Here are 25 of our favourite hikes in Alberta
Canada doesn't have a shortage of breathtaking views, but Alberta has some of the finest on the planet. The province boasts massive mountains, plenty of lakeside scenery, and hiking trails accessible to those of all skill levels. It was hard for us to pick the best spots to check out in Alberta because there are so many options, but we always go for the treks with fantastic scenery and something for everyone. Whether you're a skilled hiker seeking off-trail options or a beginner looking to escape the world for a while, here are our best Alberta hiking spots.
Cavell Meadows (Jasper National Park)
Is it even possible to write about Alberta trails without starting with Jasper National Park and all it has to offer? How can we even narrow down one trail in the park to talk about? We settled on Cavell Meadows, but, honestly, there are so many options in this park. Cavell Meadows is an experienced hike because it has many rocky parts, but you can make the trek if you are an intermediate hiker. Flowers abound on this trail, and you'll quickly discover that mountains surround you on every side somewhere in the middle of this hike. No dogs are allowed because of the abundant caribou population, so leave your pup at home.
Cavell Meadows, photo by Kurt Morrison @kurtmorrison
Johnston Canyon Trail (Banff National Park)
Hiking Time: 1 hour
When a short hike that's not hard but is rewarding is what you're seeking, head to Banff National park and the Johnston Canyon hike (which is two hikes). You can choose the shorter or longer option, but both will bring you to the Johnston Canyon Falls. You can bring your dog, your walking shoes, and the confidence of knowing that you can take this hike no matter what mood you're in.
Johnston Canyon Trail, photo by Travel Alberta / Stevin Tuchiwsky
Plain of Six Glaciers (Banff National Park)
Hiking Time: 4-5 hours
This trail is a popular one that leads to a tea house high about Lake Louise, but we still love it because of the outstanding views. You'll traverse through a pine forest, lose yourself in a spread of wooded trees, and end up staring at the gorgeous aquamarine Lake Louise. This is the perfect hike for a summer or spring day, and we even like it in the fall, but it's not something we'd recommend during the winter months due to icy conditions. Do check the park's website before you go, as conditions can change rapidly.
View of a glacial lake in the mountains on the Plain of Six Glaciers hiking trail near Lake Louise in Banff National Park, photo by Alissa Emily @alissa_emily
Waterton Lakes National Park
Hiking Time: 7-12 hours
This trail's sheer size will leave some novice hikers feeling left behind, but if you have the endurance to trek 22km, you can make it through the Waterton Lakes National Park trail. This isn't a popular trail but bears frequent it and other wildlife, so make sure to be prepared to encounter some unexpected guests along the way. You'll hike through wooded areas, traverse rocky parts, and enjoy lakeside views.
Hiking Time: 2-3 hours
Have you ever wanted to try an ice hike? Grotto Canyon might be the one to test out your icy trekking skills since it's not too tricky for moderate-level hikers. The trail itself is only four kilometres, and in the spring and summer months, that means hiking a creek bed by foot (it can't be reached any other way), but during the winter months, you can ice climb up the canyon if you have the right equipment (we don't recommend trying this unless you have had a bit of prior experience!).
Ice Walking through Grotto Canyon, photo by Travel Alberta / Colin Way
Trans Canada Trail (Cypress Hill Provincial Park)
Hiking Time: 2 hours
There are many trails in Cypress Hills Park, and some are more advanced than others, but you can access all of them from the park's main gate. We love this park's diversity and the fact that you can ski most of these trails during the winter months (which isn't the case everywhere). During the warmer months, any trail you pick at this park comes with spectacular views and plenty of skill-level options. Check out the park's website for a detailed map before you go and for ski report details.
Cypress Hill Provincial Park, photo by Jeff Bartlett @photojbartlett
Hiking Time: 2-4 hours
Some trails attract more wildlife than others, and the Siksika Trail is one that happens to be a favourite of creates large and small. You're more likely to see beavers on this trail than bears (though bears can be found walking throughout the trail at times). This is mostly an uphill hike with various hills and steep climbs combined with some flatter parts. If you're looking to test your endurance, this is an excellent trail to pick.
