Distance: 4.3 km
Elevation Gain: 300 m
Rating: Easy (book rating, and it is, but its a climb)
This is a great chance to climb your first mountain! The hike starts in banff, or you can cut a half KM off the journey and start just down tunnel mountain drive from the banff center.
The trail is a series of switchbacks just going up the side of the mountain, its basically up up up. Its not steep and the trails are wide and well maintained. You will get to see views all the way up but closer to the top you get to see over the other side of the mountain. Its a full 360 view. At the top there is a great big rock slab to take a much deserved break. You did it, you climbed a mountain! *for Climbing this in the winter I highly recommend spikes for your shoes and I dont go without poles. Its popular so it gets packed down, most likely no need for snow shoes.
This is a very popular trail so go early if you want to avoid the crowds.
Parking is also limited.
Lovely little hike :)
Foran Grade Loop- Kananaskis
Distance: 7.4 km loop
Elevation Gain: 280 m
Special considerations: The first leg of this is through a field that has cows. I have grown up in Alberta and seen a lot of cows but this is the first time I hiked with them ha ha. Anyways, if you are not familiar cows are pretty harmless, just talk and let them know you are there. Shoo em if they get too close, really they are just eating and used to people telling them what to do.
The Hike: Travel west on Highway 546 until you see the side lot for the trail head just past Sandy McNabb campground. (A lovely campground by the way) You begin as noted above by crossing a field that may have cows in it. From here you casually ascend through a lovely aspen forest until you reach a very nice view point of the valley. Then you head back down a little steeper than the way up but still quite easy, and then come out of the forest and you cross the highway (its a small one and an easy cross) From here you walk along a ridge, take care as it is a large drop off, but its a beautiful valley.
This will bring you to another field that may have some more cows :) Also this is a popular part of the trail for cyclists.
This will lead you back to your car and you are done.
Overall this is a gentle hike, the heights are not too high and the length is under 10 km. It does involve going up so there is some work to be done but no large steps or drops.
Distance: 5 km round trip
Elevation Gain: 65 m
Special Considerations: This is the first leg of the Juan De Fuca trail, a multi day hike, and camping is allowed on this beach.
A beautiful walk through the woods leads you down to the beach. Its is nearly all down hill the way there and up on the way back.
The route is clear but expect many tree roots and big steps (poles are helpful). There is a lovely suspension bridge to cross.
When you get to the beach you will have to descend several stairs. Down on the beach there is an interesting cave and waterfall. This is a very popular hike and will likely be busy. Prepare for all weather, it is colder in the forest and if a sunny day quite hot on the beach. This is rain-forest so always be aware as things can be slippery and there is often mud.
Distance: 40 km
Elevation Gain: Minimal overall but had many ups and downs
Difficulty: Moderately Difficult
Back Country Camping completed in 3 days.
Special Considerations: Must be booked ahead of time https://reservation.pc.gc.ca/WestCoastTrail and permits purchased. Trail heads are deep off road and hard on cars so consider taking the west coast trail bus to the trail heads and having them take you back. Can pick up in Victoria. Required to carry all supplies be prepared to have a pack weighing 35-55 lbs. Trail can be accessed from Pachena bay (to head south) Nitinat (mid point from here you can go north or south) or Port Renfrew heading north.
Trail is a mix of woods and beach walking, has many roots, mud and ladders, boardwalks, as well as a few river crossings. Because of the extreme winter weather there trail can only be walked May through August. This is a very popular trail but limited permits are sold so book early. Check out this site to answer many questions about this hike https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/bc/pacificrim/activ/activ6a
Day 1- Nitinat to Killama River
Distance: 14 km
The first 3 km took us almost 3 hours as it was tricky through the woods and I ended up on my bum. You will pass a comfort camping area that is booked separately. First bit is through the woods and is up and down with many routes and mud, clears a bit after the first couple KM and we traveled faster. Once you hit the beach is a a short distance to the first campground which is Tsusiat Falls. Big popular campground, we were late in the season so the water fall was almost non existent. We had originally planned to camp here but it was crowded and still early in the day and we saw that the next campground was about 5 more km. So we trekked on. Leaving this campsite is your first real set of ladders on this route, and its a big climb. At the top there is a water source. This part of the trail was the easiest part of the day and the day ends with a river crossing in a cable car over a fresh water Killama rive thats a lovely swimming spot. The killama River campground is beautiful, lots of drift wood while we were there and by far our favorite spot of the whole trip. Quieter as its smaller and most people want to camp at Tsusiat. But I really recommend this one.
