15 Absolutely Stunning Hikes In & Near Calgary for All Levels
By Kay Rodriguez
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Updated July 16, 2021
Known for its massive Stampede and its proximity to the Canadian Rockies, Calgary is a beautiful city that’s perfect for outdoor lovers. Hiking in Calgary is a fantastic (and cheap!) way to enjoy nature in and around the city. Within a few hours’ drive, you can have access to stunning mountaintops, flower-filled meadows, desert-like canyonlands, and evergreen forests. No matter what kind of trail you’re looking for, you can find a place to go hiking near Calgary that will take your breath away! We wrote this guide with 17 of the most beautiful hikes in and near Calgary for all levels – beginners to advanced enthusiasts – so you can plan your next adventure!
Easy Hikes Near Calgary
Bow River Pathway & Prince Island
Trail Distance: Up to 48 kilometers total (5 kilometer loop near Prince Island)
Location: Downtown Calgary
While there are several short urban hikes in Calgary, our favorite trail by far is the Bow River Pathway. Running for a total of 48 kilometers along the Bow River through the heart of the city, this is one of the most popular trails for running, biking, and hiking in Calgary. With mostly paved, flat trails, this trail is accessible for all levels of hikers.
As you stroll, you can see people fishing or kayaking in the Bow River, epic skyline views of the city, and you’ll even pass by Calgary’s famous bright red Peace Bridge. We’d highly recommend the Prince Island area of the Bow River Pathway if you want a nice blend of nature and city elements along your hike.
Grassi Lake Trail
Trail Distance: 4.3 kilometers
Location: Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park
Located in nearby Canmore, Grassi Lake Trailis one of the most popular easy hikes near Calgary and is a scenic, fun choice for hikers of all levels. While the trail does include an ascent, which is gradual and involves some stair climbing, the rewards at the top are excellent. You’ll see beautiful views of Ha Ling Peak, as well as the deep turquoise lakes below. If you’re looking for a wonderful, family-friendly spot for hiking (that isn’t too far off the beaten path), Grassi Lakes is a short and fantastic option.
Note: Due to weather, this area is subject to seasonal closure. Check here for the latest updates on park closures.
Trail Distance: 4 kilometers
Location: Grotto Mountain Provincial Recreation Area
As another one of the more well-known hikes near Calgary, the Grotto Canyon trail is a short, easy hike that takes you through huge rock structures and canyon areas. Here, local rock climbers can often be found scaling the vertical rock faces. After you’ve wandered past the rock climbers, you’ll hike through a boulder-filled trail and end at a waterfall, which makes for a really nice picnic spot or a scenic place to take a rest.
Trail Distance: 2.9 kilometers
Location: Kneehill County (Trailhead GPS: 51.41554, -112.88567)
At less than 1.5 hours from Calgary, Horseshoe Canyon may be one of the most unique spots for hiking near Calgary. With striated rock formations and plateaus, this strange landscape is located near the Canadian Badland. Instead of the common alpine landscapes of the nearby Canadian Rockies, you’ll find a much drier, desert-like landscape at Horseshoe Canyon. Pair a morning hike here with a trip to Dinosaur Provincial Park for a wonderful outdoor getaway near Calgary!
Trail Distance: 3.4 kilometers
Location: Kananaskis County, AB (Trailhead GPS: 50.9364, -115.14133)
Known for being a fantastic family-friendly option, Troll Falls is located just over an hour from Calgary and is a great waterfall hike for all levels, including children. It’s just 3.4 kilometers, meaning you can pair it with other hikes in the Kananaskis area or simply take your time along the way. With dirt paths through the forest that lead hikers to a towering waterfall, it’s a nice, short, accessible option for hiking near Calgary. If you choose to hike in the winter, don’t forget to wear microspikes for safety!
Trail Distance: 5 kilometers
Location: Banff National Park
Johnston Canyon is one of the most popular hikes near Calgary, and it’s easy to see why. Waterfalls meet narrow stone gorges with a raging turquoise river in this beautiful and easy cliffside trail, which is perfect for solo hikers, couples and families of all hiking levels. This Banff hike is unique because it consists of a series of cliffside metal bridges that take you through this stunning canyon…no uphills necessary!
