Home Destinations 20+ Super Scenic Hikes in Alberta

20+ Super Scenic Hikes in Alberta

by Karen Ung

With diverse scenery, towering peaks, jaw-dropping waterfalls, and turquoise lakes, Alberta boasts some pretty sweet hiking. Here are over 20 of our favorite scenic hikes in Alberta, and some high quality hiking gear recommendations.

Mount Allan, Kananaskis

Sponsored Content/Affiliate Disclosure: This story was sponsored by Helly Hansen and includes affiliate links through which I earn a commission at no extra cost to you, but all words and opinions are my own. 

1. Moraine Lake Rockpile, Banff National Park

Moraine Lake

It’s easy to see why beautiful Moraine Lake, nestled in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, is one of Canada’s most photographed lakes. With its stunning azure color (due to rock flour particles suspended in the water) and perfect setting, it’s a must-see when in Banff National Park.

While you can easily get to the lake from the parking lot, it’s worth taking a short walk to the “rockpile.” To get there, head towards Consolation Lakes, and take a right at the first junction. Follow the well-defined trail to the “Twenty dollar view.” Moraine Lake used to grace the back of Canadian $20 bills from 1970-1993. 

  • Distance: 800 m loop
  • Elevation Gain: 35 m
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Parking: End of Moraine Lake Road

While you’re there: Hike the Moraine Lake Lakeshore (1.5 km one way) or go to Consolation Lakes (2.9 km one way).

Know before you go: Moraine Lake Road is closed from mid October to June each year. In summer months, the road is temporarily closed when the parking lot is full. Go early (before 5 am), or late (after 4 pm) to get a parking spot, or take the Parks Canada Shuttle from the Park & Ride at Lake Louise Ski Resort. Reservations required.

2. Peyto Lake Viewpoint & Bow Summit, Banff National Park

View from Peyto Lake Overlook, Banff National Park

This short walk boasts wildflowers, mountain views, and a wolf’s head lake in a surreal shade of blue. While there is no lake access here, high above the water, the view is worth a quick stop. Continue on to the Overlook (directions in this blog post) or Bow Summit if time allows. The Overlook is even more spectacular and a lot less crowded.

  • Distance: 600 m one way to Peyto Lake Viewpoint / 1.2 km to Peyto Lake Overlook / 2.9 km one way to Bow Summit
  • Elevation Gain: 25 m to Viewpoint / 94 m to Overlook / 245 m to Bow Summit
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Bow Summit

For more gorgeous views between Lake Louise and Jasper, see our story: The best stops on the Icefields Parkway.

Hiking Gear for Her from Helly Hansen

Outdoor adventures call for good gear! Always have a waterproof/windproof jacket in your pack like the light, fully seam-sealed Helly Hansen Women’s Loke Outdoor Jacket (6 colors to choose from) with 10,000mm waterproofness and vents, plus a fleece or down midlayer. The Women’s Rapid Midlayer Jacket (available in black or blue) is made of 100% recycled fleece and is quick dry, odor-resistant, and sun protective AND has hand and chest pockets to stash snacks or keys. Stretchy, windproof, water-repellant, and abrasion-resistant Women’s Rask Light Softshell Pants (in black or sage) are prefect for hiking, scrambling, or climbing. Travel fast and light with waterproof and grippy Women’s Cascade Low Cut Helly Tech Hiking Shoes (in purple, blue, or black); and pop all the essentials in the thoughtfully-designed, hydration pack compatible Unisex Generator 20 L Backpack (in green or black).

Shop now at hellyhansen.com.

3. The Bear’s Hump, Waterton Lakes National Park

Waterton has no shortage of amazing hikes, but if you’re short on time, hike the Bear’s Hump. This short but steep trail switchbacks up a distinctly-shaped knoll, an outcropping of Mount Crandell, across from The Prince of Wales Hotel. Not surprisingly, it was known as “Great Bear” or “Grizzly Medicine Mountain” to the Piikani. 

From the top, you have sweeping views of Waterton Lakes, the townsite, and surrounding peaks. It’s most magnificent (and less busy) at sunrise and sunset, but bring a headlamp and be bear aware!

  • Distance: 1.4 km one way
  • Elevation Gain: 225 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: The Bear’s Hump

If you’re up for more of a challenge, Akamina Pass and Crypt Lake are strenuous but stunning!

4. Matapiiksi (Hoodoo) Trail, Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park’s Matapiiksi (Hoodoo) Trail winds through wind- and water-sculpted hoodoos, up and down stairs, along the river, and even passes by an awesome display of rock art! Download the Alberta Parks Hoodoo Trail Guide for info about each numbered post along the trail.  

  • Distance: 2.5 km one way
  • Elevation Gain: minimal 
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Parking: Writing-on-Stone Day Use Area

Know Before You Go: It can be 10 C hotter in the hoodoos than at the campground, so plan to do this hike early in the morning when it’s cool out and bring lots of water.

For more information on this beautiful park, read our story: Why You Should Visit Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park.

