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9 Easy Hikes in the Canadian Rockies
The Canadian Rockies offer mind-blowing scenery as far as the eye can see, so it's easy to see why it's on so many bucket lists. Many individuals who live in Vancouver spend many summers hiking the Canadian Rockies and seeking its majestic wildlife. The mountains provide a peaceful escape from the grind of the city.
The adjacent National Parks of Yoho, Banff, Jasper, and Kootenay all offer amazing hikes of varying levels to turquoise lakes, cascading waterfalls, and rugged mountain peaks for 360-degree views. To stay in the National Parks, travelers must purchase a Discovery Pass at the cost of CAD 10 a day or CAD 69.19 for an annual pass. The pass gives access to all of Canada's National Parks. So, if you want to explore Canada by backpacking , then check out its many beautiful parks.
However, you do not need to be a backpacker or expert to adventure in these stunning parks. Those with little to no hiking experience can also immerse themselves in the beauty of the Rockies on these easy hikes and walks.
1. Johnston Canyon
Park: Banff National Park | Difficulty: Easy | Distance: 2.3 to 5.1 km round trip
Arguably one of Banff's busiest attractions. Don't let the crowds at Johnston Canyon prevent you from doing your hike. For a leisurely stroll, take the trek to the Lower Johnston Falls. Expect the hike to take about an hour to walk the 2.3 km return trail. While Johnston Canyon is known for its Upper and Lower Falls, it actually has a multitude of waterfalls along its river.
The canyon's uniqueness comes from the series of narrow catwalks bolted to the canyon walls. Suspended above Johnston Creek, visitors can enjoy many scenic views of the rushing river. The Upper Johnston Falls requires a 5.1 km easy hike and takes 1-1/2 to 2 hours for those up for a longer trek. Of the two waterfalls, the Upper Falls is more striking.
While Johnston Canyon is busiest in the summer months. The winter offers a different perspective as its river and waterfalls freeze, allowing experienced climbers to ascent its waterfalls.
2. Lake Louise Lake Shore
Park: Banff National Park | Difficulty: Easy | Distance: 4.5 km round trip
Globally, many travelers visit Banff to see Lake Louise, known as one of Banff's best lakes . While thearea around Lake Louise offers a myriad of hiking trails, the lakeshore trail provides a leisurely walk with equally amazing views.
Stroller and wheelchair-friendly, the beauty of the shoreline allows trekkers to walk as far as they want before returning to the Chateau Lake Louise, located at the trail's head. Should you walk to the end of the lake, you'll be rewarded with breathtaking views across the water to the Fairmont Chateau. (Shown at the beginning of this post.)
3. Sulfur Mountain Boardwalk
Park: Banff National Park | Difficulty: Easy | Distance: 1.2 km round trip
For the best aerial views of Banff and Bow Valley, ride the gondola to the top of Sulfur Mountain. A wooden boardwalk meanders across the mountain top at the peak, offering spectacular views on a clear day. While not wheelchair friendly due to numerous stairs, visitors can learn about the surrounding terrain and wildlife on multiple informational plaques. If you're lucky, you might even see some Big Horn sheep.
At the other end of the boardwalk, you can peek into an old weather station and feel like you're on top of the world. While the gondola charges a hefty fee during peak times (CAD 70 per person), you can spend about three hours exploring the mountain top, browsing its Interpretation Centre, and taking pictures.
4. Takakkaw Falls
Park: Yoho National Park | Difficulty: Easy | Distance: 1.3 km
A trip to the Canadian Rockies wouldn't be complete without seeing Canada's second-highest waterfall in Yoho National Park. Just a 30-minute drive from Lake Louise, Takakkaw Falls wows visitors with its imposing cascade that plummets 254 meters to the rocks below.
During heavy flow, the waterfall gives off a showery spray, quite refreshing in summer. Before you make the trek to the waterfall's base, where you can capture your selfies at the iconic red Adirondack Chairs, placed perfectly at the lookout.
