Sept. 4, 2020
The beginner's guide to hiking Alberta
If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, you’ll love the fact that Calgary is only a few hours away from the Canadian Rockies. Our proximity to these areas offers a variety of outdoor activity options, like camping, canoeing, climbing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, and walking or hiking.
There are many breathtaking trails you can find just outside Calgary, where you can explore mountaintops, waterfalls and even glacial lakes. If you’re new to hiking or need a refresher, here are some tips and tricks from our Welcome Centre student advisors to get you started.
What to bring for a day trip:
- A backpack
- Comfortable sneakers or hiking shoes
- Food (or snacks for shorter hikes)
- Lots of water (to avoid dehydration)
- Bear spray and bug spray
- First-aid kit
- Navigation tools (such as maps or compass; phone services are not usually available in the mountains)
- Trekking poles (optional)
When to go hiking
The best periods for hiking are in early spring (mid-April) to late fall (late October). Winter hiking in the mountains is not recommended for beginners, but snowshoeing is also a popular alternative activity with proper equipment.
What to wear
Weather in the mountains can change quite quickly, especially in early May and late September. Make sure you are wearing layers that can be easily adjustable to changes in temperature.
Where to hike
Most of the time, you'll need to drive to get to the trail head. Trails also vary greatly on the amount of elevation gain and length of time needed to hike them. Make sure you research in advance to find a trail that works best for your fitness and experience level. Here are some suggestions:
- Easy: Tunnel Mountain Trail, Upper Grassi Lakes Trail Loop, Johnston Canyon Trail to Upper Falls
- Moderate: Yates Mountain, Big Beehive Trail, Galatea Creek to Lilian Lake
- Hard: Ha Ling Peak, East End of Rundle, Devils Thumb via Lake Agnes Trail
You may encounter bears and other wildlife when hiking. Never try to interact or feed wildlife while out on a hike. Be Bear Smart! Make noise when going hiking, travel in groups and hike during the days, and bring a bear spray with you.
During the warmer and drier summer months, wildfires are a possibility. That may mean that activites that are high-risk for starting wildfires are banned, like smoking or starting a campfire. Check Alberta Wildfire regularly to be aware of the current wildfire risk level.
Looking for more ways to explore the Alberta area? Check out this great list of popular hiking trails for any experience level. Happy trails!