Ptarmigan Cirque
Date hiked
September 8, 2001
Total distance hiked
3.6 km
Elevation gain
210 m
Maximum elevation
2415 m
Topo map
Mount Rae 82 J/10

Ptarmigan Cirque is one of those delightful expanses of alpine meadow that benefit from being right next to a highway (e.g. Parker Ridge, Wilcox Pass), making access easy and relatively painless. Access is from Highwood Pass, the highest driveable pass in Alberta at 2206 metres, which you get to by taking Highway 40 through Kananaskis Country. The area is full of folded limestone mountains, not very glaciated but impressive nonetheless.

The trail crosses the highway and works its way up into the cirque through trees, then begins a long, flat and visually stunning loop around the hanging valley. Its length is in dispute: Patton and Robinson say it’s half the length the trail markers do. It was more than a bit breezy, particularly on the higher, rockier, more exposed bits. The trail did not proceed further up into the cirque, the depth of which was difficult to ascertain due to tricks of perspective. But as these photos show, the main appeal of this little trail is its meadows.

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