Ptarmigan Cirque Hike with Kids

Difficulty: Challenging

Distance and Elevation: 4 km; 280 m

Facilities: Outhouse; Parking Lot; One Picnic Table

Hike Highlights: Springs; Bridge;  Mountain Views ; Beaver Dams

Accessibility: Child Carrier Friendly; 

Closed: December 5th-June 15th



Ptarmigan Cirque Hike is located in Highwood Pass. From Calgary drive on the AB-1 W. Go left on the AB-40 S. Drive down here until you reach Highwood Pass.

Note: This hike starts at the highwood pass which happens to be the highest driveable pass in Canada. That means that even on the nicest days it can become quite chilly so be prepared! We sure were happy that we had along our kids winter gear when we hiked on June 25th!!

Trail description:

Ptarmigan Cirque

This hike is also an interpretive trail so you can follow along a read the signs as you hike along which provides some education along the trail. The hike starts from the parking lot on the west side of Highwood Pass.  From there hike across the small walking bridge. At the fork you will see a sign on the right saying Ptarmigan Cique. Hike along this path, cross the highway and head up the mountain. The start is solid uphill climb for about 1 km of switchbacks. This is the hardest part so if you have little ones that like to hike be prepared to give lots of encouragement. It then levels out and becomes a beautiful easy loop in the alpine. Make sure to take the trail that veers left before completing the loop to head to the small waterfall. Take lots of pictures and enjoy the views!

Please note: It took us 40 minutes to hike to the waterfall with our children in carriers for the majority of the time at the age of 1 and 2. We then took our time and made it down the mountain for a total of 2 hours of hiking.

I have also done this hike solo with a 2 and 3 year old last summer. Read about the adventure in the post “Love, Sweat and Tears: A true story of hiking with toddlers

Our first adventure on Ptarmigan Cirque with two littles in carriers:

We decided to continue a little bit further on the trail up Mount Rae and caught this view.
We decided to continue a little bit further on the trail that takes you up Mount Rae and caught this view.

This past weekend I felt completely energized. More energized than I have felt in a long time. This might be because my husband was away for a week and then when he got back the stomach flu decided to take us down one by one. Nobody likes being sick but now that I have kids I really don’t like getting sick. Instead of getting sick for a week with kids we now have to endure an extra week for every member of the family that gets sick. A week long sickness turned into a month as we helped each member hug the porcelain.

Now that we are all better what was our first plan of action? Ok I have to backtrack again. Our first plan of action would have been to see our new oh so cute nephew in Edmonton but since I had just started feeling better on the Friday there was no way we were risking giving our bug to a newborn.

So… Let me rephrase that. Now that we are all better again what was our second plan of action? It was heading to the mountains for a beautiful hike in the Alpine with our two little girls.

Hiking with Kids

This hike is exactly as described. A shortish hike that allows you to easily take your littles into the alpine. Our almost 3 year old could complete the hike on a good day on her own two feet. I say a good day because now that her little sister is in a carrier it is really hard to hike at her pace while keeping my 1 year old happy in the carrier. Also our oldest daughter used to hate the carrier but loves it now because her sister is in one. The plus side is that we can do more strenuous hikes and do them faster. The downside is that I want her to have the opportunity to complete some hikes since we had a lot of fun hiking together. All in do time I guess.

We left Calgary in the rain and arrived at the trail head around lunchtime. It was cloudy and the wind was incredible. It made me think for a half second that we should cancel. My fingers were freezing and it was the end of June! Luckily I pulled out the girls winter clothes that I am so glad my husband remembered to pack. We would have had to call it quits before we had even started if we did not have the proper gear.Hiking Baby

Instead of eating our lunch on the trail we ate at the one lone picnic table. We wanted the girls to be as happy as possible with full bellies on the trail. I also knew that our 1 year old would zonk once I started hiking in the carrier with a full belly. This meant we would have a relatively peaceful hike.

The initial incline took my breathe away as we booked it up the slope. I was pumped that I was getting in some good exercise with a sleeping baby on my back. Our oldest daughter was happily talking to my husband in our MEC carrier.

Once we hit the tree line we were all in awe. I could not stop snapping pictures. I was so happy to be with my family AND be able to easily access such a beautiful hike. Besides the breathtaking views our hike was uneventful. Ok… not completely uneventful. Hiking is never uneventful when you are with a 1 year old and an almost 3 year old. However, I might just have to save that story for a future post…..

Hiking Ptarmigan Cirque



By Annika Mang
By Annika Mang
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