As we head into the festive season, I’ve got mountains on the mind and there’s nowhere in the world quite so majestic as the Canadian Rockies. Temperatures may be plummeting in Canada right now but it’s never too early to start planning your spring or summer adventure to one of the planet’s most beautiful landscapes.
‘The Rockies’ really is one of those places that has to be seen to be believed. Even the most stunning photography in the world can’t do this place justice and the only way to fully appreciate the scale and grandeur of Canada’s wild west is to grab your hiking boots and take to the peaks.
There are plenty of famous sights that you’ll be all too familiar with in Western Canada but I wanted to offer up a glimpse into three of the lesser-known hiking trails that will quite simply take your breath away. All of these day hikes are easily accessible from Banff or Jasper National Park and will add a different dimension to your mountain vacation.
The Plain of Six Glaciers
Lake Louise is perhaps THE symbol of the Canadian Rockies. It’s hard to beat those turquoise waters and snow-capped peaks – not to mention that idyllic fairy-tale chateau perched so perfectly on the lake shore (seriously, is it humanly possible to take a bad photo here?!)
But most people who travel to Lake Louise don’t venture any further than the shoreline itself and are missing the best part…
Those who do venture off the beaten path and along the Plain of Six Glaciers will be rewarded with some of the most incredible, panoramic views in the Rockies.
This comfortable 11km (7 mile) return hike takes you through forested trails and up face-to-face with magnificent glaciers. As you wind your way up above the lake, you’ll be greeted with staggering views of the shimmering turquoise waters back down below. The view just keeps getting better and better after every turn, so keep your camera handy!
At the end of the trail, and after a fair bit of huffing and puffing, you’ll reach a charming tea-house, serving up fresh teas and lemonades. The only way to reach the tea-house is along this mountain path therefore supplies have to be helicoptered in at the start of tourist season (so be kind if they’re all out of your favourite tea!)
The hike should take about 4-5 hours, in total, allowing for photo stops and a tea break at the end but I’d suggest allowing a full day to complete the trail and explore Lake Louise from the ground.
Parker Ridge Trail
If you’re travelling to the Rockies, the chances are the iconic Icefields Parkway will be high up on your itinerary. And rightly so – this is one of the world’s most beautiful roads, dotted with towering mountains, tumbling waterfalls and glittering glacial lakes. Honestly, it’s almost silly just how beautiful the scenery is at points and this is, without a doubt, one of the must-dos on any trip to Western Canada.
Most people experience the Icefields Parkway from their car, stopping for photo opportunities along the way. But there are several excellent hikes along this route that should not be missed – if you do just one, make sure it’s the Parker Ridge Trail. A short, easy hike with some serious bang for your buck!
The trail sets off from the car park and gradually ascends along open trails. The higher up you go, the greater the views around you, so you’ll want to take some time to really appreciate this part of the trail.
It’s only 2.5km (1.5 miles) to the peak, where the landscape flattens out and it looks almost like you’ve arrived on another planet! We had the trail pretty much to ourselves (except for a few friendly mountain goats!) making it all the more magical.
From here, you’ll get your first glimpse of the majestic Saskatchewan Glacier – hands-down one of my biggest “wow” moments of the Rockies. But what photos can’t tell… it was FREEZING and windy at the top, so be sure to wear layers and you probably won’t want to hang around for too long!
Kinney Lake Hike
Definitely one of the hidden gems of the Canadian Rockies, Kinney Lake is tucked away in the lesser-known Mount Robson Provincial Park, which borders Jasper National Park and is the perfect day-trip for those seeking a more remote mountain experience, away from the mass of tourists.
The drive to Mount Robson Park is an experience in itself, as you pass along winding, forested roads and isolated lakes.
As you enter the park, you’ll get your first glimpse of towering Mount Robson – the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Here, you’ll also find a cafe and Tourist Information centre, where you can pick up trail maps and stock up on drinks and snacks for your hike.
The day we set out for Kinney Lake wasn’t all blue skies, like the rest of our trip, but the moody skies and mist clinging on to the mountains made this hike all the more beautiful and atmospheric!
The trail is forest-covered for much of the way but it does open out in sections, taking you past rushing streams, all the while with Mount Robson peeping up from behind the trees.
We passed only a handful of tourists on the 10k (6 mile) return loop and had most of the trail to ourselves. This did make the possibility of a bear sighting all the more likely (and terrifying!), especially as there had been warnings out the week before, so we made sure to make lots of noise along the way! I’d recommend bringing some bear spray with you, just in case.
The finale of your loop is beautiful Kinney Lake itself and it does not disappoint – the lake is so serene and peaceful you won’t want to leave! There is a picnic area here, too, so it’s the perfect place to stop for a while before making your return.
Wherever you hike in the Canadian Rockies, you are not going to be disappointed… These are just three of the spectacular trails we did but there’s so much more to discover in this beautiful part of the world. If you want help with planning your Canadian trip and are short on time, check out my 12-day travel itinerary for Western Canada.