Nothing is better than the serenity of a mountain view with the wind breezing through your hair mid-morning. Every step is a push, but every step leads you closer and closer to the final destination. It’s not until you get to the top when you realize the sweat, anticipation and sore feet were all worth it. The sense of accomplishment and overcoming a challenge is what makes hiking all the worthwhile for myself and lots of others who continue to hike in the Canadian Rockies. The sense of feeling unstoppable, and that you can do anything, is why I recommend everyone to try it, at least once.
Throughout the article I will review five of the best hikes for beginners, safety tips and tricks, benefits of hiking and the best things to pack in a hiking backpack. As well this article will help by providing insight from two local hikers, and the president of The Calgary Outdoor Club. So why not take this opportunity to explore the great outdoors and create new memories along the way.
Grassi Lakes | Canmore
Grassi Lakes is an easy grade hiking trail, 4.3 kilometres long located near Canmore. Although the hike has a small elevation change, do not let this deceive you. Grassi Lakes has beautiful views, crystal clear water and wildlife. This trail is kid and pet friendly, ensuring that no one will get left behind.
Although the idea of bringing small kids on a hike can often seem daunting, or difficult, Parks Canada has created a packing list to make sure that everyone will have what they need throughout their hike. Some of the most important things listed by Parks Canada are trail maps, a water bottle, first aid kit, bear spray and snacks.
Paige Murphy is another Calgarian who has spent most of her time hiking in the Rockies. She enjoys the memories that she has made outdoors, and hopes that her experiences will help others.
“I have been hiking in the Rockies for as long as I can remember,” she says. “I never leave the house for a day in the mountains without bear spray, a large bottle of water, a travel first aid kit, a headlamp and an extra pair of socks.”
Parks Canada also emphasizes the importance of checking the weather, trail conditions, and warnings and closures before starting a hike. This can help you and your family avoid unwanted situations and helps to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
Little Beehive via Lake Agnes | Lake Louise
The Little Beehive is a heavily tracked nine-kilometre-long hiking trail, which includes beautiful views of Lake Louise, small waterfalls and a place to stop on top to indulge in a snack or warm drink. These breathtaking views are unique and hard to forget.
Taylor Fox, a local Calgary resident shares the love that she has had for exploring for a long time. “I have been hiking in the Canadian Rockies since I was a young girl, and most of my first memories are hiking with my parents outdoors in the mountains.” As an adult, Fox has continued to hike many mountains and wants to share her experiences and tips to help inspire others.
Alongside the beautiful views, hiking can be a great way to clear your mind, and focus on your mental health and the connection you feel with yourself and others. It has been noted through research that when individuals participate in outside activities together, they will create good experiences in a stress-free environment.
Barrier Lake Trail | Kananaskis
Barrier Lake trail is a beautiful 7.7-kilometre-long trail, with a lookout point guaranteed to take your breath away. The hike brings you through tall trees and has a large opening at the top for a huge view of a mountain range.
Barrier Lake trail does have some challenging elements on this hike, so it is important to not rush these and make sure you are listening to your body.
Murphy says that despite these challenges it is great to tag along with someone who has been hiking before, as a way of boosting your confidence. It is also important to never force yourself to do something you are not ready for.
“Do not be afraid to make the call to turn around if you are feeling uncomfortable,” she says. “It is always better to play it safe in wild places.”
Rhonda Scheurer, president of the Calgary Outdoor Club, highlights a fun, friendly and inviting atmosphere when describing this local group. This is a great place for individuals to get started if they are looking for new adventures and friends to go outdoors with.
“We strive to offer a variety of events, with some things geared for beginners, some more challenging things and lots of ‘somewhere in the middle’ stuff. And we attempt to keep events as low-cost as possible,” she says. “A majority of our events take place in the Calgary area, but occasionally we visit our neighbouring provinces or travel further away from home.”
Johnson Canyon Trail to Upper Falls | Banff
Johnson Canyon trail is a five-kilometre-long man-made trail located in Banff National Park. This trail is known for its effortless beauty and waterfalls that never fail to impress. The two waterfalls at Johnson Canyon allow for hikers to pull over for the opportunity to take photos and have a snack. This trail is well known for being open year-round and is accessible in the winter months. It is recommended that if you choose to visit this hiking area in winter, you should proceed with caution and have proper equipment.
“It is essential to have a good pair of hiking shoes that support your ankles on a hike,” Fox says. “It is even more important to have proper footwear in winter, and to bring spikes for your shoes to avoid slipping.”
Alongside individuals having the right gear, it is still important to avoid common problems in the park. These issues can be solved in a variety of ways and can be avoided by doing things like, wearing proper clothing and carrying enough water. There are also important ways that new hikers can help sustain the trails by avoiding common issues that Schuerer has suggested.
“People damaging the trails – littering, walking off of the defined trail and people causing ‘noise pollution,’ including playing music and wearing bear bells,” Schuerer says.
Bear bells are not the proper way to avoid bears, and as suggested by Parks Canada, it is important to be better prepared with knowledge of bears and proper bear equipment like bear spray. Bear bells can ruin the experience for other hikers and ultimately take away from the simplicity of nature.
Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail | Lake Louise
Moraine Lake Shoreline is a great hike for beginners, with a 106-meter elevation gain over 2.6 kilometres. This hike has breathtaking views and will have your jaw dropping at the site of the blue water and clear mountain view.
If you only have a couple hours to get outside, this hike is short, and gives you the same opportunities to feel refreshed as longer hikes would.
“The greatest reward is the fresh air and stunning views,” Murphy says. “Spending time in nature is good for the soul.”
As these five hikes are well known, they can be congested and busy. In my own experiences I find that hikes like these are best when started earlier in the morning. Trying hikes this summer is a great way to understand the pure bliss that it can bring to you. Starting with small hikes can allow for individuals to gain confidence, better their mental health and will often lead to more difficult terrain in the future. The key is to remember that every day is a new day to accomplish something you never have before..
“Challenging yourself to climb mountains will lift your spirits and give you a different high than any other feeling out there,” Fox says.