Ptarmigan Cirque Interpretive Loop
ElevationAscent: 884' 269 m
Descent: -474' -144 m
High: 8,133' 2,479 m
Low: 7,251' 2,210 m
GradeAvg Grade: 14% (8°)
Max Grade: 38% (21°)
“A short, steep climb through the forest leading to a breathtaking mountain cirque, complete with waterfalls.”— Ordinary Fruit
Features Birding · Geological Significance · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Need to Know
Restrooms are located at the Highwood Meadows Day Use parking lot just south of the trail.
This is an interpretive trail with numbered trail markers corresponding to sections of an informational pamphlet. The pamphlet can be freely downloaded from the Alberta Parks website.
From the Highwood Meadows Day Use parking lot, take the Highwood Meadows Interpretive Trail a short distance until the sign for Ptarmigan Cirque. The trail crosses the highway and heads steeply upwards through the forest. There are twelve numbered posts along the trail corresponding to sections of the pamphlet, which also serve as good resting points.
The trail splits once before the meadow loop, one side continuing through the forest and the other leading to a cliffside view of a waterfall and the surrounding mountains, both continuing steeply upward before rejoining. Eventually, the trail splits again, with a sign indicating one-way traffic, and soon leads out into the open, rocky meadow where the slope becomes much less severe. On the northern end of the loop, the trail is less clearly apparent and mostly consists of large, loose rocks.
A stream with several small waterfalls runs through the meadow, and near the 8th marker, a trail diverges from the loop and heads further up towards a decently-sized waterfall. Heading back down the loop involves spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, as well as a closer look at the waterfall seen on the climb up. The trail reenters the forest and rejoins the trail at the one-way traffic sign. Continue down the way you came.
Flora & Fauna
Land Manager: Alberta Parks - Peter Lougheed Provincial Park