Alberta is home to a variety of picturesque scenery and with travel being limited this summer due to COVID-19, it’s the perfect opportunity for locals to explore the area. 

Whether you’re just looking to spend a day outside or trying to maintain an active lifestyle, hiking is a great way of getting out and enjoying all that the province has to offer. Hikes can range from multi-day adventures to short and easy walks in nature. 

Here are five easy hikes in Southern Alberta that can be enjoyed by the whole family. These trails don’t feature any crazy inclines and can all be completed within a matter of hours.

HEART CREEK TRAIL 

Heart Creek Trail. Photo: Nicholas Montpetit-Skuba

Located across the highway from Lac des Arcs on the way to Dead Man’s Flats, Heart Creek Trail offers an easy 4.7-km trek leading to a beautiful waterfall. The trail can be quite busy and there are often people rock climbing in various spots along the way.

There is also another easy hike on the other side of the Heart Creek Trail parking lot, which is four kilometers in length and is called Heart Creek Bunker. It’s best to bring a flashlight for this one, as it leads to a decent-size cave that you can explore. 

Both trails here could definitely be completed within one visit, or they could be split into two different days to spread out the enjoyment. 

BIG HILL SPRINGS TRAIL

Waterfalls at Big Hill Springs. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The shortest hike on the list at 1.6 km, Big Hill Springs Trail is located near Cochrane. 

This is a loop trail and at the start of it, it can be a little bit difficult to decipher where to go, but with so many people around there’s usually someone you can ask for directions.

The bottom of the trail is often used as a picnic spot for families where kids and dogs can be seen playing in the creek. 

The trail starts a little bit steep (if you start by going left — remember it’s a loop), but gets much easier after the initial climb. The beauty of starting on the left side is that you get to end at a series of small waterfalls. 

EDWORTHY FALLS (ELBOW LAKE TRAIL) 

Elbow Lake, on the way to Edworthy Falls. Photo: Nicholas Montpetit-Skuba

The 9.7-km hike to Edworthy Falls starts with a short and fairly steep climb leading to Elbow Lake, but once you reach the flat ground at the lake, it remains a relatively easy walk the rest of the way. 

Past the lake, toward the falls, the trail goes through some large green spaces, basically surrounded by mountains. It’s an absolutely beautiful hike through a very calm area — if I was a wild animal, I would hang out here all the time. 

HORSESHOW CANYON TRAIL 

Horseshoe Canyon. Photo: Kevin Casper/publicdomainpictures.net

A change of pace from the rest of the list, Horseshoe Canyon Trail is a 2.9-km loop trail near Drumheller. 

Navigating the area can be a little bit of a challenge with the trail being washed out in some spots, but there’s lots of room to climb around and a variety of wild flowers to enjoy. 

If you’re looking for an easy hike that isn’t surrounded by trees or in the mountains, this is a great option. 

JOHNSTON CANYON

Johnston Canyon, Lower Falls. Photo: Jessica Snoek/unsplash.com

Perhaps one of the most famous hikes in Alberta, Johnston Canyon is located between Banff and Lake Louise. 

Johnston Canyon offers a few different hiking options. For the easiest trail, hikers can choose to do the 2.4-km trek to Lower Falls. Upper Falls is only a couple of kilometres further, making a total of five, with a bit more of an incline along the way. For those who want to take it a step further, the trail to the Ink Pots is a total of 11.7 km and is slightly more difficult with steeper stretches. 

No matter how far you decide to go, you’re sure to see stunning scenery and beautiful waterfalls. 

Johnston Canyon does come with a bit of a caveat this year though. With the road leading to it (Bow Valley Trail, between Banff and Castle Junction) being closed, people need to park and hike or bike between six and seven kilometres on the road just to get to the trail. The benefit of this? It’s far less busy than it normally is this time of year.