It's hard to think of Alberta
without conjuring images of this diverse province's most amazing and powerful
sightthe Rocky Mountains,
which tower over prairies and foothills as one moves west through the province.
The Rocky Mountains are a huge tourist draw, particularly to popular ski areas
like Banff, Lake
and Jasper. But how does
one enjoy the majesty of these humbling giants when there's no snow on the ground?
A great way is by hiking through the lush wilderness of the Rockies, an activity
that allows one to gain intimate and firsthand knowledge of the mountains in
all their glory, from creeks and cliffs right down to trees and insects.
Hiking isn't just for a
seasoned outdoorspersona number of hikes throughout Alberta's
Rockies can be done in a day, a half a day, or even a mere few hours.
So grab a pair of sturdy, comfy shoes and head to one of these amazing, not-to-be-missed
JASPER AREA HIKES
Maligne Canyon Trail
Hikers on the Maligne Canyon Trail will be treated to the best view of the famous
Gorges, which Jasper is known for. This trail, which lasts for 2.1 km
(1.3 mi) one way, 4.2 km (2.6 mi) return, follows running water and crosses
it with a suspension bridge, all with the guidance of interpretive signage along
the route. The trail gains an elevation of about 100 m (328 ft), but the views
are worth the climb, as the many tourists who make the hike each year can attest
to. The trail is accessed via the Fifth Bridge, which is 8 km (5 mi) east of
Jasper via Highway 16 and the Maligne Road.
Valley of the Five Lakes
This hiking route is a mere 4.2-km (2.6-mi) return trip, so it only takes about
two or three hours to complete. Popular with families, this trail leads hikers
in and around five lakes, each of which is a unique shade of bluey-green. There
are picnic facilities, and the fifth lake even offers boat rentals. Also, keep
an eye out for loons and diving ducks in the waters of the lakes. The trailhead
is located 9 km (5.5 mi) south of Jasper on Highway 93 at a marked rest stop
with signs, pit toilets and a parking lot.
Athabasca Glacier 1
Athabasca Glacier Hike
The Athabasca Glacier is more commonly referred to as the Columbia
Icefield. Located along Highway 93, also known as the Icefields
Parkway, this hike up one of the Rockies' most well-known glaciers is
only 1 km (0.6 mi), but it can be dangerous, as glaciers are wrought with deep
ice crevasses that many un-experienced hikers could easily fall into. What's
more, once a hiker falls in, they often die of hypothermia before they can be
rescued. Experts have marked a portion of the glacier that is free of crevasses,
and it's extremely important to follow these signs. Even so, ice is slippery
and hikers should exercise caution. Taking a guided hike is probably the best
option for hikers. This glacier is probably the most popular glacier viewing
spot in Alberta, so it's common to see lots of tourists, but most take the snow-coach
up the mountain.
LAKE LOUISE AREA HIKES
Plains of Six Glaciers Trail
The popular trail begins at the Chateau
Lake Louise and follows the shore of idyllic Lake
Louise. After strolling lakeside for a while, the trail gains significant
elevation as it winds in between steep mountain peaks, passing beside several
glaciers, including Victoria Glacier, along the way, and offering views of turquoise
lakes. The path is rocky and can be dangerous if caution is not employed while
hiking. When hikers reach their destinationthe
teahousethey can enjoy a well-deserved cup of coffee or tea before
heading back to the Chateau. The trail is 5.5 km (3.4 mi) and approximately
two hours each way.
on Moraine Lake 2
Consolation Lake Trail
Beginning at Moraine
Lake and ending at Consolation
Lake, this trail is easy and scenic, lined with lush vegetation and
beautiful mountain views. Be sure to cross the boulder field to reach the lake
shorethe scenery is worth it. The 6-km (4-mi) hike has a small elevation
gain (90 m or 300 ft) and takes about two hours, making it a relaxing way for
the whole family to spend a day. To get to the trail, take Moraine Lake Road
to the Moraine Lake parking lot.
BANFF AREA HIKES
Bow Falls Trail
Bow Falls is conveniently located below the Banff
Springs Hotel, allowing for easy access from the Banff townsite. One
of the easiest in the area, there is plenty of time to stop and smell the flowers
on this 3-km (1.9-mi) hike. Accessible via the Bow River Bridge in Banff, green
signs lead the way to the falls. The trail is also available for cyclists and
cross country skiers, but they must take a slightly different routesigns
will guide the way. Once at the falls, visitors can take in the view, which
includes famous peaks like Mount Rundle. There's also a picnic area and a set
of stairs leading up to the famed hotel.
Tunnel Mountain doesn't actually have any tunnelsit was proposed that
the CPR blast several tunnels into the side of the mountain in the late 19th
century, and though this plan was quickly discarded, the name has stuck around.
