5 Family Friendly Hikes in Alberta
If you have been following me for a little while, you will know that hiking is one of my favourite outdoor activities! Not only is it a great workout, but typically the view at the end is the best reward.
The Canadian Rockies are wild, rugged, and absolutely stunning. They often captivate the hearts of travellers because of the gorgeous landscape and scenery. Although hiking to the summit of mountains is pretty spectacular, you don't have to hike high or far to get a taste of Alberta's true wilderness.
There is a wide array of hiking trails available in Alberta that is perfect for all fitness levels and ages and I want to share 5 of my favourite Family Friendly Hikes in Alberta.
Grab your back-pack, pack those snacks, lace your shoes and get ready for a nature filled day on the trails with your family.
*Note: The hikes listed above are based in the Rocky Mountains. Make sure you are prepared for all types of weather as the mountains can be unpredictable. You could see wildlife on one of these trails - so make sure to make noise (TALKING LOUD is best), bring bear spray and know how to use it. Make sure you have a full-battery on your phone in case of an emergency (and for taking pictures) and tell a family member/friend which trails you plan to go on and when you will be back. Safety is key!
1. Upper Grassi Lakes Trail Loop
Total Distance: 4.3 km (Loop or Out & Back Trail)
Elevation Gain: 233 Meters
Time Needed: 1 - 2 hours
Best time of Year: Summer & Fall
Location: On Spray Lakes Road. Drive approximately 1km past the turn off for the Nordic Center to just after where the pavement ends. The parking lot is to the left.
This is one of my favourite hikes in the Canmore area! For a little bit of work you are rewarded with a spectacular view.
Not long after you start this hike you will come to split in the trail with markers indicating which direction is the easy route and which is more difficult. The easy route takes you up a gentle incline on a gravel road to two beautiful turquoise lakes. If you have really little kids or a stroller, I would recommend this route.
The more challenging route is definitely a bit more interesting as you hike on a wooded trail through the trees, over roots, up “rocky steps” and past a beautiful waterfall. This route also offers lovely views of Canmore and the Bow Valley below. This option is great if you have kids that are used to hiking up steep steps, on narrow paths, and who are not scared of heights.
Many people complete this hike in a loop - taking the hard route up and the easy route down. That is what I would recommend if you feel confident that your kids will be okay on the challenging route. Plan for about 1 or 2 hours for this hike as you will likely want to spend some time exploring the area around the lakes.
TIPS: Because this hike is located close to Canmore, it is BUSY! Try going early in the morning or after dinner when it is a bit quieter. Once you get to Grassi Lakes, find a spot to sit and enjoy some snacks or watch the rock climbers attempt different routes on the limestone mountain.
Fun Fact: The two turquoise lakes sit at the base of an ancient coral reef! There are also native pictographs in the area. You can attempt a scramble up some loose rocks to see them but please don’t touch them as the oils from your hands will wear them away.
2. Maligne Canyon
Total Distance: Easy Route is a 4.3 km loop
Elevation Gain: 142 Meters
Time Needed: 1 to 2 hours
Best time of Year: Fall & Winter
Location: Leaving Jasper, follow Highway 16 towards Edmonton. Go 1.8 km past the East Jasper exit to the Maligne Road. On Maligne Road go 2.1 km and then turn left at the Sixth Bridge sign.
Maligne Canyon is considered the most interesting canyon in the Canadian Rockies - and I couldn’t agree more. Maligne Canyon is a stunning slotted canyon that carved its way through limestone rock about 365 million years ago. Today, it has become a beautiful natural attraction for visitors around the world.
Your hike around Maligne Canyon will include bridge crossings over the canyon, views of waterfalls, fossils, a variety of streams, luscious plant life, and maybe some wild animals. Parks Canada has developed a great self-guided interpretative trail along the canyon which includes signs describing the geological history of the area. Make sure to stop and take a read!
For this hike, you have two options available. The easy route is a 4.3 km loop that tours the upper region of the canyon. Four bridges take you across the canyon with unique view points at each bridge. To make this hike longer, the trail follows the gorge and exits at a fifth and sixth bridge lower down and takes you to a variety of springs (3.5 km each way).
