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Hiking In Alberta: 16 Of The Must-Do Day Hikes

Hiking in Alberta: 16 of the Must-Do Day Hikes

Hiking in Alberta is incredible. We’re spoiled here with an abundance of outstanding day hikes to choose from. These 16 hikes described below give you but a taste of what is out there. With three national parks and the Rocky Mountains you can expect plenty of world-class mountain views, gorgeous high alpine lakes and with a little luck some wildlife sightings.

If you haven’t done a lot of hiking in bear country read my tips here before heading out and always take the 10 essentials for hiking. 

Crypt Lake Trail, Waterton Lakes National Park

Unless you hit a weekday in the shoulder season, expect company on this hike. The boat runs until Thanksgiving weekend in October.

Distance: 17.4 km round-trip with a 690 metre elevation gain

Difficultly: Moderate   Time needed: 5 -7 hours

Highlights: A boat ride to the trailhead, waterfalls, a gnarly section that includes a ladder, tunnel and chains, beautiful alpine lake with a beach at the end of the hike

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

Getting to the tunnel on the Crypt Lake Trail

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

You can walk all the way around Crypt Lake

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

Pretty hiking down a valley with waterfalls

Turtle Mountain, Crowsnest Pass Area

The one hike where you may feel a wee bit of tension at the summit as it is predicted that there will be another rock slide.

Distance: 6.2 km round-trip with 780 metres of elevation gain

Difficulty: Challenging   Time needed: 3 – 6 hours

Highlights: At the top you can see where Turtle Mountain broke off to cause the Frank Slide in 1903. Superb views off the Frank Slide itself. Great view of the town of Blairmore and up and down the Crowsnest Valley. There is the option to scramble to the South Peak (where monitoring equipment is in place to detect movement) but it’s about an hour each way even though the distance isn’t great.

Read: 3 of the Best Hikes in the Crowsnest Pass Area

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

While the trail isn’t marked it’s easy to find

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

The airy view from the area where the mountain broke off

Hiking Alberta: 15 Must-Do Hikes

The sight of the Frank Slide several thousand feet below

Prairie Mountain, Kananaskis Country (Bragg Creek area)

I only do this hike in the winter or the shoulder season as there are definitely prettier hikes out there to do. But you can’t beat it for a work-out or to get your mountain fix as the trailhead is just 45 minutes from Calgary. It can be bloody cold and windy on top and ice-cleats are recommended in winter. It’s dog friendly. 

Distance: 7.6 km with 726 metres of elevation gain

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult because of the steepness  Time needed: 3 – 5 hours unless you’re superhuman

Highlights: Prairie and mountain views; you can see Calgary on a clear day

Read: Prairie Mountain: A Year-Round Day Hike from Calgary

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

Prairie Mountain can be hiked at any time of the year

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

There’s a Canadian flag on the summit of Prairie Mountain

Buller Pass, Kananaskis Country

This is a great hike off the Smith-Dorrien Road in Kananaskis Country. In fall, larches provide a blast of colour. From Buller Pass you can see Guinn Pass and Ribbon Lake.

Distance: 13 km round-trip with a 671 metre elevation gain

Difficulty: Moderate to hard    Time needed: 6 hours

Highlights: Waterfalls, great views from Buller Pass, option to continue to Ribbon Lake where there’s a campsite but would be a long day hike

Read: Mountains and Stunning Views on the Hike to Buller Pass

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

Buller Pass is a moderately difficult hike

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

The view down to the Rainbow Lakes from Buller Pass

Burstall Pass, Kananaskis Country

Bring a pair of water shoes if you’re not good at jumping streams as there’s a long wet area you have to get through to get to the good stuff. Also a great trail to do in the fall with some larches.

Distance: 16.4 km round-trip with a 667 metre elevation gain

Difficulty: Moderate  Time needed: 5 hours

Highlights: Stunning valley, beautiful meadows and terrific views up high. Options to continue from the pass or bag a peak. Great for a family hike too.

