

How to find Opal Ridge.

  1. Park at the Fortress Junction Gas Station on Highway 40 located at 1-69 Sparrowhawk Cres, Kananaskis, AB T0L 2H0. (From Highway 1, go south 41 kms on Highway 40.)
  2. Park in the parking lot on the north side of the gas station. (If you’re like me, this means ‘left’ when looking at the gas station from the highway.)
  3. Walk away from the gas station and look for a trail at the northeast corner of the parking lot before the creek. This is the trail!

There is an Opal picnic area and an Opal Falls on Highway 40 – neither of these places are the hike starts. Trust me.

Opal Ridge Kananaskis Country
Navigating the trail takes some skill – because it is both technical and beautiful!

How to hike Opal Ridge.

  1. Take the trail that leads out of the northeast corner of the Fortress Junction Gas Station.
  2. Follow the trail to the braided creek.
  3. Hike up the creek until you see a trail on the other side of the creek (about 50 feet or 1 minute).
  4. Cross the creek.
  5. Take the trail up the creek until you reach what looks like an ATV trail.
  6. Go left or north to the power lines.
  7. At the power lines and the giant arrow in the rocks, take the trail to your left or east. You are now on the trail and the destination is the opal colored ridge straight ahead and slightly to your right.
  8. Once on the ridge, travel right (south) to enjoy all the views which are never ending.

There are about four shoulders / benches to this hike and after the first two, the trail starts to disappear. Some scrambling up shale and loose rock is required. Wear hefty hiking boots, do not wear your trail shoes like I did. Rolling an ankle or twisting a knee is a high probability on the way down as the pitch is steep and covered in shale and scree.

Opal Ridge Kananaskis Country
A beautiful place to catch your breath on the way up!

Screeing down is always fun … until you hit something and nearly do an ‘endo‘. Let’s just say I was anything but clean at the end of the scramble!

Endo – (en-duh-oh) The moment when your legs stop and your upper body doesn’t. Suddenly your head is under your feet and you’re trying not to die as you go end over end down the mountain.

Luckily I kept myself upright the whole way down, which is basically a miracle.

This is one of those hikes that you should do. Although it is only 10 kms round trip (our distance was clocked at 8.77 km – 5 km up and 3.77 down), it takes a long time. The pitch is steep and you will want to take your time at the top the of the ridge!

Bring a picnic lunch to eat in the meadow just below the ridge line – it is the perfect place to soak in the sun and fuel up before trying to stay upright on the way down!

Opal Ridge Kananaskis Country
About 300 meters from the top – the perfect spot to have a picnic either on the way up or down.

Happy scrambling!

2 thoughts on “Opal Ridge {Kananaskis Country}”

  • Looks absolutely amazing…! Love following you, all these years later.

    Your blend of clumsiness and elegance is an absolute treat to observe, even from a distance…

    • It is a stunning place, one that should be visited if you ever find yourself in the Canadian Rockies. <3
      And the clumsiness and elegance combo ... it's quite the thing ... perhaps best observed from a distance. 🙂

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