Raspberry Ridge Fire Lookout Trip Log
If you are not sure where you are going you can easily get turned around. On a previous attempt I ended up heading down a few kilometers along the gated road before realizing I probably wasn’t on the right track as I started to pass Raspberry Ridge on my right hand side. You can apparently gain the ridge from the gravel road off Cataract Creek when you are just about inline with the ridge, but the gravel road doesn't offer too much in the way of views or engagment.
About twenty meters past the red gate you will see what looks like a grassy road that branches off and starts heading parallel with the gravel road. This is the trail you want to be on.
The trail starts off a little questionable as with the amount of traffic Raspberry Ridge sees I would have expected a much more defined path. But no fear, someone scribbled Raspberry Ridge on the back of a small metal sign which is facing the opposite direction of travel. You can make out the gated gravel road on the bottom left hand of the photo.
Shortly after though the grass breaks away to give you the solid dirty style road. This used to be the access road to the ridge but the top section has been reclaimed back to hiking width. Now it is used by snowmobiles in winter and hikers.
About 400 meters into the hike you will come across a small junction. The road you were on continues straight and a single track hiking trail branches off to the right. The trail starts going uphill parallel to the road you were on. At the time of doing the hike there is a dead log someone jammed into the ground and wrote Raspberry Ride on there with two arrows pointing to the right. It is rather faded but still visible.
The trail keeps at a single track width as it steadily gains elevation. About a kilometer in you get your first view of the Raspberry Ridge Fire Lookout perched at the far end of the rock ridge top. You also get the realization that it’s going to get rather steep soon!
At this point I also had what I believe, with my big lack of bird knowledge, to be a hawk swoop in for some close up action. It dived from a tree a hundred or so meters and was aiming right at me! About 8 meters away it suddenly changed direction and flew upwards and into the sun. He was so fast that it caught me off guard and I barely had enough time to raise the camera and get a shot of him, or her?
At about 3.2 kilometers from the start you come across a great decision. Left or right. Left follows the former road for the fire lookout. From what I gather the road has been since reclaimed and is now single track width for hiking. You gain about two additional kilometers to the trip and is not very common. The trail can be seen on the map in the GPS section below.
Right takes you up directly to the top and cuts out the extra mileage. You end up gaining about 300 meters in roughly a kilometer. It goes surprisingly quick and before you know it you are at the ridge. This is most likely the reason why the longer trail is so unused.
Off the start the trail goes predominately in a straight line without much in the way of switch backs. Whenever it feels like it gets too much, turn around and look at the great view. Every step upwards give you just that wee bit better of an outlook!
As you gain elevation the rock band comes into clear view. This is essentially the goal. As you close in the length of the switch backs increase to help fight off the sharp elevation gain. The trail continues its single track trend and keeps a nice solid footing with very rare sections of small loose rock. I can foresee the trail being rather slippery on rainy days as there is quite a bit of dirt that makes up the track.
As you gain the ridge you are in the final stretch. The wind generally picks up at this point so it’s best to come prepared with a wind breaker if it’s a cool day as the wind will feel considerably colder up here. The panoramic view from the ridge is impressive due to its fair distance to the next ridge to the west. Follow the trail to the right as it leads you well below the ridge line. You are only a few hundred meters away from the lookout at this point.
As you close in on the Raspberry Ridge Fire Lookout you come across a couple reminders that this is a private residence. Shooting is not permitted within 183 meters which is a rather odd measurement.
The Raspberry Ridge Fire Lookout is perched right on the summit as it is naturally the highest spot on the ridge. This also means you can’t actually stand on the highest part of the ridge unfortunately. As this is an active fire lookout there is a fenced perimeter which you should not cross over to respect the privacy of the individual working.
You can skirt around the bottom of the fencing and get a view of the north which due to the ridge declining in height, gives you a great view all the way past Calgary. To the west Baril Peak and Courcelette Peak are the ones you typically lay your eyes on first, especially if clouds cover anything further.
After you have taken in the sights of the surrounding landscape it is time to head back down. One of the most prominent features that hit about the lookout was that the window on the outhouse was facing into the hillside instead of out into the valley. Taking in the sunset while sitting on your own thrown on top the ridge would be rather splendid I’d say.
GPS Plotted Route
The longer route can be seen on the topographic map above. It would be worth taking for the descent if you want to take care of the knees but the ascent is short enough that the 300 meters will pass before you realize it.
The first 3.3 kilometers is a steady incline, surprisingly without much deviation from its average. Once you reach the choice of taking the longer route or direct route, it is considerably steeper. The longer route tacks on about two kilometers to the ascent so the drop in the level of elevation gain would come to just a bit more than the steepness leading up to the junction. This is a hypothesis though just due to the math as I took the direct route to go up and back down.
Click here to download the GPS route in GPX format. You may have to right click and select "Save Link As" if your browser does not download it automatically. Be sure to save it as a .gpx file.
What were your experiences hiking Raspberry Ridge Fire Lookout?
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