Mountain Jaunts to Ease into Hiking Season
Where to visit when you want to see the mountains and stretch your legs but you don't want to spend a full day hiking
Lake Louise, October 2021.
Not every weekend demands a full day of hiking up a mountain. Life circumstances have forced both of us to slow down recently and ease into hiking season at a much different pace than we typically would. This has led to discovering some new, beautiful gems that were never on our radar. Think simple, short mountain walks instead of full-day hikes or scrambles covering 15+ kilometres and 1,000+ metres of elevation gain.
The following trails are the type of routes that are perfect for people who’ve never hiked before, little legs, senior legs, people who have new babies to carry, people who have brand new puppies they want to introduce to the mountains, people who want a change of scenery and some fresh mountain air but don’t want a big time or fitness commitment, and so on — you get the point.
Our one big word of warning is be prepared for crowds. Already, the volume of people on some of these routes on weekends is wild. Thoroughly research routes and maps beforehand (remember cell service is non-existent in much of the mountains). Have a backup plan in case there’s no parking at your preferred trailhead.
And please, please, please respect the rules. Don’t litter (like the dude, who a friend politely called out for throwing his banana peel into the forest at Heart Creek last weekend. Yes, even fruit is litter in the mountains, I don’t care if you think it composts quickly.) Keep your dogs on a leash. Be respectful of other trail users and wildlife. Our backyard is truly magical and we all have a role to play in ensuring future generations can also enjoy it.
Mount Lorette Ponds
Located right off of Highway 40, about 30 minutes from Canmore, Mount Lorette Ponds has mountain views and is the perfect place for a picnic, fishing or strolling. The main trail is just 700 metres, with a secondary loop that adds 230 metres. There are outhouses at the parking lot and some of the picnic tables have fire pits. “Perfect paved path for anyone of any ability,” says one recent AllTrails review, while another classifies the trail as “stroller and wheelchair friendly.”
Heart Creek Trail
Cailynn recently hiked this route with her baby, following in the footsteps of our parents, who took both of us on this hike when we were two months old. Heart Creek Trail is a popular trail for families and beginner hikers, and for good reason. It’s close to Calgary, there’s great views of Heart Mountain, and it’s a fun trail for little ones, thanks to numerous bridges over the creek and a waterfall at the end. Try heading out on a weekday, if you can, as this trail gets very busy.
Lake Louise Lakeshore
While there’s several trails that begin from the famous and breathtakingly blue Lake Louise, did you know you can also walk around the lake? Known as the Lake Louise Lakefront Trail or the Lakeshore Trail, this is a 4.5 kilometre accessible stroll that offers stunning views and minimal elevation gain. Be warned, this loop does get quite busy, especially in the summer, when transit is recommended as the parking lot fills up quickly. Once you reach the end of Lake Louise, you’ll find a milky creek, which is where the lake gets its stunning colour from.
Troll Falls is a family-friendly 3.4 kilometer roundtrip trail located in Kananaskis that boasts a waterfall and is loved by families. This hike has just 150-metres of elevation gain and is very popular in both summer and winter, when the falls are frozen. The busy trail was in the news earlier this year after visitors were urged to please, for the love of nature, stop leaving troll dolls on the route. Don’t do this. There’s absolutely nothing appropriate about discarding kitschy children’s dolls in a natural space.
Grotto Canyon is a 4.4 kilometre hike that’s popular for people of all ages in both summer and winter. The trailhead is located a 10 minute drive from Canmore, making it a popular route for Calgarians. The trail features 115-metres of elevation gain and some nifty photo opportunities including a waterfall, narrow-walled creek bed and pictographs that date back hundreds of years.
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