TIPS: This hike is BUSY in the summer. Fall and Winter is a really beautiful time to view the Canyon as it is much quieter at that time. Make sure to wear grippy shoes as Maligne Canyon's trail edges can be slippery when wet. Also, do not go past the fences - they are there for you safety!
Fun Fact: The canyon was created over 350 million years ago.
3. Cat Creek Waterfall
Total Distance: 2.4 km (Out & Back Trail)
Elevation Gain: 146 Meters
Time Needed: 1 hour
Best time of Year: Summer & Fall
Location: On Highway 40 in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, 1 hour (79km) south of Kananaskis Mountain Lodge or 30 minutes (49 km) West of Longview, AB.
Although this hike is a bit out of the way, the drive to get here is breathtaking! If you are coming from Kananaskis Mountain Lodge, you will get to drive on the highest paved elevation road in Canada called the Highwood Pass (check that off of your bucket list).
This is an absolutely beautiful and easy hike that is great for little kids and older adults. This trail provides a lovely stroll along an old mining road (basically a narrow path) through wildflowers, a wooded forest, and then down into the canyon where you get to pass over a couple of wooden bridges and listen to the rushing water. At the end of the hike, you are rewarded with a 6-meter picturesque water fall that pours into a perfect, glacier fed pool.
On a very hot day, this would be a lovely place to go for a refreshing dip - so make sure to bring your swimming trunks. Just a heads up that the water is also VERY cold - like your feet ache in a few seconds cold. But if you are feeling up to it, I dare you to jump in. ;)
TIPS: The parking lot and trail head is located on the West side of the highway but you will have to cross Highway 40 to the east to continue the hike. Keep kids close by and look both ways when crossing the highway.
Fun Fact: This area used to be used for coal mining. Keep an eye out for the signs that share a bit of history of the area.
4. Heart Creek Trail
Total Distance: 4.7 km (Out & Back Trail)
Elevation Gain: 302 Meters
Time Needed: 1.5 - 2.5 hours
Best time of Year: Summer
Location: Near Canmore just off of Highway 1.
Heart Creek Trail is a popular and easy hike located West of Calgary and East of Canmore in the Bow Valley area just off of Highway 1. On your way towards Canmore from Calgary, take the exit towards Lac Des Arcs Campground and follow the signs for Heart Creek Trail.
For families that want a bit of adventure, the Heart Creek Trail is a fantastic option. The trail leads you through the lush Kananaskis forest, zig-zagging back and forth over logs and bridges to cross the creek. The trail continues into a canyon and finishes at a lovely waterfall. This is also a popular rock climbing and bouldering area, so enjoy watching a little climbing action as you eat lunch.
TIPS: I suggest packing a lunch and enjoying it near the waterfall or along the creek.
Fun Fact: Heart Mountain was named in 1957 for the heart shaped layer of limestone near the peak.
5. Crescent Falls & Bighorn Canyon
Total Distance: 5 km
Elevation Gain: 144 Meters
Time Needed: 1.5 - 2.5 hours
Best time of Year: Spring, Summer or Fall
Location: The trail head is located about 20kms west of Nordegg.
Crescent Falls & Bighorn Canyon is a MUST for anyone that comes to the Nordegg area. It is an easy, single track trail that winds along the canyon. Keep your kids close by as there are no guard rails and the drop into the canyon is steep. At the end of the trail you are rewarded with the view of Crescent Falls which is quite spectacular.
Depending on your kids ages and the groups abilities, you can also go to the bottom of the falls by climbing down a rope that is tied to a tree. Just be aware that this rope is for two-way traffic and is steep, so be careful.
TIP: If you are short on time, you can also drive straight to Crescent Falls, but I think walking is a much more enjoyable option.
Fun Fact: Crescent Falls is a series of two waterfalls located on the Bighorn River with the longest drop being 27 meters or 87 feet.
Have you been on one of these hikes? If so, which is your favourite?
If you have any suggestions for other family friendly hikes in Alberta or BC please share with me in the comments below.
Sharing my thoughts, passion, and tips with you. All opinions are my own.