Hiking Time: 4 hours
Hoo-Doo in Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is something of a trippy trail with plenty of rock art, grasslands, valleys, peaks, cliffs, and, of course, hoodoos. While not a long trail, it is challenging enough that we are going to rank it as an intermediate climb. Steep in some parts and very flat and rocky in others, this is one trail you'll want good climbing shoes for. Make sure to stop and admire the rock art while you are there — you'll want to bring a camera.
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, photo by Michael Matt @michaelmatti
There are no markers on this trail up from Highwood Pass in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park making half the fun of the hike finding the actual trail. The hike itself is straightforward and tends to be easy enough to conquer once you find the trail, but know that there are plenty of rocky parts and some challenging inclines. You'll need to traverse some rocky bits to get where you're going, but the view is entirely worth it.
Window Mountain Lake
Hiking Time: 2-3 hours
If you've never hiked to a crystal clear swimming hole, you need to visit Window Mountain Lake near Crowsnest Pass, Alberta and take the hike to the open water. You can jump into the lake once you get there or admire the clear views from a high perch. Most of the walk is through a lovely wooded area, and you will end up near the water no matter which trail you take. This one is ideal for a hot summer day when you want to let loose and feel freedom beneath your feet.
Hiker overlooking Window Mountain Lake, photo by Quin Schrock @everchanginghorizon
Mount Stearn Trail
Hiking time: 7-8 hours
This is a great out-and-back hike in the Sulphur Lakes Provincial Recreation Area that includes a river and some fantastic vistas, a pond in the meadow before the summit. It's a serious workout this one, so expect some burning quads with all the climbing. But, hey, that's what hiking is all about. When hikers finally make it to the top and take in the panoramic views, it'll be worth it. Plenty of deep snow here so prepare yourself.
Tonquin Valley (Jasper National Park)
Hiking Time: Variable
You can choose to spend days hiking through Tonquin Valley or pick a path or two to try. With more than 70km of trails, it's no surprise that National Geographic named this area as one of the world's best trails. If you have the time and experience (this one is a bit on the hard side), take the McCarib Pass towards Jasper National Park (but bring camping gear because this is one serious hike that will require an overnight rest!).
Couple hiking through wildflowers by a lake in Tonquin Valley, photo by Kathmandu
Horse Thief Canyon
Okay, we admit it: we love the name of this area but not more than we love the hike along the Dinosaur Trail in the Canadian Badlands! While you're making your way through the canyon near the town Drumheller, think about this: archaeologists have found evidence that dinosaurs used to call the canyon home. You can take big dinosaur steps through this canyon or take your time and enjoy the diverse landscape.
Skyline Trail (Jasper National Park)
Hiking Time: multi-day hike
If hiking above the treeline is your kind of hike, the Skyline Trail is where you should go. More than 20km of the trail is above the tree line, making the views from this hike unbeatable. This is not a trail for beginners or those not prepared for camping overnight, but it is a trail to experience if you have the time and want to escape from the world. There are campsites throughout the trail, so make sure to mark those on your virtual map before you go.
Backpacker hiking the Skyline Trail, photo by Leigh McAdam @hikebiketravel
Wood Bison Trail (Elk Island National Park)
Hiking Time: 4-5 hours
This trail is marked difficult by Parks Canada because it does have some rocky parts, is longer than average, and includes traversing through herds of bison. Yep, bison. The Wood Bison Trail is home to the Wood Bison, and it's one of the few places on the planet where you can view the animals close-up (don't get too close). Wooded areas, a large field, plenty of wildlife, and a lake view is what you'll find when you visit the Wood Bison Trail. Check out the park map before you go to make sure that the trail is open and accessible.
Wapta Icefields (Banff National Park)
Hiking Time: 3 days
You'll need a guide to walk on the icefields at Wapta Icefields, but this is something that you must do once in a lifetime. Miles upon miles of ice stretch across the Rockies at Wapta. Because ice can be unpredictable (even with a guide), this is a trail for experienced hikers. This is a three-day trek, though, so pack accordingly. Take some time to view the map, find a guide, and book your hike on the site before heading out.
