July, 2015: I’m not one to shun a little elevation assistance if it means avoiding several hours of uninspiring drudgery up a rubbly ski slope. The gondola at Kicking Horse Resort in Golden, British Columbia whisked us to the summit in mere minutes and saved us plenty of energy for exploring dramatic Dogtooth Ridge.
The resort brochure indicates that once at the summit, hikers should follow “It’s a Ten” ski road to a well-defined alpine trail. After a short walk down the ski road, we saw a small path—more of a goat track— heading up a ridge. It didn’t look “well-defined” but we (actually, I) decided to give it a go.
All vestiges of civilization soon vanished as we traversed the narrow track that led down and along the backside of the ridge. The views into the deep valley and to the mountains on the other side are stupendous. The deep green of the forested lower slopes, with glistening snow-fed streams, are a sharp contrast to the starkness of the imposing peaks. The area feels vast and isolated and wild, more so as our little path grew narrower and narrower.
At times, the trail petered out altogether only to reemerge again behind a clump of trees. The terrain is quite open so we were able to see the tiny ribbon of trail in the distance. In places it clings precipitously to the side of a loose, shale slope that is not quite steep enough to be really dangerous, but enough so to bring on the jitters. We were happy to have poles.
After about an hour of hiking, with not another soul in sight, our trail vanished completely. We were now a good distance below the ridge and decided to trail blaze our way up. With a little cursing from Mike that I had led us astray (he didn’t think it was the correct path to begin with) punctuated with a lot of panting, we trudged up the arduous slope.
I’ve now read an account that we were indeed on part of the Dogtooth Trail hike, and that it eventually travels up to the ridge, but part of the trail has been obscured by a slide. Despite the detour, I’m glad we took this pretty and very remote-feeling route. When we finally emerged on the ridge top we were wowed by 360 degree mountain views. And, lo and behold, there was the fairly well-defined ridge trail. From here we could see all the way back to our starting point at the top of the gondola.
The ridge is full of wonders including the gorgeously contoured cornices that cling ominously to the edge of the mountain. The name “Dogtooth” is put in perspective by the jagged chain of pointy peaks.
We continued along the ridge for another kilometer or so before turning around and following the trail back to the lodge (no lower trail for us this time). The exquisite deck of the Eagle Eye’s Restaurant beckoned us and when I saw the selection of specialty coffees on the menu, I couldn’t resist ordering a Spanish coffee. Nothing like a sweet, whipped-creme laden caffeine fix and a million dollar view.
- If you’re not keen on doing the backside goat track that we took, follow the “It’s a Ten” road to the Stairway to Heaven lookout where there’s easy access to the ridge. The hike is as short or long as you want to make it. Even just a short 1-2 hour out and back from the gondola provides amazing scenery.
- For an epic adventure, it is possible to hike the rugged, unmarked ridge eventually ending at Gorman Lakes, 16 km from the top of the gondola. From what I’ve read it sounds like an awesome, but difficult hike of 8-12 hours. Another one to add to the hiking “to do” list.
- Golden, British Columbia is a great town to use as a base for wonderful hiking and other outdoor adventures. It’s a 10-minute drive to the Kicking Horse Gondola, and the surrounding area is packed with trails of all variety.
- The town is only about 45 minutes from Yoho National Park, one of my favourite Canadian national parks and home to the totally outstanding Iceline hike, among others.