Alberta is a beautiful place, it’s roughly the size of France, with an incredibly diverse landscape. From the vast Boreal forest to the Badlands, the mountains and the wide open prairies, there is much to see and do. I’ll be focusing on what I consider the best places in the province to hike and where you’ll best experience the wonder of nature.
Banff National Park is known worldwide for it’s staggering beauty and majesty. But I wanted to narrow in on the area surrounding the town of Banff. Home to Mount Rundle, Lake Minnewaka, Sulphur Mountain and more, there is so much that you could spend weeks hiking here.
Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Peter Lougheed Provincial Park is named after Alberta’s tenth Premier and is home to some of the best views and hikes in Kananaskis Country. The first all Canadian Everest expedition trained here and a few of the region’s highest peaks are located in this park.
Waterton Lakes National Park
Making up the Canadian portion of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Waterton is absolutely stunning. There numerous lakes here, along with amazing hikes and scrambling. You can even cross the Canada-USA border into Glacier National Park (though not right now).
Taking a break from the mountains and heading over to the eastern side of the province, we have Drumheller and the Canadian Badlands. Here you can find the Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology and the adjacent Dinosaur Provincial Park, which is one of the richest dinosaur fossil sites in the world. The Badlands form part of the Red Deer River Valley, and you’ll be blown away by the sudden disappearance of the prairies as you dip down into the desert-like landscape.
Few places bear the immense measure of majesty found around the town of Lake Louise in Banff National Park. Million dollar views await you in every direction. Around Lake Louise you’ll find world famous Moraine Lake, Kicking Horse Pass, and Peyto Lake. Hiking here is nearly limitless, with excellent opportunities for scrambling and mounteering as well.
Jasper National Park
The Icefields Parkway that connects Banff to Jasper has been named the most scenic drive in the world. Located alongside it are the Columbia Icefields, the largest glaciers south of the Arctic Circle. Jasper is also home to the beautiful Maligne Lake, as well as Mount Columbia, the highest mountain in Alberta at 3,747m (12,293ft).
A part of Kananaskis, but also winding it’s way directly into Banff National Park, you have the various communities and provincial parks that make up the Bow Valley. Canmore is by far the largest and most prominent town in the region, with amazing hiking literally just on the edge of town. Grotto Canyon is probably the best known hike, but you can’t forget Ha ling Peak and the East End of Rundle, which, frustratingly enough, is actually the south end of the mountain. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, nearby Rat’s Nest Cave provides an excellent introduction to spelunking/caving.
There are a few things I like to bring with me whenever I go for a hike or a trip to the mountains. These aren’t fancy or super expensive items, but they do allow me to adventure confidently knowing that I’ve got everything I need.
This is a must for myself. I carry one everyday and there are always a million uses for it.
Emergency Medical Kit
An absolute necessity, if you don’t have one when you need it things can go from bad to worse. Plus they’re pretty inexpensive, so why not?
Weather can change in an instant. I’ve seen snow and sun on the same day, but if you packed for it, it’s not a problem.
From cold toes at -40 to wet feet because of a Fall rain, you’ll be glad you packed some.
Food and Hydration
The longer the hike, the more you need. This can be as simple as a sandwich and a water bottle to multiple meals and a hydration bladder. Do you want to save weight or are you not sure how much clean water you’ll find? Water filters are light, small, and good for many uses.
You may think you always know which way is north, but trust me, you’ll still be wrong sometimes.
A Map… of Some Sort
This can take the form of a physical map, a guide book, or an offline app.
Anything that you think you’ll need, anything that will come in handy or just something to brighten your day.