Read: The Hike to Burstall Pass in Kananaskis Country

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

Bring water shoes if you don’t want to get your boots wet on the way up to Burstall Pass

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

Glorious scenery views once you reach the area around Burstall Pass

Wasootch Ridge, Kananaskis Country (off of Highway 40)

A steep hike gets you onto an undulating ridge with expansive views.

Distance: 11.7 km round-trip with 750 metres of elevation gain

Difficulty: Moderate   Time needed: 5-6 hours

Highlights: Well-defined trail along the ridge line offers views of Wasootch Creek and the Nakiska Ski Hill; becomes a scramble near the end and most people turn around when the going gets tough

Read: Hiking in Kananaskis: The Wasootch Ridge Trail

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

Views from Wasootch Ridge

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

Then there are the people that run up the mountain

Opal Ridge, Kananaskis Country

More of a scramble at times than a hike so you’re less likely to see people on this one. Lots of variety and a high possibility of wildlife.

Distance: 6.3 km round-trip with 900 metres of elevation gain

Difficulty: Hard      Time needed: 5 – 6 hours

Highlights: A varied hike with lots of surprises; rock pillars near the ridge line are unexpected; views into a valley you almost never see are fantastic as are views across to Fortress Mountain

Read: Kananaskis Hikes: Opal Ridge South

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

Awesome view down the ridge and especially into a valley that is rarely seen

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

There is some scrambling to get to Opal Ridge

Grizzly Peak, Kananaskis Country from Highwood Pass

It shares a trailhead at the Highwood Pass parking area with the Pocaterra Ridge hike but the hiking experience is completely different. This one rewards with a tiny summit via a short ridge and a bit of easy scrambling. One of the best hikes in Kananaskis Country.

Distance:  9.6 km round-trip with an elevation gain of 518 metres to the col plus an additional 165 metres to the summit

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult (only at the very end)  Time needed: 4-6 hours to the summit

Highlights: Larches in the fall; stunning views in the Highwood Pass area; fun watching people scramble on Mt. Tyrwhitt

Read: The Grizzly Peak Hike in Kananaskis Country

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

Some hikers turning back from the scree section on the way up Grizzly Peak

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

The scree section on the way up to the col which isn’t really that bad

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

On the top of Grizzly Peak

Pocaterra Ridge, Kananaskis Country from Highwood Pass

Plan a car shuttle as this hike is best done as a one way affair starting at Highwood Pass. I’d recommend larch season for the intense blast of yellow. Outstanding.

Distance: 8.9 km one way (and only do it as a one-way hike) with a 950 metre elevation gain and a 640 metre loss

Difficulty: Moderate  Time needed: 6 hours

Highlights: Phenomenal hike in larch season. Once you gain the ridge the views are some of the best in the Rockies.

Read: The Fantastic Pocaterra Ridge Hike in Kananaskis Country

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

The one major hill to climb on the way up Pocaterra Ridge (that’s Grizzly Col on the far side)

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

Do Pocaterra Ridge in September when larches are at their peak

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

Pocaterra Ridge is one of the nicest hikes I’ve done in Alberta

Ha Ling Peak near Canmore

One of the early season hikes that will get you into shape for summer hiking. Heavily trafficked. Reopening in spring 2019.

Distance: 5.6 km round-trip with 762 metres of elevation gain

Difficulty: Moderate  Time needed: 4 – 5 hours

Highlights: Steep trail delivers you at the edge of the mountain overlooking the city of Canmore. Great views also of the east end of Mt Rundle.

Read: The Fantastic Hike to the Summit of Ha Ling Peak

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

Ha Ling Peak can get busy on a sunny late spring day

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

Look over the edge and you get an airy view of the Canmore Valley

Aylmer Lookout, Banff National Park

Count on a long day but most of it offers view of Lake Minnewanka. From the lookout it feels like you can see forever. This is prime grizzly country (we saw mama bear and her three cubs) so go prepared.