Day 2- Killama River to Darling River
Distance 10 km
The first bit is on the beach and we took our time, looking at tide pools and saw many little creatures. Then you go back into the woods and go up up up. Through the woods its quite leisurely with lovely views from the bluffs and then you get to some very tall ladders (going down) which run along a slightly sketchy cliff, then a beautiful waterfall and small suspension bridge. At the bottom of all this is Tscowis Creek Campground where we took a long break. Very nice campground. After this its a long beach slog and you will pass one more campsite (orange creek) before you arrive at Darling River. Here we spent the night, and there was several bears by the river that were still there in the morning. We saw bear skat throughout most of the day on this walk.
Day 3- Killama River to Pachena Bay
Distance 18 km
Started walk with a 2 km beach stroll avoiding bears, then you will come across the last campsite on the trail which is Michigan Creek. Its a busy site as its the first from the Pachena Bay trail head. From Michigan Creek is up up up, in the trees most of the day and lots of mud while we were there. After a bit it evens out and is a lot easier. There is an amazing light house on this day and couple other fun things in the woods. Lots of smaller ladders towards the end of the day. At the end you can go through the woods or if you time it right and the tide is out you can do a beach exit, which I deeply recommend. Its a stunning beach and will look so beautiful to your tired self. Here there is a full service campground that we spent the night in as our commuter bus didnt pick up until the next day.
You can see a video of our trip here
WEST COAST TRAIL
Distance: 18.5 km (round trip) Starting from Elbow Lake Trail head
Elevation Gain: Mimimal (with exception of short steep start)
Special Considerations: The initial ascent is steep and I found poles extremely helpful. This hike can be done in one day, 2 if walking to tombstone on first day, or 3 if camping at Elbow Lake the first night (only 1 km from trail head) Permits must be purchased before trip (from visitor center is easiest). Sites have bear bins, some fire wood available and outhouses.
Take the highway 40 to the Elbow Lake parking lot. From trail head the first km is a steep ascent, walk-able but tiring (especially with a heavy pack) but right at the top is the first Campground. Picturesque its sits on the side of Elbow Lake. You can camp here or continue on to Tombstone. The rest of the walk is fairly flat and through a valley with stunning wide open views of several peaks. I was in awe looking all around. Distance from Elbow lake to Tombstone is around 9 km. The walk can be a day hike with no camping and will be faster and easier without packs. A beautiful walk and well worth checking out.
Prairie View Lookout- Barrier Lake
Distance: 17 km (Varying distances depend on route taken)
Elevation Gain: 600 m
Special Considerations: route can be significantly shortened by going back down the way you came up. Poles help with the decent. You will share this path with cyclists. Partially on access road. Popular so going earlier in the day might beat crowds.
Trail head is just off the Highway 40 at Barrier Lake. The walk in is a steady incline but not steep, and the road is wide. You are in the woods for the first bit but when it opens up for the first view there is a wow factor. Its a nice place to take some pictures and rest. From here to the next lookout is a shorter stint and a little steeper with a short easy scramble at the top. Here you are on a cliff that jets out and get a beautiful view of the mountains on your right and the prairies on your left. You can go a little higher here to the fire watch house or you can head down the other side (the rocks look a little treacherous but are easily navigated with poles) You will enter the woods at the bottom of the hill and travel for a little while in the trees, fairly flat here or descending. You will come across a few junction points with directions and you will want to be heading back to the lake. The last bit is around the lake and part of it is road, not as scenic as the rest as parts are under power poles. Still you have the lake :) Overall this is a lovely hike.
Goat Creek Trail
Distance: 13 km (one way)
Canmore to Banff 155 m
Banff to Canmore 384 m
Special Considerations: wide multi purpose trail (walking, biking) Ample parking at Canmore end and commuters are available in summer to take you back to the other end if needed.
