Sunrise Hill (aka Rainy Summit Overlook) & Powder Puff, Kananaskis

by - Tuesday, November 01, 2016

For a short, gorgeous hike without crowds, head to Sunrise Hill in Kananaskis! This trail is a great alternative to Prairie Mountain as it is shorter, has less elevation gain, and is less travelled. The 360 views from the top are just as spectacular too! While this is clearly a spectacular sunrise spot, with open views to the east, the view to the south is most dramatic. Forgetmenot Ridge and Nihahi Ridge hem in several peaks while the Elbow River meanders through the valley below.

We ended up on Sunrise Hill by accident after missing the pullout for another hike. When we parked at the junction of Powderface Trail and Highway 66 to stretch our legs and get our bearings, we realized we were at the Powderface Ridge trailhead. While it was late in the day for a 14 km hike, there were two bumps on the topo map that looked like promising viewpoints. Both ended up being worthy objectives with awesome views and best of all, no bushwhacking was required! We christened the first bump Powder Puff. The second, taller bump was Sunrise Hill, also known as Rainy Summit Overlook.

Route Description

Park in the small pullout at the end of Highway 66 on the right side (junction of Hwy 66 & Powderface Trail & turnoff to Little Elbow Campground). Note that the pullout is unmarked and there is no trailhead sign near the road.

Sunrise Hill / Powderface Ridge Trailhead - parking to the right
Facing Powderface Trail, the dirt road, you will see a narrow but beaten path on the right of the road (see photo above). Follow it up the hill and around to the right. Shortly you will see a pink marker nailed to the tree that says Powderface Ridge. You're on the right track!

Follow the trail through mixed pine and spruce forest for about 1.5 km. You will see Powder Puff, the first bump on your right, which is a great destination if you're pressed for time. The views are gorgeous and there's a fun boulder on the way to the top too.

Trail to Sunrise Hill
Heading up Powder Puff
Fun boulder on Powder Puff
Sweet view from Powder Puff - only 1.5 km from the trailhead!
Making our way from Powder Puff to Sunrise Hill (hill on the right)
Carrying on, the trail narrows and can be quite snowy in late fall or spring. There was about a foot of snow on the trail on October 30th! After about 900 metres (2.4 km from the trailhead), start making your way up Sunrise Hill, the treeless hill on the right. You can't miss it as there's a large cairn on top with a wooden sign. The ascent is steep and rocky, but short (about 300 metres) and nontechnical.

Sunrise Hill/Powderface Ridge Trail
Almost at the top!
At the top, sit back and enjoy the view. The cool, prominent ridge to the right is Nihahi Ridge, Forgetmenot Ridge is to the left, and the blue-green pond below is Forgetmenot Pond. Looking east, you can see Calgary's skyline! We could see for miles in every direction! What we didn't see were people - there was only one person on the trail all afternoon!

Sunrise Hill Summit Cairn
Nice view of Nihahi Ridge from Sunrise Hill
Looking south from Sunrise Hill
Family photo on Sunrise Hill
Chasing the sun
For the perfect Elbow Valley day trip, hike the hill before or after a picnic at Forgetmenot Pond, then hit up Elbow Falls on the drive home. This is also a great trail to do if you're camping at Little Elbow Campground. For a longer hike, explore Powderface Ridge! We will definitely do this hike again!

Sunrise Hill Panorama

Sunrise Hill at a Glance

Distance: 5.7 km round trip
Elevation Gain: 504 m
Difficulty: Moderate (steep, nontechnical hike)
Stroller Friendly: No
Going further: Option 1) The Powder Puff extension adds on about half an hour max. Option 2) For a longer hike, descend Sunrise Hill and continue on the main trail to Powderface Ridge (9.6 km round trip from trailhead to ridgetop; several extensions/loops possible).
Seasonal Road Closure: The winter gate on Highway 66 (at Elbow Falls) is closed from December 1 - May 14.
Parking: Park at the junction of Hwy 66 & Powderface Trail in the pullout on the right side of the road (if driving south on Hwy 66 from Calgary). **There is no sign at the pullout.** The trailhead is straight up the grassy hill on the same side of the road. See photo above.

Sunrise Hill Parking - park at Hwy 66 & Powderface Trail
Sunrise Hill Map (follow the Powderface Ridge Trail)

SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING WINTER CONDITIONS: Avalanche danger exists on steep, snowy slopes. At the time of our visit, Sunrise Hill and Powder Puff were quite windswept, but conditions can change quickly. Research conditions before heading out and avoid high risk areas. Avalanche training is recommended for all winter mountain activities (so you can learn which areas are highest risk and how to determine the safest lines). For more information, see Why You Need Avalanche Skills Training.

Fun Fact: Sunrise Hill's official name is Rainy Summit Overlook. Which name do you prefer?

Other Hikes You Might Like

West Wind Pass
Prairie Mountain
Edworthy Falls (great dayhike from Elbow Lake)
The Ice Falls and Caves of Fish Creek Park, Calgary
The Best Short Hikes Near Calgary
More Best Short Hikes Near Calgary - Kananaskis Version

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  1. Stunning hike! My only complaint is that we didn't find out about this hike sooner 😉

    1. Thanks!! We felt the same way!!! I just love the views and proximity to Forget me not pond and Elbow Falls!


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