There are a few different options for this hike, including a short version that takes hikers right up to the Lower Falls (the first set of falls), or the longer version that extends all the way through the Upper Falls to the “Ink Pots,” a colorful phenomenon that occurs in these natural pools in Banff National Park. If you want to avoid the crowds (and yes, this trail does get crowded), be sure to get started hiking early in the morning.
Moderate Hikes Near Calgary
Ha Ling Peak
Trail Distance: 7.2 kilometers
Location: Canmore, AB
Open year-round, Ha Ling Peak is arguably one of the popular and most picturesque moderate hikes near Calgary. It’s on the shorter end of the hikes in Canmore, at 8 kilometers out and back. But don’t let Ha Ling Peak’s distance fool you – the hike is actually decently challenging, as you’ll ascend well over 800 meters one way in about 4 kilometers.
The peak itself rewards you with breathtaking panoramic views of the Bow Valley below, as well as nearby East End of Rundle and Lady MacDonald peaks. As this trail is among the most popular day hikes near Calgary, we’d recommend starting very early to find parking and beat the crowds (plus catch the early morning alpenglow on the mountains!).
Note: This trail is subject to seasonal closures due to weather. Check here for updates on park closures.
Trail Distance: 3.5 kilometers
Location: Kananaskis County, AB
For gorgeous mountain views in a glacier-carved cirque, the Ptarmigan Cirque trail is a fantastic, moderate trail for hiking near Calgary. Beloved by locals, this trail is fairly short, but has a lot of variety to offer along its gradual slopes. You’ll pass by jaw-dropping views of the surrounding peaks, tiny waterfalls in the rocks, and lots of beautiful wooded areas. This trail is especially beautiful in the fall, when the larches turn orange and bright yellow amidst the blue backdrop of the mountains.
Plain of Six Glaciers Trail
Trail Distance: 14.6 kilometers
Location: Banff National Park (Park at Lake Louise)
As one of the most popular trails for hiking in Banff National Park, the longer, more difficult (and arguably more beautiful) sister of the Lake Agnes Tea House hike is the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail. Rocky, winding dirt trails take hikers from the crowded shores of Lake Louise into secluded getaways deep in the Rocky Mountains. In our opinion, this is one of the most spectacular hiking trails in Banff National Park, and we’d recommend doing this one if you’ve got limited time in the park.
Visitors can expect to see beautiful, towering glaciers, craggy mountain peaks, and scenic passes through the wilderness. In the summer, hikers can stop for a quick rest at the Plain of Six Glaciers tea house, where they serve hot beverages and snacks for passers-by.
But before descending back down the way you came, be sure to stop by Abbots Pass for some of the most jaw-dropping views in the park.
How to get there: Park in the Lake Louise parking lot, pass the Chateau Lake Louise, and take the trail head that begins to the right of the lake at the edge of the forest. Once you are there, you will see signs to the Plain of Six Glaciers hike (it’s the same one as the Lake Agnes Trail).
Note: As of April 2021, there are closures in this area due to COVID-19. Check here for the latest updates on what is open.
Hoo Doo Trail
Trail Distance: 5.6 kilometers
Location: Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park
Try not to get too confused: there are several hikes in Alberta called the Hoo Doo Trail, but the one we’re talking about is in Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park. With 3.5 kilometers of pathways through the strange, eerie “hoodoo” rock formations of the park, you’ll see why this trail is one of the most notable hikes in Calgary and the surrounding areas. The drier terrain in this area of Alberta is a welcome change to the otherwise evergreen, alpine scenery farther north.
Note: As of November 2020, this trail was closed due to damage, but as of July 2021, it is fully reopened. Check here for updates on park closures.