5. Johnston Canyon Lower & Upper Falls, Banff National Park

Johnston Canyon is one of the most-visited places in Banff, so plan to go early or late in the day, mid-week, or in the shoulder season for the best experience. No matter what time of year you visit, however, the catwalks along the cliffs make the hike extra scenic and exciting (don’t worry, there are railings so you want fall). Peer down at the creek below and keep an eye out for black swifts, rapids, and waterfalls. There are several sets of falls in the canyon! Don’t miss the Lower Falls viewing platform at the end of a small tunnel; it gets you close enough to the falls to feel mist on your face.

  • Distance: 1.2 km to Lower Falls / 2.5 km to Upper Falls
  • Elevation Gain: 50 m to Lower Falls / 120 m to Upper Falls
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Johnston Canyon 

Hiking Gear for Him from Helly Hansen

Be ready for rain with the light (290 grams!) and packable (packs into the chest pocket) Men’s Odin Minimalist Infinity Shell Jacket (in yellow or blue). Full-taped seams, eco-friendly materials (PFC-free waterproofing), a helmet-compatible hood, and adjustable drawstring at the hem will make this your favorite jacket. When the temperature dips, pull on the Men’s Rapid Midlayer Jacket (blue, olive, or black) made of 100% recycled materials. On hot days, stay cool with the light, stretchy, and breathable Men’s Maridalen Hiking Shorts (olive, dark grey, or navy). Lots of pockets make it easy to keep small items handy. Prefer trekking pants? The Men’s Verglas Tur Hiking Pants (5 colors available) are rugged and comfortable with 4-way stretch. 7/8 zips with 2-way zippers provide ventilation, and boot hooks are great for keeping debris out of your boots (no need for gaiters!). Slip on some light, waterproof Men’s Gobi APS HT Hiking Shoes (in blue-grey or black) with great traction, and you’re ready to hit the trail!

See more at hellyhansen.com.

6. Badlands Trail & Coulee Viewpoint Trail, Dinosaur Provincial Park

With dramatic out-of-this-world scenery and short, easy trails, Dinosaur Provincial Park is sure to be a family favorite. On the Badlands Trail (1.3 km loop), interpretive signs describe how the awesome hoodoos, coulees, and rills formed; and why the park is a dino fossil hotspot. Coulee Viewpoint Trail (0.9 km) is another favorite for scenery; but on a hot day, seek shade on the Cottonwoods Flats Trail (1.4 km). Discover more trails at this UNESCO World Heritage Site in our story, Exploring Dinosaur Park.

7. Ptarmigan Cirque, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Ptarmigan Cirque is the best short hike in Kananaskis, but it’s not the easiest. Starting from the highest paved pass in Canada, Highwood Pass, take the boardwalk through an alpine meadow, cross the highway, then hike straight uphill to a waterfall in a cirque. Watch for ground squirrels and bears in the meadows carpeted with wildflowers, and look for fossils on your way back (but leave them in place). Read more about this awesome trail in our story Ptarmigan Cirque, Kananaskis.

  • Distance: 4.5 km loop
  • Elevation Gain: 210 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: Highwood Pass Day Use

8. Cavell Meadows Trail, Jasper National Park

For spectacular glacier and mountain views, and wildflowers, hike to Cavell Meadows! The lovely trail begins at the same place as Path of the Glacier Trail, then branches off to the left, around the moraine (good place to spot marmots and pikas; then climbs through subalpine forest to Cavell Meadows, which are bursting with color in late July. Enjoy stunning views of the Angel Glacier and Cavell Pond along the way! 

  • Distance: 7 km round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 500 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: End of Cavell Road (Note: Maximum vehicle length 7.5 m / 25 feet on this winding road)

9. Valley of the Five Lakes, Jasper National Park

Valley of the Five Lakes is a pretty and popular trail that takes you past five mountain lakes in varying shades of blue. Jump off the dock at Fifth Lake, get a Red Chair photo between Third and Fourth Lakes, and look for Loons at First Lake! For more details on this family-friendly hike, read our story Valley of the Five Lakes, Jasper.

  • Distance: 4.6 km loop
  • Elevation Gain: 66 m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Valley of the Five Lakes

10. Parker Ridge, Banff National Park

You can’t go wrong with any hike near the Columbia Icefield, but Parker Ridge is incredible because you get stunning glacier views with minimal effort. While it’s all uphill to gain the ridge, it’s less than 3 kilometres, so you can take your time and enjoy the wildflowers, natural bonsai (kruppelholz), and views. Saskatchewan Glacier, visible from the ridgetop, is the largest of the Columbia Icefield’s six glaciers. Read more in our blog post: Hiking Parker Ridge.

