Tent Ridge. Wow.

James Kendal descending Tent Ridge – Photo: Canmore Runner

Oh brother, was I ever kicking myself. Why, oh why, oh why, leave it until now, my last week in Canmore, to run Tent Ridge. I’d heard about it ages ago and I knew from others that it was something special. So why the delay in getting up there and experiencing one of, if not the, most spectacular run that Kananaskis Country has to offer? It’s a rhetorical question of course. It wasn’t that i’d been sitting around doing nothing. I’d been busy running up, down and along other mountains and ridges. But let this be a warning to you: if you’re looking for a 10km run, with 879m of elevation, that has it all from technical singletrack through the trees, to hands-on scrambling, stunning, drawn out mountain vistas and a fast, technical descent back down, then make haste for Tent Ridge. You won’t be disappointed.

On Strava it looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 20.39.16Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 20.39.33

To reach the trailhead, take Spray Lakes Road  (Highway 742) until you reach the right turn for Mount Engadine Lodge. Take that right turn and follow the road for another 2 km or so, until you come across an improvised car park on the right. The run actually has two trailheads. The first is just before the parking area and you’ll see the other one on the left side of the road, approximately 50m from the car park. The trailhead is about 50-60 minutes from Canmore.

If you plan to run the loop in a clockwise direction, which is what the blogosphere seems to recommend, begin at the first trailhead that you passed on the way to the car park. And if you’re intending to run it anticlockwise, head to the trailhead further up the road. Once at the trailhead, there’s nothing there to actually tell you that this is the Tent Ridge trail but the trail itself is reasonably obvious:

Photo: Canmore Runner

Head up the trail which soon turns to singletrack and quickly begins to wind upwards, though nothing too steep, and into the trees:

Photo: Canmore Runner
Photo: Canmore Runner

One thing that struck me as I wound my way along this first section of trail, apart from the fact that I was able to run and hurdle more of it than i’d maybe expected, was that if you’re nervous about bears, you’d probably not want to do this alone. The vegetation is tall and dense in places with extremely limited sight lines. There was a lot of shouting and whistle blowing as we made our way up.

The good news is that after around 2km the trail begins to open up and you’re given your first real views of Tent Ridge. First this:

Photo: Canmore Runner

Then this:

Photo: Canmore Runner

Then this:

Photo: Canmore Runner

You’re not quite out of the trees yet, and indeed, the trail shown above veers to left and back into the trees for a short time before delivering you here at around the 3km mark:

Photo: Canmore Runner

From here, it’s a bit of a scramble up to the ridge:

Photo: Canmore Runner
Photo: Canmore Runner
Photo: Canmore Runner

Once you’re up on the ridge, the trail continues to gain altitude before you reach the first summit at the 4km mark and an altitude of 2,487m, with spectacular views:

Photo: Canmore Runner
Photo: Canmore Runner
Photo: Canmore Runner
Taking breather at the first summit – Photo: James Kendal
Ridge still to be run – Photo: Canmore Runner

From the first summit, there’s a drop of about 100m in elevation before you start to head up again to the true summit of 2,537m:

Photo: Canmore Runner
Photo: Canmore Runner
Photo: Canmore Runner
The summit – Photo: Canmore Runner

From the summit, it’s more or less all downhill as the trail continues along the ridge for the next 1.6km. There’s a few short upwards sections and some scrambling but for the most part it’s possible to step up the pace, albeit watching out for the occasional precipitous drop to the right:

Photo: Canmore Runner
Photo: Canmore Runner

As you near the end of the ridge, enjoy a last moment to take in the Spray Valley:

Photo: Canmore Runner

And then begin the serious business of descending from the ridge. It’s steep for the next kilometre but the trail is easy to spot:

Photo: Canmore Runner

At around the 7km mark, the trail drops down to the right of the ridge. It’s still steep but eases up as you get nearer the tree line:

Photo: Canmore Runner
Photo: Canmore Runner

Before too long, you’ll find yourself back in the dense stuff, so be prepared to make a lot of noise:

Photo: Canmore Runner

Follow the trail which continues to head down. There’s one part where it appears to fork. Keep to the left and then continue along some nice singletrack that widens and later swings to the right and flattens out before delivering you to the other trailhead that you will have seen up the road from the parking area:

Photo: Canmore Runner

Hopefully you won’t have left it until your last week in Canmore to try this run. I can almost guarantee that this is one that you’ll want to keep going back to.

Until next time, happy trails.

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