Canadian Rockies Day Hikes
Alberta and British Columbia, Canada
The Canadian Rockies is a place where you can simply drive along the highway to see some of the most amazing natural wonders the area has to offer - mountains, glaciers, rivers, canyons, and waterfalls. This guide will help you decide where to stop and hike to get even better views. In order from the southern most hike to the northern most hike, the list below covers a huge area and you're going to want to stay in various locations along the route. Below are a few tips to keep in mind when travelling around the Canadian Rockies.
- June through mid-October are the best months to visit the Canadian Rockies for hiking.
- Book your lodging and/or camping far in advance as the Canadian Rockies is a hugely popular area to visit from around the world. Make camping reservations online HERE and don't forget to check rentals on Airbnb.
- The closest airport is Calgary International Airport (YYC) and there are car rental companies located in the airport.
- The Canadian Rockies is bear country, including car-sized grizzly bears. Pick up some bear spray and a bear bell. The closest store to the airport that sells both is Cabela's.
- If you take on additional hikes than the ones below, make sure you research any seasonal restrictions for them. Some trails require that you hike with at least 4 people due to grizzly bear activity.
- Bring a friend that has a T-Mobile plan and a smartphone. Most T-Mobile plans include calling, texting, and data for free while in Canada. This means you can use your gps, look up restaurants, and do any last minute research on alternative plans without being charged for it. Note that there are significant gaps in cell phone coverage in the middle to northern parts of the Rockies, so print some directions too.
The trails below are quite popular, so try to go early in the morning (sunrise) or late in the afternoon (sunset).
Rawson Lake/Sarrail Ridge, Kananaskis Country: This hike will provide you with mirror-like views on Rawson Lake early in the morning and a spectacular ridge view of Upper Kananaskis Lake that looks like a world map when its partly cloudy outside. To get there, park at the Upper Kananaskis Lake day use area and start the trail at the left side of the parking lot when facing the lake. Not far along the trail, you'll see a sign for Rawson Lake. Take the trail on your left to Rawson Lake and circle the south side of the lake to the northwest side and follow the trail up the hillside to get to Sarrail Ridge. The trail is a bout 6.8 miles roundtrip with 2,150 feet in elevation gain.
Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park: This place has many great little spots to take photos of - multiple waterfalls and a hidden cave. Complete the 3.4 mile roundtrip trail to Upper Falls and stop to check out the various other waterfalls along the way. To get to the cave pictured above, backtrack from Upper Falls and keep an eye out for the waterfall in the photo. The dirt trail leading down to the cave is not far from the viewpoint of the waterfall from the trail up above. It's easy to miss.
Moraine Lake, Banff National Park: This is a short walk up a hill to take in the famous view of Moraine Lake with its beautiful snow-capped peaks in the background.
Peyto Lake, Banff National Park: At 3.8 miles roundtrip, this is not a bad hike at all for the amazing views you'll receive at the end. To get there, look for the Bow Summit sign along the highway. From the parking area of Bow Summit, follow the paved trail to the viewpoint on the platform, but continue past the platform and further up the trail. This will bring you to the view pictured above where there will be less people than the platform you passed and much better views of Peyto Lake.
Mistaya Canyon, Banff National Park: This cool little spot is a short hike to a canyon that is fed by Peyto Lake described earlier on this page. It's full of unique rock formations and a great little canyon to explore.
Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area: While these waterfalls are somewhat off the highway that travels through the Canadian Rockies, if you have the time - it's completely worth it and much less travelled. Two huge waterfalls will convince you to stay.
Parker Ridge, Banff National Park: This hike is 3 miles roundtrip, but with about 1,000 feet of elevation, it's all uphill and will give you a good little workout. The view of the glacier in the distance at the top of the ridge is definitely worth it.
Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park: Viewable from the highway, this glacier begs you to come and take a closer look. Across the street from the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center, a short trail to the edge of the glacier will help you satisfy that view with little effort. Visit the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center if you'd like to take a tour on the glacier itself.
Sunwapta Falls, Jasper National Park: A brief hike from the parking lot of Sunwapta Falls will bring to the view above. If you have the time, grab some great food at the Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge. For dinner, be sure to make reservations.
Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park: One of the best waterfall/canyon views in the area, this place is a must. A short hike from the parking area will reward you with the great views above.
Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park: Fed by Maligne lake, this is another great canyon that should be explored. At about 5.5 miles roundtrip with 500 feet of elevation gain, this trail does not take much effort and is totally worth the views. Make sure you see the areas surrounding bridges 1 through 4.