Hiking up Mt Gordon, Wapta Icefields, Alberta, Canada, photo by johnpricephotography
Hiking Time: 6 hours
Turtle Mountain is an intense hike, but it's not reserved for experienced hikers only. If you have a few hikes under your belt, you can quickly get through this hike. In 1903, a massive landslide at the mountain caused the top of Turtle Mountain to slide off, but today the terrain is stable and makes for a great trek. It's best to check in with a park ranger before you go on this hike and bring sustenance with you — it can be challenging in parts.
Buller Pass, Kananaskis Country
Hiking Time: 6 hours
This is just a pretty hike, plain and simple. Buller Pass is rated moderate because it can be rocky in parts, but we think beginners can make the trek without too many hiccups (and it's a great challenge hike). You'll find waterfalls, lakes, and plenty of fantastic scenery along the way. This is a 13km hike up and back, but it's doable in one day if you leave early enough.
Ha Ling Peak
Hiking Time: 5-6 hours
This one, in Bow Valley Provincial Park, is for the experienced hikers only because it is not well marked, comes with some rocky parts, and can be hard on the legs if you aren't used to gruelling hikes. Bring proper hiking gear, a pack with water and food, and be ready for a decent test of endurance. Ha Ling is popular with tourists, so get there early if you want to avoid crowds. The trail is open during the spring and summer but closes towards winter.
Hiking as the sun sets over the mountains at Ha Ling Peak in Canmore, photo by Kurt Morrison @kurtmorrison
Fairview Mountain (Banff)
Hiking Time: 4-6 hours
Fairview Mountain comes with a steep climb at the beginning of the hike but is worth the trek when you reach the top and look down at Lake Louise. We love this moderate hike for those lazy summer and spring days. Fairview is an excellent hike for packing a picnic, spreading out a blanket, and enjoying the mountain air. Check the site before you go to make sure weather conditions are favourable.
Wilcox Pass (Jasper National Park)
Hiking Time: 4 hours
Some of the hikes on this list include bison sightings and other wildlife sightings, but Wilcox Pass comes with sheep sightings (nearly guaranteed). This is a favourite spot to spread a picnic blanket and lay in the sun, thanks to plenty of open fields and large flat rocks to sprawl out on. Wilcox Pass is okay to hike if you are new to trekking, but experienced hikers will also enjoy this trail. At four hours, the Pass is a great way to spend the day.
Wilcox Pass, photo by Colleen Douze @thedouze
Big Beehive (Banff National Park)
Hiking Time: 3-4 hours
Start at Lake Agnes and wind your way towards the Big Beehive trail. This trail winds upwards through the woods until you find yourself standing at the viewpoint. From there, you can look down on Lake Agnes in all its summer or springtime splendour (there's even a tea house that's open during the warmer months). This trail near Lake Louise is ideal for hikers of any skill level and is a great way to spend the day.
Mount St. Piran (Banff National Park)
Hiking Time: 4-6 hours
Are you looking for a real hiking challenge? Mount St. Piran includes a long stretch of loose rocks that will require some tricky footwork. Aside from the rocky parts, Mount St. Piran isn't a tough climb, but it's probably one that you need at least a few hikes under your belt to conquer. Once you get to the top, you'll find one of the best views of Banff National Park around. This is the right choice for a day hike, and it's challenging enough to take up most of the day, so plan for some extra time if you aren't used to scrambling rocky trails. You can find more details about this hike here.
Hiking Time: 5-6 hours
A hike rarely offers a view of ten different mountain peaks, but that's what you'll find when you visit the Eiffel Lake trail. This hike can be enjoyed by moderate to experienced hikers and comes with plenty of perks (mountain peaks aside) like wildflowers and plenty of wildlife. You'll want to check the weather before you go here.
Eiffel Lake trail, photo by William Patino @william_patino
Hiking TIme: 1-2 hours
Waterfalls, caves, and plenty of rock climbers are some of the things you'll come across when you visit Grassi Lakes near the town of Canmore in the southern Canadian Rockies. There's a more specific part to this trail and one trail that's a lot harder - we like a challenge and think you should check out the steeper side, but if you're looking for a simple hike, the basic trail is also a great option. As with most trails, it's a good idea to check out the site before you go.