Despite the lack of tunnels, however, Tunnel Mountain is a great place for a
day hike. The easy 4.3-km (2.7-mi) journey starts just off of St. Julien Road
in Banff and offers panoramic views of the townsite and mountains. With an elevation
gain of 300 m (948 ft), Tunnel Mountain is a very popular hike in Banffso
popular, in fact, that one woman, Anne Ness, has completed the hike an astounding
Canyon's popular trail begins with a paved walkway that continues for
1.1 km (0.7 mi) to the Lower Falls, a 10-m (33-ft) waterfall that offers a great
picnic spot. If necessary, street shoes can be worn for this portion
of the hike but those who wish to carry on should know that the trail gets more
rugged for the remainder of the 4.7 km (2.9 mi.) It's worth it thoughhikers
will first reach the picturesque Upper Falls, which cascade down a 30 m (100
ft) ledge, and then they will come to the Ink Pots. These six green-blue spring-fed
pools of water are situated in a spot that offers great mountain views.
KANANASKIS AREA HIKES
Barrier Lake Trail
The bright green-blue waters of Barrier Lake are surrounded by lush-green wilderness,
making it a great place to spend the day hiking or learning about the topography
of the area. At 2.3 km (1.4 mi) return with an elevation gain of only 10 m (33
ft), this trail is an easy way to spend a day, and is located off Highway 1
on Highway 40, 12.3 km (7.6 mi) south at the U of C Kananaskis Field station
Heart Creek Trail
Heart Creek is a popular hiking trail, and at only an hour and a half return
in duration, it is a pleasant way to spend half a day. Steeped in wilderness,
the trail follows the gushing creek, crossing over a number of log bridges along
the way until sweeping views of the canyon and mountain signify arrival at the
waterfall, the hike's zenith. Find the trailhead by following the signs on Highway
1 in between Canmore and
Seebe. The Heart
Creek day hike should not be confused with the Heart Mountain hike, which is
20 very difficult kilometres (12.43 mi) in duration.
in Kananaskis Country 3
Wedge Pond Loop Trail
For an even more relaxed hike than Heart Creek, try the Wedge Pond Loop, which,
at 1 km (0.62 mi), only takes half an hour to complete and follows the shoreline
of this picturesque body of water, providing pleasant views and a perfect place
for a picnic. The trail is located off Highway 40, which can be accessed from
Eau Claire Interpretive
Like the Wedge Pond Loop, Eau Claire is an easy hike that should take less than
an hour to complete. This trail has a number of interpretive signs that help
explain the human and geographical history of the area. The pathway follows
the river along the bottom of this serene valley, and is accessible via Highway
PETER LOUGHEED PROVINCIAL
Lougheed Provincial Park is one of Alberta's lesser-known Rockies wilderness
areas, making it a great place to explore without crowds. For this particular
hike, it's best to bring a walking stick on this mountain bowl trail, which
takes three hours to complete, as the first of the 5 km (3 mi) is quite steep.
However, interpretive signs lead the way to the peak bowl, and the views from
the top make the hike worthwhile. The trail is accessibly via Highway 40, approximately
50 km (31 mi) south of Highway 1.
Boulton Creek Trail
Interpretive signs lead the way along this 3-km (1.9-mi) hike, which takes approximately
an hour to complete. Along the trail, hikers will come across a number of historic
sites, including a log cabin from the early 20th century. The elevation gain
is only 20 m (66 ft), making this an easy way to pass a half day in the mountains.
The trailhead can be reached via the Kananaskis Lakes Trail off of Highway 40.
Canadian Mt. Everest
Don't let the title be dauntingthis trail is hardly anything like the
original Everest climb. For one thing, it's only 3 km (1.9 mi) long, and should
take no longer than an hour for hikers to complete. And with an elevation of
a mere 100 m (328 ft), there's no need to pack those oxygen tanks. Named to
honour the heroic 1982 expedition made by Canadians at the actual Everest, this
trail offers interpretive signage and good views of the Kananaskis Lakes. To
get there, take Kananaskis Lakes Trail off Highway 40.
WATERTON NATIONAL PARK
Cameron Lake 4
Red Rock Canyon Trail
At less than a kilometre in duration with little elevation gain, the Red Rock
Canyon Trail is more of a stroll than a hike, but access to amazing scenery
and rich geological history makes this a popular spot for daytrippers who wish
to experience the grand majesty of the Waterton
Lakes National Park, which is known worldwide for its opulent backdrop
and remarkable heritage.
which begins at beautiful Cameron
Lake, is 19 km (11 mi) in length and experiences a 650 m (2132 ft) gain
in elevation, making it one of the more challenging day hikes in Alberta's Rockies.
The trail usually takes between six and eight hours to complete and traverses
meadows, rocky ridges and creek beds before coming to the final destination,
Falls. Hikers end up in a different spot than they began, so it's important
to plan for transportation either back to the trailhead or the townsite. A shuttle
bus from town takes hikers to and from the trailhead for $8 per person.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF:
- Jasper Chamber of
Commerce; Snow coaches take visitors across the Athabasca Glacier, but there's
also a hiking trail; Jasper, Alberta, Canada
- John Sharpe; c/o Sharpeshots
Photography; Canoeing on Moraine Lake; Calgary, Alberta, Canada
- John Sharpe; c/o Sharpeshots
Photography; Wildflowers in Kananaskis Country; Calgary, Alberta, Canada
- Bob Pisko; Wateron's
Cameron Lake; Blairmore, Alberta, Canada