Whether you are thinking about getting into hiking this summer, you’re visiting the Canadian Rockies for the first time, or you are trying to bring friends or family along for their first hikes, here are a few recommendations of easy, yet beautiful hikes you should try this year. All these hikes are less than 2 hours from Calgary!
Tunnel Mountain in Banff National Park has incredible views for relatively little effort. If you have looked into the Sulphur Mountain gondola and are interested in the view, but without the cost, you should look into Tunnel Mountain. It is a 4.5 km hike, with 267 meters of elevation. We found that this trail took approximately 2 hours out-and-back, during the winter. Without the snow pack you might find it takes less time. This hike is accessible all year round and offers a view over the Banff townsite, as well as the surrounding mountain. As someone used to longer hikes, I was pleasantly surprised with how little work we had to do to get this view. The trailhead is on the outskirts of Banff, approximately an hour and twenty minutes from Calgary. If you want to read more about Tunnel Mountain, you can read my post here.
If you are interested in geological formations, erosion, or just cool rocks, Nihahi Creek should be on your list. It is only 1 hour from Calgary, but I have found this trail to be relatively quiet. Nihahi Creek Trail is a 5 km out-and-back hike, with about 240 m elevation, so it is quite comparable in length and difficulty to Tunnel Mountain. It is a great option for a calm hike, less tourists and hikers will be here than on Tunnel Mountain, which gives you space and time to explore. For more information about the trail, click here.
Chester Lake is a beautiful hike in summer or winter. It is a longer hike, 9.3 km out-and-back with 300 total meters of elevation gain. The gradual elevation gain makes this hike accessible to less experienced hikers, but is does require a bigger time commitment. As well, this hike is nearly 2 hours from Calgary, part way down the Smith Dorien Trail (highway 742) from Highway 40 in Kananaskis. This is a beautiful drive, but beware of the conditions on highway 742. As parts of this highway are unpaved, heavy rain can cause unseen ruts and worsen potholes. Drive with caution. I highly recommend Chester Lake, I have done this hike a few times and it remains a good trail for those lower elevation days. Read more about Chester Lake here.
Arethusa Cirque was a hike that a friend and I embarked on during the fall, when we wanted to see larches, but also wanted an easier hike to fit into our busy lives. We hadn’t heard of the hike before; we had found it through some google searching and decided to give it a try. I am very glad we did. This hike had some incredible views (and incredible winds). The drive out is about 1 hour and 45 minutes from Calgary. This hike is a 4.5 km loop with an elevation gain of 378 m. This may not be the hike for you if you have bad knees, as the elevation is mostly gained and lost in short but steep sections. If you are not used to the steepness, give yourself time. Ascend the slopes slowly, but steadily. Then you can enjoy the mostly flat section around the loop at the top! Read more about the hike here.
Edworthy Falls was a lovely hike, though colder than we had expected. I hiked this trail in earlier October last year, and was surprised by fresh snow all over the trail. Despite the snow, the trail is largely flat, with the exception of the hill near the beginning. Once you reach Elbow Lake Campground, the trail flattens out and you arrive at the falls quickly. The trail is 9.7 km out-and-back with a total elevation gain of 383 m. The falls are beautiful, and the lake along the way serves as another scenic spot for photos. This hike is very close to Arethusa Cirque, about 1 hour and 45 minutes from Calgary. Read more about Edworthy Falls here.
If you try any of these hikes, let me know what you think!