  • Distance: 2.7 km one way
  • Elevation Gain: 250 m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Parker Ridge

11. Bow Glacier Falls, Banff National Park

Starting at cerulean Bow Lake, it’s hard to imagine how the hike can get any better, but it does! After hiking to the other side of the lake, climb big steps along a gorge, traverse a moraine, then cross the valley (hop over small streams) to beautiful Bow Glacier Falls. Standing 154 metres tall, these glacial-fed falls are the tallest on the Icefields Parkway. For more info, see our story: Bow Glacier Falls, Banff National Park.

  • Distance: 4.6 km
  • Elevation Gain: 155 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: Take turnoff for Simpson’s Num-ti-jah Lodge / Bow Lake and park near outhouses. If it’s full, there’s an overflow parking lot closer to the highway.

12. Wilcox Ridge, Jasper National Park

Wilcox Ridge offers panoramic views of the Columbia Icefield from an elevated viewpoint almost 8,000 feet (2,438 metres) high. The trail climbs quickly to the best Red Chair view in the Rockies, then gradually levels off as you approach the pass. While most people turn around at Wilcox Pass, we highly recommend continuing on just a bit further (1.4 km) to the ridge, for the best views of the glaciers. The trail is marked with yellow trail markers, and is not technical, but hiking boots are recommended so you don’t slip on loose rock. See more photos and a route description in our post: Wonderful Wilcox Pass & Ridge.

  • Distance: 4 km to Wilcox Pass / 5.4 km to Wilcox Ridge
  • Elevation Gain: 390 m to pass / 500 m to ridge
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: Wilcox Creek

13. Plain of Six Glaciers, Banff National Park

A classic hike in the Canadian Rockies, Plain of Six Glaciers begins at legendary Lake Louise and ends at a Swiss-built alpine teahouse (open in summer only – bring cash) with fantastic views of Mount Lefroy and Victoria Glacier.  Take the lakeshore trail to the end of the lake, then continue onward and upward to Plain of Six Glaciers Trail. Pace yourself as most of the elevation is in the second half of the hike. Once you arrive at the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, you can order tea and cakes, or sit on benches near the teahouse and enjoy the view. Return the way you came.

  • Distance: 5.3 km one way to Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse
  • Elevation Gain: 365 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: Lake Louise Parking Lot (park at the lake, not in the Village)

Going further: It’s possible to make a side trip to Abbot Pass Viewpoint (1.5 km one way, 50 m elevation gain), or return via Lake Agnes to make a 14.6 km loop.

14 – 22. Strenuous Scenic Hikes (easy scrambles or 15+ km hikes)

14. Sarrail Ridge (above Rawson Lake), Kananaskis: 11.2 km round trip, 675 m elevation gain

15. King Creek Ridge, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park: 7 km round trip, 750 m elevation gain

16. Tent Ridge Horseshoe (Alltrails), Peter Lougheed Provincial Park: 10.1 km, 820 m elevation gain

17. Mount Allan, Kananaskis (Alltrails): 17.1 km round trip, 1450 m elevation gain

18. Pocaterra Cirque and Ridge, Kananaskis: To the cirque: 2.5 km, 225m / To the ridge: 4 km, 450 m. June 15, 2022 Update: There is a construction closure at Little Highwood Pass and the north side of Pocaterra Ridge. You can hike to the first summit from Highwood Meadows, but must return the way you came.

19. Healy Pass, Banff National Park (Alltrails): 18 km, 655 m elevation gain

20. Mount St. Piran, Banff National Park: 12.2 km round trip, 900 m elevation gain

21. Helen Lake and Cirque Peak, Banff National Park (Alltrails): 16 km round trip, 1,100 m elevation gain

22. Crypt Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park (Parks Canada): 17.5 km round trip, 675 m elevation gain. Note that a first come first served boat ride to the trailhead is required; see the Waterton Shoreline Cruise Company boat schedule for departure times.

What to Bring

Waterproof hiking boots and a windproof/waterproof shell are must-haves. Trekking poles are recommended for long and steep hikes, or if you are carrying a heavy pack (or child!).

You should also carry The Ten Essentials including: water, extra food, extra clothes, a headlamp, a GPS/compass and topographic map of the area, bug spray (this one contains 20% icaridin and will repel ticks), sunscreen (this one is safe for babies), and bear spray. Carry bear spray in a Frontiersman Bear Spray Holster (attaches to your backpack or belt), or Scat Belt.

In winter conditions, traction devices such as Kahtoola Microspikes (Available from Amazon, MEC, and Camper’s Village), or Hillsound Trail Crampons (Available at Amazon, Hillsound, and Sport Chek) are recommended. 

Know Before You Go

A Kananaskis Conservation Pass is required to park in Kananaskis. Purchase your pass online at https://www.alberta.ca/kananaskis-conservation-pass.aspx.

A Parks Canada Discovery Pass / daily admission fee is required to stop in the national parks.

Some of these trails are in avalanche terrain, and are not safe in snowy conditions. Always check the Alberta Parks Trail Report or appropriate Parks Canada Trail Report (e.g. Banff, Jasper, Waterton Lakes National Park Trail Report) before you go!

20+ Super Scenic Hikes in Southern Alberta
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