Calgary is a vibrant, urban city that just happens to offer access to some of the most incredible wild places in Canada. The proximity of the Badlands and Banff National Park offer unrivaled scenery, and everything from well-kept trails to exposed scrambles are on offer. Hikers of all abilities have something to discover around Calgary. Let’s take a look at some of the best hikes near Calgary for families to explore.
1) Bow River Pathway & Prince Island
In Calgary, you can enjoy a scenic hike without ever leaving the city as there are over 40km of urban trails that snake their way through downtown. These trails are easy to hop on and hop off, so you can tailor your trip to any distance that suits you. Head to Prince Island if you want to experience the magic of nature and forget you’re in a city altogether. A simple 5km loop around this stunning island will take in some fantastic natural scenery just a stone’s throw away from the city.
2) Grassi Lakes
Just outside of Calgary in Canmore you’ll find the stunning emerald Grassi Lakes that offer the opportunity for a serene stroll. At Grassi Lakes there are hikes for those of all abilities and it’s definitely worth exploring. The shortest loops are around 4km, but you’ll be instantly immersed in the towering peaks and Alpine atmosphere that’s so characteristic of Alberta. This is a family-friendly wilderness experience, so if you want to get the kids marvelling in awe at something other than an iPad, take a hike in Grassi Lakes.
3) Horseshoe Canyon
A little further afield, but well worth the 90 minutes’ drive, is Horseshoe Canyon. “A range of hikes and other recreational pursuits can be found at Horseshoe Canyon, in Kneehill County,” says Tony Taylor, travel expert at Essayroo and Australianhelp. “With a short 3km hike, you discover the incredible landscape of the Albertan badlands. Sandstone rock sculptures and an arid climate that’s a far cry from the mountains make this a unique experience.”
4) Grotto Canyon
Grotto Canyon Provincial Recreation Area is a short trip outside of Calgary and offers stunning hikes for all abilities. The unexpected rocky scenery here makes a change from Alpine peaks, and the trails that snake between giant rock sculptures and cliff faces will have you marvelling from the outset. A 4km round trip, this is a hike with a purpose as at the furthest point you’ll discover a beautiful waterfall and a perfect picnic spot that offers an opportunity to rest those weary legs.
5) Johnston Canyon
Johnston Canyon, found just outside of Banff and still an easy day trip from Calgary, is one of the most popular hikes in the region. For its diverse array of climate and geography, Johnston Canyon is unrivalled near Alberta. The exposed cliffside trails, fortunately never venturing too close to the edge, provide a fantastic viewpoint for the canyon’s plunging depths and white-rapid river. With several options to choose from, the hikes at Johnston Canyon have something for everyone, from family-friendly fun to tough days out with big ascents! The highlights, however, are the stunning waterfalls of Lower and Upper Falls.
6) Troll Falls
Troll Falls in Kananaskis County is a wonderful day out for the family as this brief hike (just 3 and a half kilometers) can be undertaken by even the youngest members of your party. Troll Falls will especially delight the children with its name so evocative of myth and fairytale. The scenery delights in equal measure as the trail weaves through lush pine forest with the falls as the destination.
7) Ha Ling Peak
For a medium day hike that maximizes the view, head to Ha Ling Peak. A brutal climb (800m over 4km) will get you huffing and puffing, but the vista from the top will make the ascent a distant memory. “Head early to Ha Ling Peak as this trail can get crowded on weekends,” recommends Michelle Gillman, writer at OX Essays and State Of Writing. “However its popularity is well merited – this is an unmissable hike.”
8) East End of Rundle
The East End of Rundle hike near Canmore is a tough hike that involves a good amount of exposure. This isn’t for the faint of heart as towards the summit you’ll need to think carefully about where you place your feet and might even find yourself grasping at the stone for your hands. This is a hike for those with some previous experience in the mountains, but it’s a memorable day out for those who take the plunge!
9) Plain of Six Glaciers
The Plain of Six Glaciers in Banff National Park is a hidden gem amongst the more popular hikes around Calgary. Around 15km of trails wind their way into the Rocky Mountains, providing seclusion, peace and a fantastic experience of nature along the way. Beginning on the shores of Lake Louise, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the towering peaks and stunning glaciers that Banff has become known for.
10) Smutwood Peak
For those with a passion for adventure and a desire to experience some of the biggest summits the Rockies have to offer Smutwood Peak makes for an epic day out. A combination of hiking and scrambling will take you along and up a sharp ridge to top out on the peak itself and glory in panoramic views of the surrounding area. This hike gets snowed out in winter due to the elevation and becomes a far more serious proposition – best in summer, or fall, as the seasons change and the fall colors explode into life.
Take A Hike
With stunning scenery available just a stone’s throw from Calgary’s bustling downtown, you don’t have to venture far to get immersed into nature. But any visitor to Calgary should take some time to explore the wonderful wilderness of the Banff National Park and beyond. The diverse landscapes on offer around Calgary – from soaring snowy peaks to arid badlands – provide an array of magical natural experiences. Go on, take a hike.
Katherine Rundell is a travel writer at Academic Writing Service and Essay Services and an editor at Essay Help portal. She loves trail running in the mountains and the thrill of moving faster over extreme terrain has never worn off.