If you’ve ever found yourself googling places to adventure to, it can get pretty overwhelming. Especially if it is somewhere you are not used to or doing something you’ve never done before. When we first started hiking around the Calgary area, we literally had no idea where to start. There’s a lot to consider such as elevation gain, bear safety, trail access and driving distance. We’ve only been hiking the area for around 3 years now and have scratched a good chunk off of our lists but still not enough since we are progressing onto harder and longer hikes now.
We’ve made a list to help break it down. It consists of popular hikes that are within a 2 hour drive from Calgary. Each of these hikes are in a different area/park, so if you do each of these, you’ll see something different each time! They all are also very clearly marked, so there’s no confusion on where the trail starts. We will always suggest early morning hikes to beat the crowds and please always pack bear spray with you because you never know what you can run into!
Chester Lake is in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and is around 10 kilometers with an elevation gain of 424 meters. The hardest part of the trail is the beginning which is where most of the elevation is but it flattens out after that. What is so great about Chester Lake, is you can do it in almost any season. During the winter months there is a specific snowshoe trail and one for cross country skiing. The trail then closes from May 1 to June 29 for trail preservation and allowing it to dry out. It can get pretty muddy with the amount of traffic. In the summer months there can be bear activity in the meadow, so please bring bear spray with you. If you want to go for a fall hike to see the larch trees changing, this is a great hike for that! A little less busy than other routes. Dogs are allowed on leash and they will love to take a dip in the lake!
A great alternative to the Sulphur Mountain gondola ride in Banff is hiking Tunnel Mountain for free! Tourists flock from all over the world to visit Banff. The city itself is absolutely stunning, situated in the mountains, everywhere you look it is gorgeous. But how about the view to look down on Banff? Even better, you are able to see Banff and the surrounding mountains. This trail is great for beginners. It was actually our first hike too! The route is only 5 kilometers and can be completed well under 2 hours. The elevation gain is only 260 meters. On the summit you will even find the popular Red Chairs that Parks Canada has placed all over Canada! (If you’ve never heard of this before, check it out here to see where all the chairs are placed!)
Prairie View Lookout
Just off of the TransCanada Highway, Prairie View is easily accessible and is the perfect leg stretcher for the summer. This 10 kilometer, 625 meter elevation gain, has the most incredible views of Barrier Lake and the surrounding mountains. On a clear day you can even see Calgary to the east, Mount Yunaska to the North and to the east is the Bow River valley. Since it is right off the highway and on the north side of Kananaskis, the snow melts from this trail early spring and is one of the last trails to get snow fall. This is great for the first and last hike of the season. Check out our page for more information on this hike! It’s one of our favourites!
Another hike that overlooks a city is Ha Ling. Canmore is a hidden gem, since most people herd to Banff so you cannot miss this one! This hike is a great calf burner! Similar to EEOR [the East End of Rundle hike] this hike is 8 kilometers return but has an elevation gain of 700 meters. The summit is an easy scramble but I do not recommend this to the faint of heart. The trail consists of a series of switchbacks and is popular to trail runners. Near the summit you have the option to head left to Ha Ling or go right to Miners Peak. Both give you views of Canmore and Quarry Lake. The opposite side views are of Bow Valley Corridor and the famous peaks of Lady MacDonald and Grotto Mountain. Ha Ling is a great place to do a sunrise hike in the summer.
If you are in the Calgary area, you unquestionably will be visiting Lake Louise at some point. Hiking this area in the winter is limited but during the summer the opportunities are endless. I love to take a popular sight and get a new perspective on it, like looking at Lake Louise from above. The Little Beehive hike is perfect to see a bunch of stuff in one day. You are able to see Lake Louise, hike to the Lake Agnes Teahouse then have the gorgeous sight of viewing them both from above. [You can also pop over to Moraine Lake from here too!] This trail is the longest and steepest at 12 kilometers with an elevation gain of 900 meters.
Well there’s our favorite must do hikes around the Calgary area! As we cross more hikes off our bucket list this summer we will create a new list in the fall about our favorite hidden hikes! If this has inspired you to get out there and enjoy that rocky mountain air, please let us know! Share with us where you have been or want to go!