- North America
- Hayley Simpson
Alberta is known for being the home of the Canadian Rockies, which stretch 180,000 square kilometers (69,498 square miles) across Alberta and into its neighbor, British Columbia. It’s the Canadian province for hiking amongst meadows, snowy mountains and glaciers. Here are Alberta’s 10 best hiking trails to conquer, predominantly in the warmer months.
National Geographic named this backcountry hike near Jasper one of the world’s best trails, which is a huge accolade. There are over 70 kilometers (43.4 miles) of trails in the Tonquin Valley, which can take from two to seven days to complete. The biggest loop of them all takes hikers over the scenic McCarib Pass and towards the Astoria River. People say that this hike is a must for serious backpackers heading to Jasper National Park.
Tonquin Valley Loop, Jasper, Alberta, Canada
Another hike featured in National Geographic, Crypt Lake was named one of the world’s most thrilling trails in 2014. Hikers must take a 15-minute ferry across Upper Waterton Lake to begin the trail, but you’ll pass four spectacular waterfalls, go up a steel ladder and through a tunnel to get to Crypt Lake. The day hike gives visitors a chance to explore one of Alberta’s best-kept secrets and a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Waterton Lakes National Park. Just don’t miss the boat home!
Crypt Lake, Waterton, Alberta, Canada
Alberta doesn’t just offer hikes with snowy mountain views; the province is also home to the Badlands. Surrounding the town of Drumheller, fossil discovery shows that this is where dinosaurs roamed some 70 million years ago. Fortunately, hikers can walk amongst the historic landscape down in Horsethief Canyon, which offers a different Alberta view, but one that’s just as striking.
Horsethief Canyon, Munson, Alberta, Canada
Also referred to as the Edith Cavell Meadows hike, this eight-kilometre (five-mile) roundtrip trail is a beautiful sight. Not only will hikers pass meadows of flora exclusive to the Rockies, but they’ll also see a glacier along this day hike in Jasper National Park. To see the flowers at their best and in full bloom, do this hike between mid-July and mid-August.
Cavell Meadows, Cavell Lake, Improvement District No. 12, Alberta, Canada
The Wenkchemna Pass isn’t the most popular hike in Banff National Park, but the eight-hour roundtrip advanced trail is one of the best. Beginning at Moraine Lake, the first stop on the hike is Eiffel Lake and views of the Valley of the 10 Peaks. Then, it’s through the meadow filled with wildflowers and onto Wenkchemna Pass. Once you reach the top, you will be standing on the Continental Divide, with British Columbia to the west.
Wenkchemna Pass, begin near Moraine Lake Lodge, Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
Described as Jasper’s most popular backcountry hike, the Skyline Trail can only be hiked during the summer. Over 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) of the trail is above the treeline, which makes it one of the more scenic hikes too. The recommended itinerary is to begin at Maligne Lake and head north. The trail can be hiked in two to three days, and there are campsites along the way.
Skyline Trail, Trans-Canada Highway, Jasper, Alberta, Canada, +1 780 852 6177
Wood Bison Trail
In Elk Island National Park, the Wood Bison Trail is one of the only places you can visit to see some of the 7,000 wood bison remaining in Canada. The day hike begins in an aspen forest and ends at Flyingshot Lake. The trail’s ridges offer views of the surrounding area, and its well-maintained boardwalks lead through open grassland. The wood bison, the largest land mammal in North America, lives along the trail with deer, moose, elk and many bird species.
Wood Bison Trail, Elk Island National Park, Improvement District No. 13, Alberta, Canada, +1 780 922 5790
Great Divide Trail
This monstrous trek travels along the Continental Divide between Alberta and British Columbia. The Great Divide Trail stretches for over 1,100 kilometers (684 miles) amongst the Canadian Rockies and is one of the world’s more spectacular long-distance hikes. It begins at Waterton National Park (becoming the Continental Divide Trail across the US border) and ends in Kakwa Provincial Park.
Great Divide Trail, begin at Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta 5, Waterton Park, Alberta, Canada, +1 403 859 5133
Plain of Six Glaciers
This hike begins at Lake Louise in Banff National Park and takes hikers on a day journey through peaks, past a Swiss-style teahouse and towards glaciers. Hikers can connect to the Lake Agnes trail as well as the Abbot Pass viewpoint for more impressive sights. The latter side trip allows you to look down towards the Lower Victoria Glacier and up towards Abbot Hut, one of Canada’s highest buildings, located 2,925 meters (9,596 feet) high.
Plain of Six Glaciers, Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, +1 403 667 4663
Finally, one of the most distinctive hikes in Alberta is at Wapta Icefields. Yes, with the aid of a certified ACMG Guide, hikers can walk on glaciers and view scenery usually reserved for mountaineers only. There’s the option of day and multi-day hikes, with alpine hut accommodation available. The usual route includes walking by Bow Lake, over Bow Glacier and then onto Peyto Glacier.
Wapta Icefield, Improvement District No. 9, Alberta, Canada