East End of Rundle (EEOR)
Trail Distance: 5.6 kilometers
Location: Canmore, AB
One of our personal favorite hikes near Calagary is East End of Rundle, lovingly called EEOR by locals. This moderate to difficult hike isn’t for the faint of heart – while it’s not too technical, you’ll certainly need to use your hands and do some scrambling to reach the summit, especially once you’ve cleared the tree line. However, along the way, you’ll see beautiful views of the Bow Valley, nearby Ha Ling Peak, and the surrounding mountains.
Note that there are a few false trails that stray away from the main area – be sure to take note of your surroundings and make sure you follow the same pathway down from the top of the mountain as you did when you ascended.
Difficult Hikes Near Calgary
Trail Distance: 10.1 kilometers
Location: Bow Valley Provincial Park
By far, Mount Yamnuska is one of our favorite adrenaline-pumping, muscle-throbbing hikes in Calgary and the surrounding areas. Known as the “gateway to the Canadian Rockies,” this 11-kilometer trail takes you through an evergreen forest, up a steep rocky scramble, around a chain cliffhanger (seriously), and up to the summit of this iconic Canmore peak. It’s a whopping 900+ meters of elevation gain, so be ready for some SERIOUS uphills and downhills if you choose to tackle this one.
Note: As of June 7, 2021, this area is temporarily closed until November due to maintenance. Check here for more information on park closures.
Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass
Trail Distance: 17.5 kilometers
Location: Banff National Park
One of the most incredible day hikes near Calgary, Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass is a challenging but memorable hike to tackle. Located in Banff National Park, this full-day hike brings you to some of the best landscapes in the park, including many peaceful, secluded lakes, and panoramic views of the park.
Although this is the longest challenging hike on our list, it’s well worth the effort for a full day of adventuring through alpine trails and forests.
Throughout the hike, you might see some wildlife, including little chubby marmots (that we thought were adorable!). You’ll pass through Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Lake, both perfect places for a snack or a break. You also have the option of summiting Mount Bourgeau, although it is definitely a difficult scramble!
Note: As of April 2021, areas of this park are closed due to COVID-19. Check here for updates on park closures.
Mount Lady MacDonald
Trail Distance: 9.8 kilometers
Location: Canmore, AB
The Mount Lady MacDonald hike, named after the wife of the first Prime Minister of Canada, is a challenging trail that has breathtaking views from start to finish. We definitely would not recommend this hike for beginners, but experienced hikers will absolutely have a blast. You’ll walk through evergreen forests, past a helipad, and all the way up to the rocky, scree-filled summit. Be prepared for some wind! We’d strongly recommend trekking poles for this one, as there are a lot of difficult ascents where they could come in handy.
Note: As of April 2021, this trail is closed due to rock blasting. It will reopen in late summer 2021. Check here for the latest updates on park closures.
Trail Distance: 17.9 kilometers
Location: Kananaskis County
Easily one of the most beautiful summit views near Calgary, Smutwood Peak’s trail isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ll hike, you’ll scramble, and you’ll gawk and the stunning, stunning views of the ridge and the alpine lakes and valleys below. Definitely not for the faint of heart, this long but vastly beautiful trail is best for experienced hikers who have already summited other peaks in the area. This hike is best to do in the summer or fall, when the snow has mostly melted.
Additional Resources for Hiking in Calgary
What to Pack for Hikes in Calgary
Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to wear a sweat-wicking shirt and breathable pants, like these Patagonia hiking shorts for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers for men and women, a down puffer jacket for men and women, and a Northface waterproof outer shell for men and women (a must for hiking in Seattle). And don’t forget a pair of the best women’s and men’s hiking socks!
Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we suggest throwing them in your car just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond Trail Ergo cork trekking poles, which are lightweight, easy to transport, and durable.
Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To limit disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask water bottles because they keep water cold for hours.
Sunscreen and bug spray – Sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects. Our favorite kind of sunscreen is Sun Bum, as it is free of harsh chemicals and safe for marine life, including coral reefs.
A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or capfor day hikes in the sunshine.
Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend the Osprey Tempest 20 or the Talon 22 day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes. For more information, check out our best day packs for any terrain guide.
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