10 Beginner Hikes in the Canadian Rocky Mountains
I may be a little biased based on my past confession of leaving my heart in the mountains, but I think that hiking in the mountains is one experience that everyone should try.
If you aren’t convinced, take a look at the reasons why I think hiking in the mountains can make you a better person.
I can definitely appreciate that it can be a little daunting or intimidating if you are new to hiking to get out there into the mountains, so here is a list of my 10 recommendations for easy, non-technical hikes suitable for beginners in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Johnston Canyon – Banff, Alberta
Johnston Canyon is perhaps the busiest hike in Banff, aside from maybe the trail up to the gondola. But, don’t let that discourage you; the canyon is beautiful, especially in winter when the waterfalls are frozen solid! The trail is maintained and does require you to follow along catwalks and staircases embedded into the mountain, but the level of difficulty is quite low.
Tip: Consider wearing microspikes in the winter/ early spring, as some of the steeper parts of the path become very icy and hence difficult to navigate.
Grassi Lakes – Canmore, Alberta
Grassi Lakes is a short, lower grade hike along an old maintenance road. The trail does not gain much elevation or require technical skill so for this reason I have rated it beginner. Once you reach the beautiful lake, you have the option to continue higher – take the staircase behind the lake for stunning views of the mountain range opposite the highway.
Tip: If you are seeking more of a challenge, there is also a second path on the left of the trailhead which has a steeper grade.
Grotto Canyon – Canmore, Alberta
The trail to the Canyon leading off the car park is narrow and very flat, requiring very little effort to get to the open area overlooking the grotto and surrounding mountains in the distance. Continue on through the rocky grotto to explore!
Beaver Flats – Bragg Creek, Alberta
Beaver Flats is actually a campground, but it boasts an interpretive trail throughout the paved grounds that proves to be very scenic. You will be sure to discover ponds with beaver dams amidst the gorgeous mountain backdrop. Tip: The area is a 5 minute drive from Elbow Falls (see below) so you could easily explore both in a day.
Rawson Lake – Kananaskis, Alberta
The trail up to Rawson Lake is in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park off the Upper Kananaskis lake, which is super convenient because the lake area is stunning! The 8km trail does gain 300m elevation on the way up, but it does not require any real technical skills and is well worth the effort once you see your final destination. Tip: Pack plenty of water and a lunch to enjoy up at the lake while you take in the views!
Little Beehive – Lake Louise, Alberta
Lake Louise is iconic for any trip to Western Canada – however, come summer it can be less enjoyable with thousands of tourists visiting the gorgeous area each day.
Lose the crowds and tail the trail that sneaks up behind the lake, where you will find fabulous views of the Chateau Lake Louise from above. Tip: For EVEN better views, the trail continues up to Big Beehive and Devil’s Thumb, both of which are more difficult hikes with magnificent views.
Chester Lake – Kananaskis, Alberta
Chester Lake is another hidden gem, sheltered by stunning mountain peaks. You can expect a lengthy 12km (round) walk up to the lake, however it is a well maintained trail that does not require technical skills. Tip: During the winter, there are also snowshoe trails you can access!
Elbow Falls – Bragg Creek, Alberta
Elbow Falls is a beautiful area, despite being a victim of the 2013 flood. A good portion of the once large elbow river is washed out, leaving behind a bare valley of rocks. The community has made the best of it though and the rugged rock area has turned into one more area to explore: you can see children playing on the rocks, or groups walking down over the rocks from the car park.
Follow the rocks towards the Falls, or take the paved path from the entrance and enjoy the view from the stair case!
Barrier Lake Lookout – Kananaskis, Alberta
Starting from the trail head at the Barrier Dam, the mountain views are already picturesque. The 6.5km (round) hike takes you up McConnell Ridge, which will yield panoramic views of Barrier Lake down below and Mt. Baldy in the distance. The effort to get up the switchback trail is well worth it for this postcard pretty view!
Maligne Canyon – Jasper, Alberta
Feel small on the floor of this massive canyon as you follow the 7km (round) pathways to enormous frozen waterfalls!
Although the walk to the canyon and throughout its floor is fairly easy because it is flat, the paths and bridges can become icy in the winter! Tip: Dress accordingly for the bitter winter and wear microspikes if possible! I was there for -40 Celsius temperatures, where the conditions were extremely icy and bitter cold!