Distance: 23.4 km return to the lookout with 570 metres of elevation gain; add  230 metres and 3.6 km round-trip for the pass

Difficulty: Moderate because of the length  Time needed: 7 -8 hours

Highlights: Superb views up and down the entire length of Lake Minnewanka

Read: Banff Hikes: The Aylmer Lookout Trail

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

The hike to Aylmer Lookout is an excellent early season hike

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

You get great views up and down Lake Minnewanka

Fairview Mountain, Banff National Park

It’s a steep climb to the top but the view is worth the effort. Lake Louise looks puny 1000 metres below. The early part of the hike is superlative during larch season.

Distance: 10.6 km round-trip and 1014 metres elevation gain

Difficulty: Moderate   Time needed: 4- 6 hours

Highlights: The highest trail in the Rockies; interesting and unusual perspective of Lake Louise: in-your-face mountain views of Mt. Temple

Read: An Outstanding Hike to the Summit of Fairview Mountain

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

It’s a stiff climb up Fairview Mountain but worth it for the view over Lake Louise

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

Looking down over Lake Louise

Parker Ridge, Banff National Park

A popular family-friendly hike with zero route-finding issues. Quick access to the high alpine along with superb views. If you’re heading for the Columbia Icefields a great hike to stretch your legs.

Distance: 4 km round-trip to the saddle with 272 metres of elevation gain, 11 km round-trip to the ridgecrest and 593 metres of elevation gain

Difficulty: Easy   Time needed: 1-2 hours for the saddle; 4-5 hours for the ridgecrest

Highlights: Views start within 15 minutes of hiking; great views of the Saskatchewan Glacier; option to hike to the ridgecrest – which few people do

Read: The Parker Ridge Trail, Banff National Park

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

You get great views within minutes of starting the hike

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

Looking over to the Saskatchewan Glacier

Helen Lake and Cirque Peak, Banff National Park

Big effort reward ratio on this hike. Nothing like amazing glacier views within a short time of starting the trail!

Distance: 14 km return for the ridge above the lake and 550 metres of elevation gain. Add another 493 metres to summit Cirque Peak.

Difficulty: Easy to the ridge but moderate for the peak  Time needed: 4 hours for the ridge, 6 – 7 hours for the peak

Highlights: Gorgeous summer wildflowers, mostly above treeline; mountain and glacier views 

Read: Rocky Mountain Hiking: Helen Lake and Cirque Peak

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

Early on in the hike you can see Bow Lake and Bow Glacier

Looking down from part way up Cirque Peak

Wilcox Pass, Jasper National Park

Once you clear the trees after a steep start you’re rewarded with some of the finest scenery in the Rockies.

Distance: 9.8 km round-trip with 409 metres of elevation gain

Difficulty: Moderate to the meadow, then easy  Time needed: 3-4 hours

Highlights: Bighorn sheep sightings are almost guaranteed; meadows are gorgeous; scenic red chair views over to the Columbia Icefields; side trails offer even better Icefields views; option to scramble up Mt. Wilcox

Read: 5 Stunning Hikes You’ll Want to do Along the Icefields Parkway

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

Enjoy a red chair moment part way up to the pass

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

People look puny in these mountains

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

What a view of the Columbia Icefields

Path of the Glacier Trail at Mount Edith Cavell, Jasper National Park

After a winding drive up a mountain road you land in a world of glaciers, mountains and wildflowers. Follow the paved path to Cavell Pond but the loop that includes Cavell Meadows is recommended

Distance: 1.6 km return with 70 metres of elevation gain BUT there is an option to do a longer loop that includes Cavell Meadows

Difficulty: Easy   Time needed: 1 hour, but more if you want to do longer loops

Highlights: Wildflower filled meadows if you go beyond Cavell Pond, glaciers, mini icebergs and towering cliffs 

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

The hike to Mt Edith Cavell

Hiking Alberta: 15 of the Must-Do Hikes

Great wildflowers if you do this hike in the summer

Click on the photo to bookmark to Pinterest.

Hiking in Alberta: 16 of the Must-Do Day Hikes

Leigh McAdam

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Thank you Leigh for your info about hiking. Love reading it. I will be starting to hike and reading your blog make me more inspired to hike. I will be following your story and thank you.

    Emy

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