As a person who loves the great outdoors and going on hikes, there is nothing I love more than the fresh air and a great view, something you can get plenty of in Alberta.
During my last 8 months in Canada, I’ve spent a lot of time in Alberta and have been trying to find the best day hikes that don’t have heaps of tourists. Who doesn’t prefer quiet, peaceful walks through nature? During the winter, that’s an easy task, as many of the more difficult trails are closed due to the weather. Plus, who wants to go hiking in -40c?! Not me.
However, during summer, also known as the peak season, it was a challenge to find off-the-beaten trails in Alberta that were short enough to complete in 1 day and didn’t have hundreds of tourists.
Below, I have listed some of my favourite day hikes off the beaten path in Alberta. Some are easy for beginners, and some are more tricky, but all feature a great view without too much effort.
East End of Rundle
At 4.8 km long and taking between 6-7 hours to complete, the East End of Rundle hike is one of the slightly longer day hikes in Alberta and one that’s a real leg burner. Starting on the edge of a forest on the side of Rundle mountain, this trail is steep pretty much the entire way. It can be difficult to tell what direction the trail leads as there are not too many signs anymore – keep an eye out for the orange ribbons! They’ll help guide you.
I highly recommend bringing some gloves, as it can become a difficult scramble around the halfway point. You may need to use your hands to keep yourself stable. After around 2 hours you’ll be rewarded with stunning views over the Whitemans pond and its neighbouring mountain Ha Ling peak – this makes a fantastic spot to watch the sunrise (or sunset). The summit can get extremely windy in this part of Alberta, so be careful!
Valley of the Five Lakes
The Valley of the Five Lake hike is one of the shortest day hikes on our list in Alberta. At an average of 1.5 hours to complete, it’s a simple trail that doesn’t take much effort, which means anyone can enjoy it. With a very low elevation, this is the perfect short walk without breaking a sweat. There are two steep sections, but for no more than a few steps. Some parts of the trail get very narrow, you may have to walk single file if travelling in a group. Along the way, you’ll have multiple opportunities to stop and enjoy the lake views at the many openings by the water’s edge.
Ha Ling Peak
If you did the East End of Rundle trail, you’d be able to see Ha Ling Peak in your view, but what about climbing Ha Ling for yourself? One of the more moderate day hikes in Alberta, this trail has chains to use as handrails to help you when you’re climbing up due to the uneven terrain. In typical Alberta fashion, it can be extremely windy when you get to the peak, so be mindful that it can throw you off balance if you’re not careful.
Along the route, you’ll have the chance to stop for photos on a few flat viewpoints before you reach the summit of Ha Ling Peak. From the top, you’ll see the town of Canmore as well as much of the Bow Valley down below. It’ll take you an average of 4-5 hours to reach the summit and make it back down the trail.
The Big Beehive
This hike puts a new spin on a world-famous lake in Banff National Park. The Big Beehive trail is only really accessible during the summer months and can get quite busy during this peak season. As it is a loop trail, you can continue through the entire trail without backtracking, meaning you get fresh views for the entire route.
Most average hikers with a good level of fitness can finish this trail in under 6 hours, making it suited for a day hike. This trail has a few different highlights including Lake Louise, Mirror Lake, and the tea house before heading to the summit, this just gives you plenty of photo opportunities to enjoy!
Also in Canmore, The Grassi Lakes hike is probably one of the most easy-to-do short day hikes in Alberta. Although this hike is rated as number 1 in the region on Alltrails, every time I have been I’ve seen no more than 3 others on the trail. This is a walking route the whole family can enjoy! It’s a trail with two options, the easy way and the more difficult way, and even as a loop they only take between 1 and 2 hours to complete.
The easy way takes you up a gradual hill through the forest until you reach the 2 small lakes and beautiful viewpoint. Whereas the more difficult way keeps you on lower elevation until the last portion of the trail. This is where you come across a large waterfall and steep staircase built into the cliff. This can become slippery due to water spray, so hold onto the rails, but make sure you enjoy the view!
Lake Louise Lakefront Trail
The Lake Louise Lakefront Trail is another one of Alberta’s short day hikes at only 1.5 hours to complete. This one takes you along the edge of the turquoise Lake Louise – a nice change compared to the Big Beehive trail that takes you up and over the lake for a birds-eye view.
With barely any elevation, you won’t end up with muscle aches, which I’m sure you’ll be thankful for. In the summer you can walk around the lake, and during the winter you can even walk on it when it freezes over. This is a year-round accessible trail for people with all fitness levels.
Average hikers finish the Prairie Mountain hike in 2 hours (1 hour up and just over an hour down) but many can finish quicker in clear weather. The trailhead starts southwest of Bragg Creek near the Elbow River. Although steep, (the trail reaches an elevation of 666 m), it’s a pretty easy walk for most of the way up and accessible for most fitness levels.
There are endless mountain views from the viewpoint across the valley, so Prairie Mountain is one of the best day hikes in Alberta to avoid the crowds. Although this is a hike that can be accessed all year round, the driving access road usually closes for the winter due to weather conditions. If you do decide to hike Prairie Mountain during the colder months, crampons and spikes are recommended, as the scramble can get a bit slippery. When you make it to the top, you’ll have a nice surprise, seeing the flag waving at the summit!
Boom Lake Trail
The Boom Lake Trail is another trail with minimal incline and is more of a stroll than a hike. It takes roughly 3.5 hours to complete, so it’s perfect if you’re looking for a day hike in Alberta. As an out and back trail, you’ll need to backtrack once you get to the lake to reach the Boom Lake Trail finish line. As you walk along the track, you will see a few small streams as you head towards Boom Lake. In summer, they are crystal clear and flowing and add to the beauty of the region.
In the winter months, these streams can become dangerously icy along the trail, so use caution. When hiking during summer and spring, you can expect to see a stunning bright blue lake that Canada is known for. Take it in and enjoy your reward for walking the trail!
There you have it, 8 fun day hikes in Alberta that offer great views of the province! Of course, if I listed every single one we would be here for days, so I have handpicked some of the most enjoyable – but also less busy – trails for hikers to enjoy without being stuck in a crowd. Because let’s face it, nobody likes having to line up for a photo op at a viewpoint!