There isn't a trail to be missed in the Canadian Rockies. Bold statement? Yes. True? Absolutely. So you can't go wrong. But to help you get the most from your precious time in this magical region, let me give you the lowdown. From Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks to Kananaskis Country, here are my ten favorite hikes in the Canadian Rockies.
10. The Northover Round-Trip Distance: 25 Miles Area: Hwy 40, Kananaskis Country
This gem of the Rockies requires a minimum of two days to truly appreciate its grandeur. Not for the faint of heart, this trail is WILD, featuring a knife-edge ridge and a very high chance of seeing a grizzly. If wildlife and heights scare you, go elsewhere. But if you're looking for a trail with unparalleled views along which to make some epic memories, this adventurous route deep in Kananaskis Country is the one. It's where I saw my one and only wolverine--face to face at 4 a.m.--but that's another story...
9. Floe Lake Round-Trip Distance: 13 Miles Area: Hwy 93, Kootenay National Park
Part of the large and famous Rockwall Trail, the ascent to Floe Lake begins in a burn. The entire area was ravaged by a forest fire in 2003, which cleared the way for stunning wildflowers and bountiful berries. The uphill climb will reward you with a small jewel-like lake. Dive in if you dare. A dip in this water, with icebergs still floating on its surface, is a true Canadian Rockies baptism.
8. Bow Lake Round-Trip Distance: 3 Miles Area: Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park
This short hike winds along the shore of the impossibly blue Bow Lake, the source of Calgary's pristine drinking water and subject of some of the best photographs on the planet. Beginning just behind the octagonal and historic Num-Ti-Jah hunting lodge, this gentle route is a great place to stretch your legs after gaping at the awe-inspiring views of Icefields Parkway.
7. Aylmer Pass Round-Trip Distance: 16 Miles Area: Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park
One of the first high elevation trails to be free of snow in early summer (yes, this is a serious consideration here), Aylmer pass is easily accessed from the town of Banff. Taking you high above the crystalline waters of Lake Minnewanka, the trail ascends into the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies to a spectacular 7,500-foot alpine pass.
6. Helen Lake Round-Trip Distance: 7.5 Miles Area: Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park
Helen Lake is most famous for its kaleidoscope of flowers. Well, that and the grizzly activity that often shuts down the trail to human visitors. After an initial climb through subalpine forest, you'll find yourself in one of the most breathtakingly beautiful alpine meadows in the world, carpeted in a thick blanket of wildflowers.
5. Plain of Six Glaciers Round-Trip Distance: 6 Miles Area: Banff National Park
If you like tea with your trails, this is the choice for you. Begin your adventure at lovely Lake Louise, a World Heritage site sitting at 5,700 feet. A 1,200-foot climb by the base of magnificent Mount Victoria will bring you to a cozy cabin nestled high above the lake, built in 1924 by Swiss Guides and still serving delicious fare for those willing to work for it.
4. Paget Peak & Sherbrooke Lake Round-Trip Distance: 5 Miles each Area: Yoho National Park
Trek to the largest backcountry lake in Yoho National Park or head uphill at the other fork in the trail to visit an old fire lookout with dizzying mountain views. This is a great gentle warm-up to the Canadian Rockies and should leave you with plenty of time and energy to visit the famous nearby Canadian Pacific Railroad Spiral Tunnels.
3. Stanley Glacier Round-Trip Distance: 5 Miles Area: Kootenay National Park
Just west of the Continental Divide, ascend a fire-ravaged slope to emerge into the cool brilliance of the Stanley Glacier. In 1892 the glacier's namesake, Lord Stanley of Preston, was the first to award The Stanley Cup to a hockey team from his position as Governor General of Canada (the federal representative of the Canadian monarch). With hockey and monarchs involved, this is definitely a hike to include in your Canadian adventure, eh!
2. The Iceline Round-Trip Distance: 8 Miles Area: Yoho National Park
With up-close views of numerous glaciers and flanked by Takakkaw, one of Canada's highest waterfalls, this is the place to get high, high, HIGH in Yoho National Park. Yoho is a Cree word meaning "awe and wonder"--hike along the Iceline Trail and you'll see how the area earned its name.
1. Valley of the Ten Peaks Round-Trip Distance: 5 Miles Area: Banff National Park
From morning coffee on the shores of Moraine Lake to a sunny afternoon picnic in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, this is my go-to place for bringing visiting friends and family. The ascent, scented by crisp air and the sweet fragrance of sappy Douglas fir, is the perfect place to share stories along the trail. Because once you step out into the open and see sweeping vistas of ten peaks standing sentinel to your journey, you'll no longer be able to speak. Come try it for yourself. It's not to be missed. The Rockies: Yours to explore. Need we say more?
Want to Experience the Canadian Rockies with Backroads? Pick one of these Canadian Rockies Active Adventures and let's go!