On September 18, 2022, my partner and I took our dog out to the mountains to hike. We decided on Pocaterra Cirque because I love the area (see my post on Pocaterra Ridge as to why), and it seemed less busy than Ptarmigan Cirque, another popular fall hike.

The view ascending the middle section of the hike, once out of the forest.

We made an error in planning, not realizing that the two hikes (Ptarmigan and Pocaterra) share one parking lot, so the lot and road were very busy. We arrived around 12:30 pm due to a slow start and we had to park far from the trailhead. Parking authorities were there directing traffic, so make sure to get out early or to have a back-up hike in mind in case you are not able to stop. Arethusa, just down the road is a great option you can read about here!

Some mushrooms we found. If you can identify them, leave a comment!

We started from the trailhead close to 1 pm. Make sure to leave 1.5-2 hours for the drive from Calgary, this hike is fair distance down Highway 40 from the Trans Canada.

The muddy forest path during the first section of the hike.

We noticed that the ground was very muddy in some spots (to our dog’s joy and our dismay). There are many intersecting trails in the area during the first forested section of the hike, so I recommend downloading a map before you arrive at the trailhead.

Exiting the forest into the meadow.

We made our way through the forest, taking some side trails and trying to find the main path. After the first 30 minutes we arrived at an open area where the paths converged. The meadows were full of fireweed leaves turning red, giving the slopes a beautiful depth of colour. Though the larches had yet to cover the hill in gold, the fireweed did a good job bringing fall to the mountains, along with some of the other vegetation. I would guess that this coming weekend would have the larches in all their golden glory.

Hiking towards the second ascent.

Overall, Pocaterra Cirque is approximately 7 km, an out-and-back trail that follows the same beginnings as the Pocaterra Ridge hike, then branches off to the left (south). There is 419 metres of elevation over this relatively short hike, so be ready for short, steep sections. The trail begins flat, gains some elevation through the forest, then plateaus in a meadow. You climb once more past a creek, then reach another plateau near a pond/lake. Passed the lake there is another meadow where we found the mushrooms. We followed the left fork in the trail towards the cirque and began the last, and steepest, climb to the top of the trail.

Taking the left fork towards the cirque (right takes you to the ridge).

We ate lunch at the top, in the cirque. The wind was strong, so we didn’t stay here longer than necessary to eat. We hiked back down (slowly for my knees). We needed our map again once we reached the beginning forest section as there were many paths (some intersecting hikes as well as side trails) and we didn’t want to get lost.

A very of Mount Pocaterra and Pocaterra ridge across from our lunch spot.

I really enjoyed this hike and the scenery, but I couldn’t help but wish the larches were turning yellow. This weekend (October 1 and 2), will likely be incredible.

Published by immersivetraveller

I am a recent graduate with a BA in Honours English. I enjoy creative writing and language learning as well as travelling and exploring.

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