Explore Alberta: Top 5 Hikes in the Province

Explore Alberta: Top 5 Hikes in the Province

As Alberta has started to open up once again after the pandemic shutdown, so too have pockets of the tourism industry across the province.  Now might be as good a time as any to enjoy some of the beauty that the Wild Rose Country offers. This combined with lower than normal travel costs like hotel rooms (expedia.ca showing hotel rooms in the Canmore/Banff area for about half of what the normal summer rate is), it is a great time to explore your provincial backyard!

To plan the perfect trip, here are the Top 5 hikes in Alberta (but really, this list could be 1000 long and you would be impressed with nature on any of them):

1. SULPHUR SKYLINEJasper National Park – “Sulphur Skyline is a short (but steep) climb will reward your efforts with stunning views. At about 2.6 kilometres in, the trail will branch – you can go straight to Mystery Lake, or branch to the right and keep climbing to the summit. Once at the top, to the east you can see Fiddle River Valley and Mount Drinnan in the distance. West and south is the Miette Range and Utopia Mountain. To the northwest, you can see the Ashlar Ridge. You’ll end up at the Miette Hot Springs, so take a dip while you’re there!” (Explore Magazine)

Distance: 8 km total

Level of Difficulty: Moderate

2. JOHNSTON CANYON & INK POTSBanff National Park – “The trail to the waterfalls of Johnston Canyon has to be the busiest in the Canadian Rockies. Nearly every day throughout the summer, hundreds of hikers follow its canyon-clinging catwalks and cliff-mounting staircases to the gorge’s Lower and Upper Falls. While the canyon and its unique trail are certainly worthy of a visit, you’ll have to do the hike in the evening or very early in the morning to avoid the hordes. A small percentage of those who hike to the Upper Falls continue another 3 kilometres to the Ink Pots - seven cold mineral springs bubbling to the surface in the open meadows beside Johnston Canyon Creek. Above Upper Falls, the trail climbs out of the canyon to join the trail from Moose Meadows. In just over 2 kilometres, it descends to the meadows and the springs, located on the right side of the trail not far from the creek.” (Town of Banff)

Distance:  1.1 km to the Lower Falls (one way); 2.7 km to the Upper Falls; (one way) 5.8 km to the Ink Pots (one way)

Level of Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

3. WOOD BISON TRAILElk Island National Park – “The area south of Highway 16 was added to the park in 1947. Wood bison, the largest mammal in North America, have called this area home since 1963. The bison share the area with moose, elk, deer and a whole range of small mammals and birds. The trail begins in large, open aspen forest and eventually leads to Flyingshot Lake, a great place to observe waterfowl. The ridges on the west side of the trail afford excellent views of the surrounding areas. A series of boardwalks lead through wide open grassland, giving a sense of the Great Plains ecosystem.” (Parks Canada)

Distance: 15.6 km loop

Level of Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

4. HOODOO TRAILWriting-on-Stone Provincial Park – “Hoodoo Trail winds through various landscapes - hoodoos, sandstone cliffs and rock art, upland prairie grasslands, the Milk River valley and coulees. The trail has undulating terrain, stairs and steep sections. The trail can be very hot. Be sure to wear a hat and carry water. Please stay on the trail. This trail is NOT stroller or wheelchair accessible.” (Parks Alberta)

Distance: 4.4 km round trip

Level of Difficulty: Moderate

5. HA-LING PEAKCanmore – “Ha Ling Peak is one of the most popular hiking trails near Canmore. This trail offers stunning mountain views right outside the city limits. It's only a ten minute drive from the centre of Canmore! For one of the most iconic views of the city, climb Ha Ling Peak on a clear day. It's a serious calf-burner that results in a sweeping panorama. Follow steep switchbacks over gravel, loose rock and roots to the summit of Ha Ling Peak. This difficult trek will have you gasping for air—both from exertion and the breathtaking views from the top.” (Explore Magazine)

Distance: 7.8 km round trip

Level of Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

While the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper are amazing and people come from all over the world to see them, be sure to check out other trails, hikes, and sights in Alberta. Waterton National Park, the Crowsnest Pass, Alberta Badlands, Kananaskis Country, the Canmore area, and other provincial and national parks, lakes, and nature areas that are found in Alberta, all have wonderful trails and hikes for varying distances and levels of difficulty.

Most up-to-date trail reports and information can be found at https://www.albertaparks.ca/ or www.alltrails.com. It is always recommended that you check the status of the trails you wish to hike for closures and animal activity. If you are unsure of what you need for each hike to stay safe, please contact the local parks office or tourism board office for tips and suggestions.

As always, be sure to check the respective website provided above for the most up-to-date COVID-19 related hours of operation, services provided, and other information related to your visit.

(Photo Credit: Jaimie Harmsen on Unsplash)