Summit Elevation (m): 1646
Trip Date: Thursday, April 30, 2020
Elevation Gain (m): 300
Round Trip Time (hrs): 2.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 8
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain your thumb
Difficulty Notes: No difficulties other than following the right trails off and on, but generally very straightforward.
Technical Rating: TL2; YDS (Hiking)
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps
It was fitting that the last day of Covid-19 shutdowns in the provincial parks and PRA’s would have me hiking a beautiful little gem in the front ranges on a gorgeous spring evening with my daughter. Of course, I was too busy driving to the trailhead and ignoring yet another news conference to realize the restrictions would be lifting – I only realized that later when I got home and witnessed the celebrations on Facebook. 😉 Ironically enough, it doesn’t make that much difference in the end since national parks are still closed and there’s too much snow in most areas to take advantage of the openings anyway! Lesueur Ridge doesn’t get a glowing review from Bob Spirko. He starts his report with the words;
“Lesueur Ridge will never make it in the top 100 hikes.”
Technically he’s right – I agree with him. But I’d like to state it much more positively. Lesueur Ridge will never make it in my bottom 100 hikes. The drive was a bit far for an after work affair, but the views kept us entertained. I joked to Kaycie that our best views were likely on the drive but unlike on Mount Pringle this wasn’t true for Lesueur Ridge. I drove down a very rough Ghost River Road to the parking area just inside the PLUZ just before the Lesueur Creek bridge and parked along with another 4-5 vehicles. It was very busy for a weekday and I could even see a camper just down the road. I guess folks are getting rather desperate to get out with all the lock downs going on.
I was expecting a dry trail (this was the reason for doing this hike after all) so we wore trail shoes and brought minimal gear. Despite rain clouds towards Calgary, we started off towards the south end of the ridge in gorgeous sunshine with a light breeze and around 17 degrees. Right off the bat I found myself enjoying the ridge much more than I expected. The trail was bone dry and obvious and it didn’t take long for the views to open up either. We hiked up the south end of the ridge on a steep trail through light Aspen forest. Doing this hike early in the season, with no leaves on the trees, was a bonus because we got views much quicker than you would in the summer. I love the way “dead” Aspen forests look with the dry grasses and dead leaves so I highly recommend this as an early spring hike.
Kaycie led the way up a fantastic trail along the crest of the southeast ridge on its western edge. We had stunning views almost the entire way to the grassy promontory over the Ghost River towards front range summits such as Association and End Mountain, Orient Point, Saddle Mountain, Phantom Crag, Mount Costigan, Castle Rock, Devils Head, Davidson and Ghost Peak. I must have been hiking a LOT of crappy little bumps lately because I was in hiking heaven on Lesueur Ridge! 😉
The small side track down to the grassy promontory was obvious and well worth the 10 minute diversion. These were among the best views of the day and this would be a great picnic spot if you were so inclined. I also wouldn’t recommend going any further if you only want a short hike with views. Your views aren’t going to get any better, although there’s still plenty or excellent hiking and views ahead – just not of mountain peaks.
From the grassy promontory we followed the trail as it continued up to the high point. Bob isn’t lying when he says you basically won’t notice the summit – it’s an afterthought at most. We got into some snow just past the summit before we arrived at a muddy cutline headed off west towards Orient Point and east over another ridge (higher than Lesueur and somewhat tempting TBH). We headed straight down the cutline, veering off into the forest when things got too wet for a short stretch.
Just before reaching a small tributary of Lesueur Creek we turned left into the light forest. At first it was hard to find a trail but eventually we found a good trail back and wandered through more open Aspen forests. Eventually we ended up on mostly open grassy slopes above Lesueur Creek, traversing the SW aspect of Lesueur Ridge. Our views once again opened up and I found myself taking many photos of Kaycie hiking ahead of me. Pasque Flowers dotted the warm, dry slopes and the creek gurgled energetically far below. Dramatic evening clouds were forming over the Ghost Wilderness as we joined our approach trail and walked back to the road.
I found myself enjoying this hike far more than expected. We had perfect spring evening conditions which certainly helped but I can highly recommend this short and scenic walk for pretty much anyone with the energy to do it. This is a perfect family hike for a Sunday afternoon – just pick a day without too much of the infamous front range winds and you will enjoy it more than you expect.