One of the questions I receive the most is, “What hikes should I try when I’m in Alberta?”. The question stumps me sometimes because there are so many beautiful beginner hikes in Alberta, you could spend a lifetime exploring them. I also find this question tough because it truly depends on skill level, fitness level, and comfortability. I like to do some research before I can give a solid answer, some of my preliminary questions include:
  1. What’s your hiking experience like?
  2. How would you rate your fitness level?
  3. How is your wildlife and safety knowledge?
Helpful Hiking Articles: There are many factors to consider when choosing your hike. First of all, hiking in the Canadian Rockies is a lot different than hiking in other places. Many coastal residents are surprised to find that they are out of breath a lot faster than they are when hiking at sea level. You might be surprised to find that the altitude really impacts your ability! If your hiking experience in Alberta is limited but your fitness levels are high and you know how to be prepared, I like to suggest these beginner hikes:  

Beginner Hikes in Banff National Park

 

Healy Pass Trail

The beautiful larches in October!

  Healy Pass is hands down one of my favourite day hikes in the Rockies. Healy Pass is a phenomenal trail to get your feet wet with hiking without taking much risk. I would rate this trail as a moderate hike because at 18.3 km round trip, the length is quite committing. The elevation gain is a gradual 890 m which isn’t too strenuous at all. The trail is super enjoyable and dog friendly!  

Why I love Healy Pass

I have hiked the Healy Pass trail a few times now during different seasons. What I love the most about the trail is that it truly showcases the best of the Rockies.  If you head out during larch season, you’ll be immersed in a sea of golden trees. If you choose to enjoy the trail in the summertime, you can most likely catch the wildflowers in full bloom. Whatever season you choose to explore, you can expect to be swept away by stunning mountain views.

Look at the difference between October and July!

Pro Tips

  • Healy Pass trail is usually busy. Start early to avoid the crowds.
  • The trail is long so make sure you are equipped with the right amount of food and water- dehydration is a real thing!
  • It can be windier/ chillier when you reach the pass. Make sure that you’re prepared with extra layers!

Lake Agnes Tea House

Lake Agnes + the tea house

  The Lake Agnes Tea House hike is the perfect hike to begin your morning if you’re visiting Lake Louise. The trail begins by the lake and is 7.4 km round trip. The elevation of the trail is 435 m. The trail is not overly strenuous at all. You might feel a bit winded in certain sections because the trail is a bit steep. Otherwise, you’ll be up to the tea house in no time!  

My partner, Ryan, and I enjoying some tea at the Lake Agnes Tea House!

  The All Trails app states, “Users will see Lake Louise, Mirror Lake, a small waterfall, Lake Agnes and Lake Agnes’ Tea House. Once at the base of the lake, this is a beautiful spot to have lunch, read a book or to enjoy the views during the warmer months of the year. There are a few other trails nearby that hikers can continue on if desired. The Tea House is a real treat while enjoying views of the lake and is open from early June through October, and has so much history for visitors to learn about”  

Why I love the Tea House Trail

  The Lake Agnes Tea House is such a beautiful experience. You can see a lot of the Lake Louise area and the stunning scenery that exists there. There is nothing quite like rewarding yourself for your hard work with a delicious tea and a beautiful alpine lake view. I suggest being at Lake Louise to watch the sunrise and starting your hike after you’ve enjoyed one of the most beautiful sights you’ll ever see!

Pro Tips:

  • The trail is usually busy! Start early to avoid the crowds and lineups at the tea house!
  • There are not any garbage bins on site which means you will be responsible for disposing of any waste you have from the tea house ! Pack a small bag with you to carry your garbage out.
  • Don’t stop exploring at the tea house! Continue the trail to the back side of Lake Agnes to get an epic view (as pictured in photo #1)
 

Beginner Hikes in Kananaskis

 

Ptarmigan Cirque

    If you’re looking for an excuse to explore the beautiful Highwood Pass area in Kananaskis, let Ptarmigan Cirque be it! Ptarmigan Cirque is the cirque between Mount Arethusa and Mount Rae and is roughly 4 km and 258 m of elevation, making it a super accessible hike for beginners. Don’t be fooled though! Just because the trail is short doesn’t mean you won’t be putting any effort in!  

