Hiking provides so much more than a great view

hiking1Calgarians have the luxury of being near the Rocky Mountains. You can be wearing your rubber gloves, elbow deep in luke warm soapy water, scraping grease from your frying pan as you stare at the silhouettes of the great grey triangles that grace the city’s western horizons with their beauty.

One day you realize you have some spare time on your hands, or maybe you even make time, gather some friends and take to the highway to get an even closer look.

How many times have you driven through the Rockies? Or stopped in Banff or Canmore, took a couple of photographs and had some fudge but never even stepped on to a trail to see what the views from the mountains are like?

The Rockies offer much more than a pretty backdrop. They can pack a serious punch to your fitness level and make your calves hurt more than any stair stepper or elliptical machine.

Sure, hiking can be intimidating, there can animals, inclines and long distances, but the adrenaline you get from the success of conquering one of those mountains is enough to soothe your burning muscles. It’s truly breathtaking.

The Outbound Collective is a great company with a web page that includes everything you need to know about hiking. You can find great adventures and talk to other hikers who have done the same hike.

Brian Heifferon, from Outbound Collective, offers tips for beginner hikers:

– “Pick an appropriate hiking partner. Ideally someone who has experience or knows the area.”

– “Pick a hike that matches your fitness level and time constraints.” (Think: how much longer will the sun be up?)

– “Do a little research and make sure you take plenty of food, water and any extra layers you may need.”

– “Be sure to tell someone where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone.”

– “Try to leave the trail better than you found it (pick up trash) and always practice leave no trace principles.”

Ha Ling Peak is a popular hike for many people looking for a little adventure and some exercise. With an elevation of 2,296 feet, this steep hike is great for your legs and even better for your eyes. After making your way through the scramble you come to the summit, which has clear views of Canmore.

hiking2Hiking in groups is the safest option, and so is taking time to rest. Ashley Kay Sprenger, Melanie Walsh, Jordan Wigle and Masha Scheele stop for a photo op on Lady Macdonald’s helicopter pad.

Photo Courtesy of Masha Scheele 

Lady Macdonald is great to do with some friends. With wider, flat trails you can run along together, encouraging and pushing to keep going. When you grow tired of the paths you will come to different inclines that vary from almost flat to steep. At one point you will even be climbing over big boulders as you get to feel like a kid again on a jungle gym. One hiker mentioned she had done this hike 20 times and lost two inches off of her thighs. With an elevation of 8,550 feet this is no afternoon hike. But if you’re not interested in reaching the summit, there is an old wooden helicopter pad that you can walk to, take in the views of the mountain peaks and Canmore’s town centre, then have a snack before you descend.

If your not looking to stray to far from the city, Heart Mountain’s trailhead is by Lac Des Arc overpass on the Trans-Canada Highway. The mountain got its name from the layer of limestone forming in the shape of a heart at the very top of the mountain. This shape is visible from the highway. This hike can be a little confusing at first because there are many ways to tackle the mountain, but the trail is marked if you look for arrows on your way up. This hike involves dealing with scramble and some steep inclines with an elevation gain of 2,450 feet. Don’t be fooled by the name, Heart Mountain isn’t so sweet because it involves a lot of physical strength and stamina to get to the summit.

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