By Neal Baldwin | July 2017 | 4 minute read
When it comes to putting your best foot forward, visitors to the Canadian province of Alberta are in hiking heaven with wide open spaces and trails to explore year-round.
If Alberta is a land of infinite skies, it’s probably fair to say that it has even more hiking options.
This spectacular landscape - forged over millions of years – seems to have been purpose-designed for discovery on foot and pulling on the walking boots will give your clients new insights into the destination. Thousands of miles of trails criss-cross the province’s protected parks, mountains, alpine meadows and river valleys, with everything from easy strolls, classic hikes and more challenging multi-day treks offering something for walkers of all abilities.
And it’s perhaps its year-round appeal that really sets Alberta apart. During the peak summer season, the landscape bursts into life, beckoning visitors with opportunities to get up close to nature. Wildflowers and bird life are in their prime, and heading out into the national park areas offers the perfect opportunity to spot Alberta’s ‘all-stars’: black bears, moose, bison, elk and bighorn sheep.
Head into the lofty heights of the mountains, perhaps around Jasper or Banff, and they may even catch a glimpse of the elusive wolf, wolverine, cougar or bobcat.
Summer also offers the chance to explore landscapes rarely seen, as glaciers open up for the briefest of windows. Accompanied by a guide, hikers can don crampons and ropes to pass by crevasses and look in awe at the towering shards of ice that reach skywards. Another visual treat only best appreciated on foot is the glacier-fed Moraine Lake. As it fills the lake takes on an incredible neon blue colour that is well worth the walk.
Beyond the summer
Shoulder-season hiking serves up a whole new world of delights. In the spring, the mountains are still fringed in white as trumpeter swans arrive en masse. The melting snow brings freshness and clarity to the many waterways, and this is the perfect time for walks along river valleys and around the lake shores.
In the autumn, the trails offer a visual treat. Alberta’s famous larch trees get ready to drop their needles - taking on a tremendous golden hue. It’s a spectacle loved by locals and rivals the more famous Fall foliage of New England. Head to Kananaskis Country to appreciate the change without the crowds – here the glistening Chester Lake appears touched by Midas as it is bathed in yellow from the trees beyond.
Outdoor pursuits continue in the winter, with ice canyon walks showcasing the landscape at its most raw. The frozen waterfalls of Maligne Canyon, Jasper, never fail to deliver. In winter many hiking trails can be used for snowshoeing or cross country skiing instead.
Lake Agnes Teahouse: This famous tea house near Lake Louise has been serving tea to hikers since 1905. A number of trails call here, with a day forest hike to the top of Big Beehive a much-loved option
Sentinel Pass: Skirt the vivid blue waters of Moraine Lake before hitting the gold of Larch Valley on this autumn trail. The view towards Valley of the Ten Peaks is famed as Banff National Park’s best
Jasper Skyline Trail: Renowned as a backpacker’s dream, this 47km route offers majestic Rocky Mountain views, with more than half either at or above the treeline. The full hike takes 2-4 days
Ha Ling Peak Canmore: The 3km hike to the summit of Ha Ling Peak rises a steep 737m so it is a stiff challenge but the effort is rewarded with incredible views over Canmore
River Valley Edmonton: Edmonton makes a feature of its North Saskatchewan River Valley with extensive trails offering the chance to walk, skate, segway or cycle