Why I love Ptarmigan Cirque

Ptarmigan Cirque is the best way to experience the Highwood area in the shortest amount of time. It’s one of my favourite beginner hikes because you get to immerse yourself into the wilderness, see waterfalls, and climb over fun boulders. Don’t take my word for it, HikeBikeTravel blog says, “For a short hike, Ptarmigan Cirque delivers a tremendous variety of scenery – including coniferous forests, high alpine meadows, mountains and waterfalls. It’s the perfect hike to take your out of town guests who want a taste of the mountains without spending a full day in them. And it’s a great one for families too”.

Pro Tips:

  • There is no cell reception in the Highwood Pass area! Always make sure to share your trip itinerary with a trusted friend or family member
  • There are a few steeper sections, consider using hiking poles to stabilize yourself.
  • The trail is usually closed between December and June due to avalanche risk. Do your research before heading out!

Rawson Lake + Upper Kananaskis Lake

  If you’re looking to for a beginner hike in the Kananaskis area, Rawson Lake is the hike to do! Not only will you see Rawson Lake, but you’ll start your journey at the beautiful Upper Kananaskis Lake. Upper Kananaskis Lake is a gorgeous natural lake that turned into a reservoir. The entire experience is loaded with stunning scenery and mountain views. Tucked at the base of Mt. Sarrail, Rawson Lake’s turquoise blue colour will undoubtedly take your breath away.  The trail to the alpine lake is roughly 8 km roundtrip with a total of 320m of elevation, making it an extremely approachable hike for beginners! You will spend a solid amount of time walking through the forest and enjoying the subalpine scents. When you reach Rawson Lake, continue following the path which will take you all along the waters edge. At the backside of the lake, the trail continues for hikers to get up to Sarrail Ridge. I wouldn’t recommend heading up to Sarrail Ridge if you’re a beginner hiker as it’s quite steep and strenuous.

Pro tips:

  • The trail to Rawson Lake is usually quite busy. If you’re looking for a quiet time to go, consider mid week and start early! Additionally, shoulder season will be quieter than midsummer.
  • Always pack your bear spray! Even though the trail is usually busy with other hikers, do not forget that you are in serious bear country! Pack your spray and ensure that you know how to use it.
  • No matter what season you choose to experience Rawson Lake, ensure you pack adequate clothing, water, and snacks. Weather can change quickly so it’s important that you’re prepared for all conditions.

Taking in the scenery of Sarrail Creek!

Beginner Hike in Waterton Lakes National Park

Bear’s Hump

Ryan and I at the top of Bear’s Hump!

Waterton Lakes National Park is an amazing alternative to the overcrowded Banff + Jasper and is a must do! If you’re visiting Waterton, a beginner hike to try is Bear’s Hump is the classic hike because it’s so close to the town and is incredibly rewarding in a short amount of time. Plain and simple, the best way to describe the hike is short and sweet. The length of the hike is only 2.3 km with 214 m of elevation. Depending on your endurance, you could be up and down within 60-90 minutes. The trail is extremely user friendly and well maintained! When you reach the top, you will see the Prince of Wales hotel, Waterton townsite, and surrounding mountain peaks. The views are truly worth the effort!

Pro Tips:

  • It is extremely windy at the top! Make sure none of your belongings are loose!
  • There are a lot of wildlife viewing opportunities along the way, have your camera ready!
  • The trail is quite steep. Consider bringing poles if you need assistance.

A little caribou we saw on the way up Bear’s Hump!

 

Overlooking the beautiful townsite from the top of Bear’s Hump

Have you hiked in the Canadian Rockies before? What are your favourite hikes if so? Please let me know in the comments if you found this article helpful/ have any feedback. Cheers!