Before Summer Ends in the Canadian Rockies: Go Hiking!

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Written by Patrick J. Smith posted on Monday, August 30th, 2010

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There are plenty of great summer vacation activities in the Canadian Rockies, but one of the best, simplest and most enjoyable ways to really see all the beauty of this land is just getting out and going for a hike. So get your boots on and get out before summer is over!

In Jasper National Park, Banff National Park and all around Canmore, Alberta, you’ll find lots of great hiking. Below you’ll find a couple of our suggestions for each of these regions.

Jasper National Park

Patricia Lake Circle

Get out and hike the Canadian Rockies before summer is gone!

For this hike, use Trails 6 and 6c. They”re about 4.6 km long and make for a 2-3 hour hike. You can hike to the trail head on Trail 2 from Jasper townsite, or drive to the riding-stables parking area at km 3.5 on the Pyramid Lake Road.

This fairly easy trail has just a few moderate hills. Start at the trailhead kiosk near the horse stables and take Trail 6c across Pyramid Lake Road to Trail 6. Stay right, and you’ll find yourself hiking through aspen forest and gaining elevation. Hike under a powerlines and drop down to the shore of Patricia Lake. This is a great place to spot loons and other Canadian Rockies wildlife.

Continue past the junction with Trail 6ba shortcut, hiking uphill until you reach Cottonwood Creek. Here you’ll find great views of Cottonwood Slough. This is a popular place for watching ducks, beavers and sometimes moose. From the slough, follow Trail 6 past the junction with 6a, then take 6c back to the stables parking lot.

Mina Lakes – Riley Lake Loop

On this hike you’ll be using Trail 8 and 2. The hike is about 9 km long, making for a 3-4 hour hike.

The trailhead for the Mina Lake and Riley Lake Loop starts near the Jasper Activity Centre lot, near the start of the Pyramid Lake Road. Follow Trail 8 to the left. This trailhead can be easily walked to from the town of Jasper.

You’ll find out that it pays off almost quickly with great views, taking you to lower Mina Lake in less than 2 km. After an initial climb of 160 m, the trail follows the north side of the lakes, where you’ll have a chance to see Barrow’s goldeneye ducks and loons. Past upper Mina Lake you can shortcut back to town via Trail 8c. To get to Riley Lake, continue on Trail 8, following the trail along the south shore of Cottonwood Slough. At the junction with Trail 2, turn right to get back to Jasper.

Canmore Kananaskis Area

Heart Creek

This easy hike gives you fantastic views, and is only 4 km long, taking about 1.5 hours.

On this hike, you’ll follow the right fork at the first major junction. Here, you’ll find yourself following a wide gravel path up the creek bed. You’ll then cross the creek on seven log bridges. Spectacular views of the rock face of Mount McGillivray, as well as awesome views of Heart Mountain.

You’ll find it East of Canmore on the TransCanada Highway (Hwy 1). Travel towards Calgary (approximately 15 minutes) and take the Lac Des Arcs/ Heart Creek exit, then follow signs to the parking lot and trail head.

Grassi Lakes

Another easy hike at just 3.8 km in length, for a 1.5 to 2 hour hike.

This beautiful trail was named after its creator, Lawrence Grassi, a pioneer  in Canmore’s hiking history. Grassi helped put together many of the area trails, and this was always one of his favourites. The hike takes you through the forest to 2 beautiful spring fed lakes. The trail then splits into two about 200 m into the hike, and they are labelled as “Easy” (this is a fire road- suitable for all levels) and “More Difficult” (a more narrow trail with occasional rocks, roots and other small obstacles on the trail, as well as a staircase near the end).

To get here, follow Spray Lakes Road 1.25 km past the Nordic Centre to the transition from pavement to gravel. Turn left to reach the parking lot.

Banff National Park

Tunnel Mountain

This hike is about 4.3 km long, is fairly easy, and takes between 2 and 3 hours to complete.
Certainly an old one but a good one, this hike has been around since the early days of Banff National Park . The trail is well maintained, easy to access, and ideal for visitors. A panoramic view from the top of the town site, the Bow Valley and Mt. Rundle make this the perfect “get-to-know-the-area” excursion.

Starting from downtown Banff , from the southern end of Banff Ave. , turn east on Buffalo St. (turns into Wolverine) to St. Julien Rd. Trailhead begins on north side of St. Julien Rd.

A shorter option of the same hike (3.6 km / 2.2 miles return) begins from Tunnel
Mountain Dr. , just north of The Banff Centre.

Johnston Canyon

An easy to moderate hike at about 5.8 km, for a 4 to 5 hour long trip.

Here you’ll see a fantastic canyon and potholes cut into limestone by time, nature and lots of water. This hike is one of the most popular in Banff, and for a reason.

To get here, you’ll drive west from Banff on the Trans-Canada Hwy. Take the 1A Hwy ( Bow Valley Parkway ) turnoff and continue west 18 km (11 miles) to Johnston Canyon Lodge. Past the lodge, a trail sign at the northern end of the parking lot marks the start of the hike.

Alberta Adventure Guide

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