If you’re in the mood for easy family-friendly hikes these five Rocky Mountain hikes – all within a two hour drive of Calgary (and the Calgary airport should you be visiting from out of town) should fit the bill.
From Kananaskis Country to Banff National Park, there are Rocky Mountain hikes for every type of hiker. All five of these hikes are easy – popular too, so do expect to be sharing the trail unless you get a really early start.
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Rocky Mountain hikes summary
- Check trail reports for Kananaskis and Banff National Park before you head off hiking.
- Carry bear spray and keep it accessible. I’d suggest a bear spray holster so you don’t set if off accidentally.
- Check the weather forecast before you head to the mountains.
- Pack the hiking essentials like a first aid kit, headlamp, extra water and food, and rain gear.
- Let someone know where you’re hiking and when you’d due back.
- The following maps would be useful – Gem Trek Banff and Mount Assiniboine, and Gem Trek Kananaskis Lakes.
- Enjoy the great outdoors and practice Leave No Trace principles.
The Ink Pots hike via Johnston Canyon
Johnston Canyon is wildly popular with tourists and locals alike because of its captivating beauty no matter what the season. The cantilevered catwalks always add a thrill to walking beside the river.
While many people stop at the first set of falls, 1.1 km from the trailhead, don’t unless you’re short on time. At the very least head for the upper set of falls (2.7 km from the trailhead) as they put on quite a show. The trail to the Ink Pots continues just past the upper falls.
If you continue for roughly another hour you’ll reach five pristine, aquamarine coloured pools formed by mineral springs that maintain a year round temperature of 4°C.
In theory you can continue well past the Ink Pots to Mystic Lake – though that is done as a backpacking trip. The total elevation gain is just 355 m and the round-trip distance is 11.8 km.
Read: The Inkpots Hike via Johnston Canyon
Plain of the Six Glaciers hike – one of the classic Rocky Mountain hikes
Start at Lake Louise and hike along the shoreline passing rock climbers and horseback riders. Continue up the moraine with views back to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and even the Lake Louise Ski resort on a well-marked trail, lined with masses of wildflowers come summer.
At 5.5 km reach the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse. If you hike another 0.5 km or so, enjoy in your face mountain and glacier views.
This is a classic hike in the Rockies that gains 400 m over 6 km one way. The grade is never tough. For families with active kids it would be a great choice.
Upper Kananaskis Lake hike
There is the option to do the full loop around Upper Kananaskis Lake totaling 15.8 kilometres (which puts it in the moderate category just because of its length) or an out and back hike depending on how ambitious you feel.
You’re never more than 60 metres above the lake so though the trail is rolling it’s still an easy one. There are loads of places, especially close to the parking lots where you can hang out by a beach so it’s particularly family-friendly.
The hike rewards with beautiful mountain scenery for almost the entire loop along with a couple of waterfalls. Very energetic hikers could add an extension to Rawson Lake.
There is also a fantastic, I hate-to-even-tell-people-about-it because it’s so nice camping spot called the Point Backcountry Campground where lucky campers can nab spots overlooking the lake. Put it on the must-do list.
Read: A Loop Hike Around Upper Kananaskis Lake
Lake Minnewanka Shoreline Trail (+ option to hike to Aylmer Lookout)
Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in Banff National Park, hosts a hiking trail along its length with lots of beaches worth stopping at, especially at the start of the trail. It offers easy family-friendly hiking along with a very high probability of seeing big-horned sheep.
Do an out and back hike for a couple of hours with a stop for a picnic. Or opt to do several days of hiking to the end of the lake, staying at well-spaced campsites on a backpacking trip (you need backcountry permits and the trail sometimes gets closed because of grizzly activity).
If you’re feeling energetic – and you don’t have young kids with you, also consider the hike up to Aylmer Lookout which I highly recommend for the incredible view. Along the route you’ll be treated to wildflowers. Come mid-July you must hike as a group of four or more and carry bear spray.
At the bridge over the river there is also the option to do the easy Stewart Canyon hike.
Ptarmigan Cirque hike – one of the popular Rocky Mountain hikes
The hike to Ptarmigan Cirque starts from the parking lot of the highest public road in Canada at Highwood Pass – so it doesn’t take long from there to get into the high alpine. Expect superlative mountain scenery on this short hike with only 210 m of elevation gain. Most of that is in the first kilometre.
For a short hike this is one of the Rocky Mountain hikes that delivers a punch for the tremendous variety of scenery you experience over a short distance. Hike through coniferous forest. Stroll through high alpine meadows and hike higher on scree slopes to get close to the mountains.
On the descent pass several pretty waterfalls. It’s the perfect family-friendly hike to take your out of town guests who want a taste of the mountains without spending a full day in them.
A few things to take on these Rocky Mountain hikes
On any of these Rocky Mountain hikes a wildflower guidebook can add a fun, educational component even kids will love.
In case you run out of water, it’s always a good idea to carry either a water filter or drops (more compact) so that you can make lake or stream water safe to drink. I like the Pristine water purification system.
Don’t forget a couple of protein bars or chocolate bars for you or your kids if your energy starts to fade.
If you want to err on the side of safety, carry a Garmin InReach Mini.
More great Rocky Mountain hikes
- 12 Kananaskis Trail Hikes in Alberta With a View
- 10 Breathtaking Lake Louise Hikes, Banff National Park
- A Hike to Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass
- Hiking in Kananaskis: The Wasootch Ridge Trail
- 7 Bragg Creek Hikes along Highway 66 in Alberta
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