Going up Powderface Ridge usually means returning the same way from whichever trailhead you start from. If starting from Powderface Creek parking lot, why not give this 19.7 km loop a try? The idea it is to join up sundry trails and to set foot on Hwy. 66 as little as possible. In the end it becomes a bit of a mind game!
So first of all hike up the unlovely Powderface Creek Trail to Three Trails Pass. Turn left and climb Powderface Ridge Trail to the summit. At the trail’s apex you can either stay on the trail that traverses the forested eastern slope, or do what we did, which was to enjoy more ridge by heading south to just BEYOND the top at 520325. Either way, you have to reach “second col” between 520325 and the knoll to the east.
Walk up the knoll and drop down the far side to a col in the trees at 526326. This descent is the technical crux. A number of years back there used to a flagged trail winding down this moderately steep slope of rubble and open forest. We were dismayed to find that in the interim, most of the trail and all the flagging had disappeared. Our friends, who had been told there was a trail ALL the way back, were not impressed.
From the col, continue on the same line to the top of what is called “Rainy Summit Ridge.” It takes only a few minutes to reach a meadow viewpoint. A sorta trail (not as good as previously) develops and follows the ridge to the NE. After a short, steep drop to a meadow, the trail, trending SE, descends a stoney, low-angle ridge in the pines. Low down, be alert for where the trail leaves the right side of the crest, and upgrading to excellent heads north through the forest. Emerge at the top of an old cutblock, now filled to overflowing with small trees and bushes. The trail can still be traced as it descends through this mess (navigational crux) to the end of a grassed-over logging road. Turn right. The road soon curves left and descends to a T-junction with another grassy logging road.
The best way on is to turn right and follow the road out to the meadow about Rainy Pass Summit interpretive sign on Hwy. 66. Turn left (NW) and walk meadow on the left side of the highway. Cross the hwy. near the yellow bend sign and walk meadow on the right side down to the tree edge. At flagging, pick up the much-improved Rainy Creek pack trail. After what has gone before, your feet and legs will appreciate its super-soft tread and easy windings down to Rainy Creek near the confluence with the Elbow. On reaching Rainy Creek, turn right, then left and cross the creek on a wide plank.
On this final stretch you are continually tempted by the proximity of Hwy. 66. Climb half-way up the far bank to a junction and turn right into a traverse (Hwy. 66 is just above beyond the guard rail). Pass another up trail, and then a down trail. After a slightly exposed section above the Elbow River with numerous bail out trails heading for the the guard rail, you descend to the river. Beyond the boulder the trail improves and slips through a squeeze gate onto loop D of Beaver Flat campground. Walk straight to the main access road (Hwy. 66 lies just beyond the gate to your left) and turn right. Turn second left onto A loop and at the biffy turn right onto Beaver Lodge Interpretive Trail. Follow it up to Beaver Lodge parking area on Hwy. 66. Not far from the parking area you can climb a grassy bank to the right of Powderface Creek and so cut out extraneous highway walking. But by this time the four of us were beyond ethics and thinking of what pub to go to in Bragg Creek, so the suggestion was dismissed fairly easily. On reaching the highway, turn left. Actually, it takes only a few minutes longer to cross Powderface Creek on the tarmac and turn right into Powderface parking lot.