I have only done this hike starting at the Canmore end at the base of Ha Ling peak and Mount Rundle, starting at this end you are mostly going down hill. The path is wide and mostly flat, there are tree routes and walks but it is a very passable route. This hike will take you to the spray lakes loop in Banff (trail head just south of the Banff Springs)
Not a very scenic hike it still has its charms as a nice stroll through the woods from one town to the next. At the base of Mount Rundle you will follow Goat Creek and have a few river crossings, the bridges are wide and well maintained. From either end you will be able to organize a communter to bring you back to the other end. I walked in about 8 km and turned back to make a 16 km loop. Not paved so a mountain bike is needed to ride this route if you were so inclined.
Overall not my favorite but an easy access, gentle ascent or decent route to get moving.
Kananaskis- Heart Creek
Distance: 5.5 km (return)
Elevation gain: 100 m
*special considerations: watch animal warnings and carry bear spray. There is plenty of water on this trail if you carry purification you can refill. There is an outhouse and garbage facilities at the trailhead as well as ample parking.
Beautiful scenic little trail just off the highway 1 right as you get into the Kananaskis. Classified as easy the path is well carved though has many rocks and roots so proper footwear is recommended. You will have several river crossings (with bridges) and see many a rock climber as this is a popular area for climbers to spend the day.
The end of the trail has a small waterfall although it is difficult to see.
Just a nice stroll through the woods, a calm and lovely hike that is close to Calgary and easy to complete and get back to the city for a full day. Or also close to Canmore and Banff if you want to spend your afternoon there.
Grassi Lakes- Canmore
Distance: 4 km
Elevation gain: 250 m
Rating: Easy/a little harder
*special considerations- there is an outhouse at the trail head that has toilet paper and hand sanitizer. There is also an outhouse at the top but you will need your own toilet paper for that one. There is a water source at the top if you were doing the longer hike, bring purification tablets if you want to carry less water. Ample parking and garbage containers at the trail head
Once in Canmore drive follow the signs to the Nordic center, pass the center about 2 km there is a sign for Grassi Lakes. Turn left and the parking lot and trail head are at the bottom of a hill.
There are two routes for the 4 km hike, one that is classified as easy and one that is harder.
The easy route is a wide access road, generally incline the whole way and through the trees (so you will not get the view until the top). The harder route is a little steeper in spots and the trail is more narrow but it offers wonderful views throughout the hike.
This trail is walk-able by most, is wide and flat enough to likely access with a wheelchair or stroller (though not paved so not completely flat)
The top offers stunning views of Canmore, two small lakes that are crystal clear and couple of waterfalls that to me are worth the trip.
A very popular hike you will likely see many people.
There are options to extend the hike to about 8 km, doing a larger loop and going down a different way then you came up. (I have not yet completed this version)
Having done both the easy route and the hard route, if you are up for the slightly steeper version the veiws from the harder route really are much better :)
Johnstons Canyon- Banff
Distance 4 km
Elevation Gain 215 m
Difficulty- Moderately Easy
*Special Considerations- This hike can be lengthened to to continue past the upper falls and up to the ink pots. Also you can make this into a 3 day backpacking trip starting or ending in Johnstons canyon with 2 nights camping along the way. You will need to bring all supplies with you. (I have not done that trip before, it has some more techinical areas)
Johhnstons Canyon is one of the most popular hikes in the area, very close to banff. Go really early in the day or early or late in the season to see the least amount of people.
The walk to the first waterfall is easy, very little gain, wide path in the forest and doable by most. The very neat part of winding through this canyon and there are a series of catwalks built into the rocks that hang over the river.
The falls are neat and have a cave that you can go into to get a better view. On a busy day you will have to wait a while to get the view.
Going further the walk remains easy but most of the elevation gain is in this section. More catwalks but its mostly woods in this section. Several smaller waterfalls are also fun.
Its a beautiful valley and a great intro hike to the area. Afterwards you can just pop into Banff for some food.
Reviews aimed at beginners on trails in Banff, Kananaskis, Vancouver Island and beyond