Canadian Rockies Hiking 101

Photo by Christian Williams

From lakeside strolls to multiday backpacking adventures, it's all here in the Canadian Rockies...

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The hiking in the Canadian Rockies is so good that any trip there should involve hitting the trail at least a couple of times. The options can be overwhelming, so there’s a rundown of some of the key options below. If you’re not on a dedicated hiking trip, you’ll probably find these pointers enough; for more extensive information, particularly on the backpacking options, see our hiking practicalities section.

Canmore and Kananaskis

Canmore has a few shorter trails in the vicinity particularly Grassi Lakes and Grotto Canyon, while Kananaskis offers some good longer trails and some proper peaks to climb.

Banff Hiking

The area has a good few options in and around town such as the Bow Falls loop and Tunnel Mountain, but is a little short on good day hikes. The Sawback Trail to Lake Louise is a wonderful trail for fans of overnight backpacking.

Lake Louise

Lots of hikes begin from Lake Louise. including treks to Lake Agnes, but these can be quite busy. Fairview Mountain is a better bet, but much harder. Many more options fan out from Moraine Lake. All of them take advantage of the superb lakefront scenery.

The Icefields Parkway

A number of short hikes are offered at the many stop-offs along this wonderful drive between Lake Louise Village and Jasper. Be sure not to miss the short walk to the Peyto Lake Lookout; a stroll around Bow Lake. For an excellent half-day hike try Wilcox Pass. Further north, and closer to Jasper, Cavell Meadows is another excellent and deservedly popular option.

Jasper National Park

Trails around the town of Jasper tend to be longer and gentler with views obscured a little more by thick forest. But good options abound around Maligne LakeMaligne Canyon is an easy walk around spectacular landforms; the Opal Hills offer great lake views;  the Skyline Trail is perhaps the most famous multi-day backpack in the region. A little further out of town the Sulphur Skyline offers a rare chance to easily summit.

Yoho National Park

In Yoho National Park, the trails of Lake O’Hara are superb, but hard to access because of the quota system. At Yoho Valley a few shorter hikes, like Takakkaw Falls, beckon, but otherwise the trails reward hikers prepared to do long day hikes or overnight trails such as the Iceline. This makes Emerald Lake the best for half-day hikes.

Kootenay National Park

This long, thin park has some good short trails along Marble Canyon and to the Paint Pots you’ll find a few good day hikes — particularly the Kindersley Pass Trail and an amazing multiday backpacking trail in the Rockwall Trail.

Waterton Lakes National Park

This is the best base if you want to strike out on a series of rewarding day hikes, which include the Crypt Lake Trail and Carthew-Alderson Trail.

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