Try one of these great after-work hikes near Calgary

Why not take advantage of the sunset hike before summer ends?

There are many benefits of living an hour’s drive from the mountains and one that’s often overlooked is the after-work hike (or bike or climb!)

A sunset of 9 p.m or later in the summer months means it’s realistic to leave work at 4 p.m., be on a trail shortly after 5 p.m., finish your hike as the sun is setting and drive home in the dark. Trust us, the after-work hike is a lovely way to end the day.

As follows are three of our favourite after-work hikes. As always, be prepared. Pack bear spray and plenty of snacks and water. Research the route and conditions beforehand. Pack for unexpected changes in weather conditions. And a headlamp is a must when hiking later in the day, as you never know what you may run into on the route (a wrong turn or other unexpected delay can mean a descent in the dark.) And, if it’s your first time hiking or you’re fairly new, please don’t attempt an after-work hike until you’ve got more hiking experience under your belt.

Prairie Mountain

Drive time from downtown Calgary: 67 kilometres, approx. 55 minutes

Where: Kananaskis, about a 20 minute drive from Bragg Creek

Hike Distance & Elevation: Approximately 7 kilometres round-trip with 700 metres of elevation gain

The details: Prairie Mountain is a popular and steep hike. You can see 360-degree views from the summit, with mountains on one side and Calgary on the other. And you can pose by a Canadian flag planted in a giant rock cairn. We recommend this route for people who are comfortable hiking and comfortable with elevation gain. As you’ll read on online reviews, many are surprised at just how steep it is and describe the route as “exhausting,” “difficult but stunning” and “definitely steep.”

Go Outside Hiking tip: If you’re relatively new to hiking you may be noticing big ranges in “hiking time” estimates when reading descriptions of popular trails. Some people say they’ve done Prairie Mountain in two-and-a-half hours, while others report travel times of more than four hours. What’s going on? Simply put, everyone’s pace is different!

That’s why we like to report a route’s distance and elevation gain, and not give a set time, as we know it really ranges depending on the hiker. Keep in mind elevation gain adds time to a hike (climbing is harder than walking on flat ground) so keep both distance and elevation gain in mind. Knowing your average pace and calculating how long it will likely take you to hike is a key part of route planning. If you don’t know where to start, a standard guide’s hiking pace is calculated at 20 minutes per kilometre and 20 minutes per 100 metres elevation gain.

Ha Ling Peak

Drive time from downtown Calgary: 110 kilometres, approx. 1 hour and 20 minutes

Where: Kananaskis, about a 20 minute drive from Canmore

Hike Distance & Elevation: Approximately 8 kilometres round-trip with 800 metres of elevation gain

The details: Ha Ling is an extremely popular hike and as such, it underwent extensive maintenance a few years ago. Since re-opening in 2019, the route now features hand railings, ladder staircases (see photo below) and many overlapping rock steps. Don’t let these features fool you though, the hike is steep and considered difficult. Alberta Parks explains, “The trail is maintained for the 3.5 km to the saddle, with the final 400 m of distance and 103 m of elevation to the peak on an unmaintained trail, which traverses through loose, rocky terrain.” The summit (see photo above) provides stunning views of Canmore and the surrounding Bow Valley.

Grassi Lakes

Drive time from downtown Calgary: 108 kilometres, approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes

Where: Kananaskis, about a 15 minute drive from Canmore

Hike Distance & Elevation: Approximately 4.5 kilometres round trip with 200 metres of elevation gain

The details: If you’re new to after-work hiking, Grassi Lakes Trail is the easiest option we’ve listed. It’s shorter and a lot less steep than Prairie Mountain and Ha Ling Peak. The route offers two options to get to the aquamarine Grassi Lake (pictured above): an easy route (Grassi Lake Upper) takes you up a gentle incline, while the more difficult trail (Grassi Lake Interpretive ) includes a steep section that boasts views of a waterfall and the town of Canmore and the Bow Valley. The trail splits into these two different routes about 100 metres from the trail head and the routes are marked with signage. The more difficult Interpretive Route includes history of Lawrence Grassi, who built the original trail.

Happy hiking!

P.S. Don’t want to hike but do want to leave Calgary and enjoy the mountains? Go to Banff for dinner or a snack on the newly opened Bear Street woonerf!

⛰️🥾️ Go Outside is a newsletter about nature written by Annalise & Cailynn — writers, outdoor lovers and sisters

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