The Coral Ridge hiking trail starts out as a combined horse and footpath.
Upon starting you will pass through a creek that does not have a sturdy way over it, so be prepared to get your feet a bit wet. You can cross it quickly and carefully, but an extra pair of socks wouldn’t be the worst thing to have just in case.
Once you’re over the creek you will start making a brief incline as the combined path continues on. Due to the fact that you are still low at this point, there isn’t a lot to see, but you are in the mountains so there’s always a peak or ridge visible over the trees.
While you walk keep your eye on the west side of the trail as there is a beautiful little clearing in the trees that houses a refreshing spring fed creek that two legged and four legged adventurers can take advantage of.
Personally, I have never tasted water more delicious or refreshing, and should you chose to drink from it at the beginning of the hike, it may be something you are longing for over the next 3-4 hours.
Water is a very important thing to have on this trail, so be sure to bring lots for yourself and your dogs as it will be a while before you have access after this point.
Once you have taken the time to drink from the mountain spring, move on as there’s still a lot to see and depending on the time of day you will want to ensure you have plenty of time to complete the remainder of the hike.
Continuing on down the trail you will notice the odd path exiting off into the trees. Most of them I am unsure as to where they lead because there are no markers or signs on the trail and we did not venture off of the main path as it’s best to not get lost in grizzly country.
You will, however, eventually come to a fork in the road where much more defined paths go off in two directions, straight ahead is where the footpath continues while to the northeast (right) the horse trail travels up a gradual incline into the trees.
Continuing straight you will shortly come to another path to the west that will take you to the edge of the Coral Creek Canyon. This is a lovely spot to sit and rest before you carry on, taking in the view of Mount Cline in the distance.
Returning back to the main hiking trail you will continue to rise up as the path travels along ridges, and in and out of the trees, as you continue to climb and gain a better view of the surrounding mountains.
As we travelled this portion of the path I remember saying, “I like this trail, it’s nice and gradual which makes it easy on my knees.”
I would soon be eating those words in some sort of cruel irony as we made the final ascent.
However, before we get to that point you will continue on a gradual climb that eventually brings you back to a combined horse and footpath; here you will see what is only the permanent marker.
Continue to head up the trail and it won’t be too much further before you hit what could be the second big scenic spot of the trail, a look out over the Coral Creek.
When we were hiking the creek looked tiny compared to the opening that enveloped it, I can just imagine what it might look like in early spring when the melting snow from the mountains runs its course after winter.
I would recommend that people take the time to relax, have a bite to eat, drink lots of fluids, and prepare for the final and most challenging leg of the hike while you are at this spot.
Once you’re ready and exiting the lookout you will see two trails to the east of you, one travels down, I am not sure where it goes, and the other travels up into the trees. Taking the second you will have to pay very close attention to your surroundings, as this portion of the “trail” can be hard to follow.
After roughly 50 meters the beaten path disappears and you have to rely on a combination of orange plastic ribbons and rock piles to make your way through to the top of the ridge.
At first, the orange tags and rock piles are fairly easy to follow, they will take you up rock faces and into wooded areas, however, soon these markers become sparse and you will have to rely on a GPS or your own sense of direction to make it the rest of the way.
Once in a while, you will come across small paths but because this trail is not travelled by high numbers of people there’s a good chance that some of these are game trails.
Staying to the east and following the Coral Ridge will help to ensure that you don’t get turned around while you’re travelling up the final 2.6 km to the lowest open portion of the ridge.
The incline itself wasn’t too bad, it was the combination of us not expecting it to be like it was, and the fact that there was no actual path for most of it made it frustrating.
I know cutting paths throughout nature reserves, and other natural areas, does not sound like it would be best for the environment, but by having those cut trails you prevent the need for people to walk through other areas of the forest. The lack of trails on this path sees to it that just about every person who hikes up to the ridge has to take a different path, therefore having a bigger impact on the surrounding environment.
This last portion can be frustrating, and all the reading I tried to do before hand did not give me the impression that it would be as challenging as it was, but in the end, it was worth it.
The views from the top, including Abraham Lake, Cline Mountain and the many other peaks in the distance were awe inspiring and knowing that few other people take the time to travel up there made it a little more special and rewarding.
Once to the top we opted not to do the final kilometre to the very top of the ridge but were still happy with what we accomplished.
The hike in total for us was roughly 12 kilometres, with 5 of it being bushwhacking through a wooded incline.
The hike took us roughly 7 hours, not all spent walking, but also stopping to enjoy the views, taking pictures, as well as many breaks to catch our breath.
I would recommend this hike to anyone who wants to test themselves, and I would definitely do it again. I only wish I could find a more detailed description like this one prior to heading out.