I may be a little biased – but Alberta has some of the most spectacular hikes I’ve ever encountered. With this Canadian province’s western border following the crags and valleys of the Rocky Mountains – neatly sectioned into national parks, provincial parks, and wilderness and recreation areas – hiking options abound.
Waterton Lakes National Park
Joined with Montana’s Glacier National Park since 1932 as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park – first of its kind in the world – this unique park is truly a jewel in Canada’s hiking crown. Although it’s the smallest of Canada’s Rocky Mountain parks (203 square miles), Waterton has 124 miles of hiking trails – ranging from easy to strenuous, day hike to backpack.
One of my favorite hikes: Crypt Lake.
Banff National Park
A classic – and Canada’s very first national park – Banff spans 2,564 square miles of prime hiking terrain. There are more than 932 miles of hiking trails within the park’s boundaries – apparently more than any other mountain park. From scenic lakeshore strolls to mountain summits, you’ll find it all in Banff National Park.
One of my favorite hikes: Larch Valley-Sentinel Pass.
Jasper National Park
The largest of our Rocky Mountain national park’s – measuring in at 4,200 square miles – is of course Jasper National Park. Renowned for its extensive backpacking opportunities, this national park is a natural beauty offering over 746 miles of trails to explore.
One of my favorite hikes: Skyline.
Kananaskis Country is a 1,544 square-mile, multi-use recreation area consisting of five provincial parks, four wildland provincial parks, five provincial recreation areas, and one ecological reserve. Again, biases based on over a dozen years of working and living in the area (plus another dozen hiking and backpacking) make this my favourite hiking spot in the province. There are over 621 miles of trails to discover.
One of my favorite hikes: Fortress Mountain.
Willmore Wilderness Park
Bordering Jasper, Willmore is a 1775 square-mile escape from civilization. As such, don’t expect maintained trails and bridge crossings. That being said, there is approximately 466 miles of horse and hiking trails in the park. Yes, horsepacking is a popular pastime in the park too (expect a few muddy trail sections).
One of my favorite hikes: Ogre Canyon.
Want to do it all?
If you’re long-distance hiker with a couple of months to spare, consider thru-hiking the Great Divide Trail (the Canadian equivalent of the Continental Divide Trail). You’ll slip back and forth between BC and AB (63% of the trail is in AB), but the route leads all the way from Waterton to Willmore – for a total of 744 miles.
If you’ve hiked in the Canadian Rockies before, what’s your favorite trail?