5. Paint Pots
Park: Kootenay National Park | Difficulty: Easy | Distance: 2 km run
The Paint Pots might seem like an unusual name for a hike, but it gets its name from the rust-colored ponds that were once used as body paint. The area is rich in iron oxide, giving the ground a rich ochre hue, contrasting significantly with the grass and trees.
The shades vary from yellowy-orange to almost red along the trail, making it a unique hike in the Canadian Rockies. Be sure to keep the soil away from your clothes to prevent permanent staining.
6. Columbia Icefields
Park: Jasper National Park | Difficulty: Easy | Distance: 1.4 km run
Undoubtedly, the Columbia Icefields provide a 'first' experience for many visitors. Seeing a magnificent glacier up close and having an opportunity to walk on the icefield creates lasting memories. Whether you take the Icefields Explorer bus onto the glacier or not, I highly recommend the short hike to the toe of Athabasca Glacier.
While quite a brisk walk, it's eye-opening to see how rapidly the receding icefield is melting. Along the unmarked trail, date markers show where Athabasca Glacier was in previous years. At the end of the trail, a torrent of meltwater creates a large river at the glacier's toe.
7. Edith Cavell
Park: Jasper National Park | Difficulty: Easy | Distance: 1.6 km round trip
The towering peak of Mount Edith Cavell shelters Angel Glacier and Cavell Pond beneath it. As a result, the glacial waters often have icebergs year-round. 'Angel Glacier' once resembled the shape of an angel but is now receding at an alarming rate, causing ice to fall into the water below.
The road to Edith Cavell is only accessible from mid-June to mid-October when it's free of snow. Of all the places in Jasper, Edith Cavell is a favorite of many. The giant icebergs and picturesque hanging glaciers are truly astounding. The hike to Cavell Pond is easy and extremely rewarding.
8. Maligne Canyon
Park: Jasper National Park | Difficulty: Easy | Distance: varies
Jasper's Maligne Canyon offers easy accessibility to one of the Canadian Rockies' incredible canyon walks. With six bridges and three parking lots along the river, visitors can see parts or all of the canyon. The lower parking lots reach bridges five and six.
However, if you park at the top parking area, it's an easy hike to bridges one through three. Around bridge two, the water flows 51 meters in the narrow canyon below. At some viewpoints, you can't see the water, but you can still hear it. Unlike Johnston Canyon, which has narrow walkways, Maligne Canyon is quite wide and rerely feels overcrowded.
9. Athabasca Falls
Park: Jasper National Park | Difficulty: Easy | Distance: 1 km round trip
Athabasca Falls is Jasper's best roadside waterfall. Its thunderous waterfall changes color depending on the season and flow. In the summer, glacier flour from melting glaciers creates blue-green hues. However, during heavy flow, the waterfall is sometimes raging a muddy torrent.
With plenty of viewing points up and down the river, visitors can enjoy the river's roar. Be sure to walk down the river through the old canyon, where the river used to flow. Here, you'll see a giant pothole, and view the calmer waters as they exit the canyon.
Tips For Hiking In The Canadian Rockies
Visitors should always exercise caution when hiking in the Canadian Rockies. The landscape is rugged, home to wild animals, and has little to no cell phone coverage outside the main towns. Be prepared by following these hiking tips:
Don't hike alone.
Carry plenty of water and a high protein snack.
Carry a bear bell or make noise when hiking.
Check on the weather before heading out, and dress appropriately.
Carry bear spray.
Wear good hiking boots with ankle support.
Stay on the trails to avoid damage to fragile vegetation.
Remember to leave no trace and carry out everything you took with you.
While these easy hikes give snippets of the Canadian Rockies, experienced hikers will benefit from more challenging trails on less traveled routes. Whatever your fitness level, the Canadian Rockies never disappoints. If you are interested in learning more for your adventure through Canada, then check out our blog!
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