There were already two cars at the Horsetail Falls TH as I left; not bad for 8.30 am! The start of the hike up to Ponytail falls reminded my why this is one of my favourite areas in the gorge: Lots of bang for the buck; I described my version on this site a couple of years ago. I wandered up under the Ponytail Falls and then turned left onto one of the several large trails leading onto the Horsetail Ridge. I had expected less of a boot highway and had hoped for more wildernesses. I thought of Lurch’s “secrets of the gorge” and made a note that this trail was seemingly known to everybody except me... Thankfully Lurch was soon vindicated! A large trail leads to this view and an environmentally green flossing device: I really wonder who flosses here! After collecting three helium balloons (or parts thereof) under Wauneka Point Tuesday, this was somewhat of a change. The ridge trail is steep and rapidly reaches a small cliff. At the top of the cliff, the trail petered out as it reached a second cliff. I deemed myself off-trail or perhaps that the route was too adventurous for me. I descended about 100 vertical feet and then followed faint boot and game trails around the east side of the ridge until I could establish myself on the crest. Lurch was justified and I was now happy in real wilderness! Once on the ridge I quickly came to the “arch,” an outcrop that is impressive from both sides: A second outcrop necessitated a longer detour on the west side, though it looked as if most people (or deer) climbed onto the top of the ridge. This was followed by a long stretch of ridge that was easy to hike, where the main attractions were animals and a Tolkien-like landscape: I enjoyed what is probably several hours of quiet and solitude in a great landscape. Coming off the ridge was a bit troublesome: After my GPS map told me that I should have hit the Horsetail Creek Way #425, there was still 0.6 miles to go, mostly through nasty blow down. I just got a GPS last month and I find that they make navigation much easier in this type of terrain. My progress was slow and I began to have doubts as to whether I had missed the trail. From the comfort of my home I can now see from Guy’s Bell Creek Trip Report that if I had just pulled right (west) upon coming off the ridge I would have saved a lot of bushwhacking. [Eric’s GPS track is found here] But then again, isn’t off-trail hiking all about branches scratching your limbs, spider webs in your hair and pine needles falling down the back of your shirt? A much grander and stylish end to this ridge hike is recorded by Raven:
My only encounter with the local wildlife was far more dovish: I followed the Horsetail Creek Way #425 across to the Rock of Ages trail and then headed down. Just as the trail steepens I met a young couple, the first people of the day. She was extremely concerned for me and was convinced that the trail was much too steep for me to descend safely (I am at least twice her age!). The Horsetail Ridge seen from the Devil’s Backbone: An hour after meeting the couple, I was at the parking lot after a fun 7 mile loop.raven wrote: The trail disappeared, so I pressed on walking logs, parting branches en route, and managed to surprise a bear who was on the log I was walking along, face to face only 15 feet apart.
WARNING: Lurch has correctly pointed out that on the lower parts of the ridges above the Ponytail Falls amphitheatre, there is a real risk of knocking rocks down onto hikers on the main trail below. So please be careful!
Secondly, the Horsetail Ridge has steep terrain and is (mostly) trail-less. It is much more difficult to follow than the classic ridges such as Ruckel or Rock of Ages.