My first hike in Alberta was in 2015. Before that, I’d never hiked a mountainlet alone in the Rockies! One of the best things about the Canadian Rockies is that there’s something for everyone. If you’re a Rocky Mountain Rookie, here are 5 hikes you might want to check out. WARNING: You may just get hooked.

I first experienced the Canadian Rockies in 2015. We had just arrived in Calgary after a long drive across the country, but I couldn’t wait to see “the mountains.” The drive to Banff was incredible—my eyes were fixed upon the Rocky Mountain fortress. As I’ve explored more and more of Alberta, I’ve learned that there’s something for everyone in our outdoor playground.

1. Tunnel Mountain (Banff National Park)

Banff Springs Golf Course and Mount Rundle from the Tunnel Mountain summit.

Location: Banff
Distance: 4.5 km out and back
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 300 m gain
Time: 1-1.5 hours
Dog-friendly: Yes
Features: This summit features great views of Banff Town and the surrounding mountain range.

Banff is popular for a reason. After strolling the streets of Banff Town, head to the Tunnel Mountain trailhead just minutes away. Tunnel Mountain is a short hike with a decent reward, as one of the best summits for novice hikers sitting at 1,692 metres. At the summit, there’s a wide view of Banff and towering mountains around the town.

I’ve hiked Tunnel Mountain a few times. In summer and winter, this short trail is a great spot to get some fresh air and exercise. For those looking for an entry-level mountain hike, Tunnel is one option that’ll leave you wanting more.

Read more: Spectacular Autumn Hike at Arethusa Cirque in Kananaskis Country

2. Grassi Lakes (Canmore)

Ha Ling towers above the turquoise lake at the end of the Grassi Lakes trail.

Location: Canmore
Distance: 4 km out and back
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 169 m gain
Time: Approx. 1-2 hours
Dog-friendly: Yes
Features: There are two route options for this trail: easy with a gentle incline, and a more difficult trail passing a waterfall with view of Canmore. Whatever you choose, the trail ends at the beautiful turquoise lake with Ha Ling Peak in the background.

Grassi Lakes is a classic Alberta hike. When friends visit from outta town, this is an outdoor option that inevitably comes up. It’s short and sweet. The turquoise lake is a great reward for little effort. The trailhead is located just outside of Canmore. Afterwards, head over to Canmore for unique restaurant and shopping options. It’s not difficult to spend an afternoon in this wonderfully quaint town. If you’re wanting more outdoor activity, there are many other hiking trails near Canmore.

3. Johnston Canyon (Banff National Park)

Waterfall at Johnston Canyon.

Location: Banff National Park
Distance: 12 km out and back
Difficulty: Easy to moderate due to length
Elevation: 330 m gain
Time: Approx. 4 hours
Dog-friendly: Yes
Features: This trail features two waterfalls leading up to the ink pots.

Johnston Canyon is a must-see in Banff National Park. It’s one of the most popular hikes around, so try to visit during the week or you’ll be marching along like a herd of cattle. This trail boasts two main waterfalls and leads up to the “ink pots”—pools of blue and green water that resemble pots of ink. The trailhead is not currently accessible by vehicle due to COVID-19.

Read more: Two Short Hikes in Alberta’s Kananaskis Country

4. Troll Falls (Kananskis Country)

Marmot Falls on the Troll Falls trail.

Location: Kananaskis Country
Distance: 3.5 km out and back
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 40 m gain
Time: Approx. 1-2 hours
Dog-friendly: Yes
Features: This forest trail features three different waterfalls and is a perfect option for families with young children.

Troll Falls is a Kananaskis favourite that’s great for everyone. The trailhead is just under 100 km from Calgary near Kananaskis Village. This is a nice outing for novice hikers and waterfall lovers alike. Whether you’re alone or with your family, Troll Falls is an enjoyable little outing away from the bustling city.

5. Johnson Lake (Banff National Park)

There are beautiful views of Johnson Lake and the Rocky Mountain landscape on this trail.

Location: Banff National Park
Distance: 3 km loop
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 70 m gain
Time: Approx. 1 hour
Dog-friendly: Yes
Features: Stunning views of Johnson Lake and the surrounding mountains for the entire hike.

If you’re like me, you enjoy hiking near or around lakes. Alberta is known for its turquoise waters and Johnson Lake is one of those iconic scenes. The trail around the lake is suitable for novice hikers. In the summertime, the lake is a popular spot for a swim or picnic. The trailhead is located near the Johnston Lake parking lot.

Read more: 5 of the Best Bike Rides in Calgary, Alberta

BONUS: Ha Ling Peak (Canmore)

The Town of Canmore from Ha Ling Peak.

Location: Canmore
Distance: 8 km out and back
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Elevation: 760 m gain
Time: Approx. 4 hours
Dog-friendly: Yes
Feature: The hike begins in the forest with lots of switchbacks, and leads above the treeline to the rocky summit overlooking the town of Canmore.

If you’re up for a challenge and want to hike up a mountain, Ha Ling is a good option. Ha Ling Peak was my first mountain hike nearly five years ago. For someone who had never experienced the Rockies, it certainly wasn’t an easy trail. But now that I’ve hiked several different trails in the area, I can say that it’s not the most difficult option either. The trailhead is just outside of Canmore. If you’re ready to hike up a mountain instead of just hiking near mountains, Ha Ling is a great trail to consider.

These are a few options to help you get out to the mountains and enjoy the great outdoors. What was your first Rocky Mountain hike? What entry-level trails would you suggest for novice hikers looking to experience the Rockies?


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