Summit Elevations (m): 1539 (Long Prairie), 1650 (Pine), 1576 (Macabee)
Trip Date: Thursday, May 28, 2020
Elevation Gain – (m): 300
Round Trip Time (hrs): 2.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 10
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain your ego.
Difficulty Notes: No difficulties other than route finding over and through ridges and valleys with no defined trails (or too many of them!) in the sections between ridges.
Technical Rating: OT3; YDS (Hiking)
Trip Album: verndewit.com
When doing research for what I was calling “Covid hikes” earlier in the year, I came across a whole bunch of ridges and hills in the Bluerock Wildland Provincial Park area west of Turner Valley down hwy 546 in the front ranges of Kananaskis Country. Matt Clay has documented most of these and I used his tracks to plan them out. While these hikes are not spectacular adventures by any stretch of the imagination, they do provide an alternative for Prairie Mountain after work or Fish Creek on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The Sunday before this hike, Hanneke and Kaycie joined me for a four “peak” day just to the east, and we planned an after work ramble up Long Prairie, Pine and Macabee ridges while coming down Forked Ridge.
I decided to do a clockwise loop starting from the info center up Long Prairie Ridge first. This worked out OK but either direction would be fine. There are a TON of trails in the area and while there are signs at most major junctions, they are of limited use if you’re a peakbagger because the ridge aren’t always joined efficiently by trails, if at all.
The views from Long Prairie Ridge were very respectable towards the Highwood Range to the west. Many familiar peaks were visible including Bluerock, East Peak of Burns and Pyriform / Junction. We followed a pleasant and obvious trail along the SE side of the ridge until it dropped and started curving north and east to Pine Ridge. This next section was a bit confusing. I’m not sure why Matt went over 2 or 3 bumps on route to Pine Ridge but presumably to ensure he didn’t miss a summit! 😉 Hanneke wasn’t too thrilled with going off the perfectly good trail but I reminded her of the burdens of hiking with a peakbagger and she wryly conceded the point.
Eventually we got out of the light bush and ended up on a wide horse trail up to the high point of the day – I’m assuming this was Pine Ridge? It was unclear. We took advantage of a bench sitting there before continuing down towards Macabee Ridge on a churned up horse trail.
Two horses passed us on the next section – the least favorite of the route. The trail was horribly churned up by horses and finding the very faint track on Macabee’s north end wasn’t easy and definitely wasn’t signed! Once we found the faint trail things got pleasant again. Macabee was much shorter than I was expecting (height-wise) but still had some of the same great views to the west that Long Prairie had. Total height gain felt more like Matt’s 400 meters, but I only measured 300 for some reason.
As with other front range ridge and hill rambles as of late, this one was pleasant enough to justify doing in Spring with wildflowers and mountains coated in winter coats to the west. I am getting antsy to start hiking and scrambling some “real mountains” again sooner than later though! I recommend this loop for a lazy weekend afternoon when you realize that you want to get off your couch but you also realize you don’t want to get too much exercise.
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