Two hikes in Alberta
Alberta, Canada. A picturesque wilderness of overwhelming beauty. With so many trails to choose from, where does one begin? Jasper and Banff ( National Parks) are two well-known and very accessible parks. Each being within a day drive of Calgary makes them a great spot for some weekend exploring.
Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1984 for its diversity of landscape. Full of mountain peaks, glaciers, waterfalls, cantons and limestone caves, it is worth the 5 hour drive from Calgary. Mount Edith Cavell, just south of downtown Jasper, is a superb place to experience the diversity of this park. For hikers, it is best to arrive early to mid morning to avoid the parking lot crowds. When you get there, do not be downcast if the parking lot is full already. Grab your pack and have no fear, in my experience, the majority of people who visit this place do not hike. They merely walk the paved path to the glacier overlook, snap some pics and retreat back to the comfort of their car. You, the hiker, will need to pass the herds of people to begin your expedition to the summit. Gentle switchbacks will casually lead you through beautiful meadows that are in full bloom during summer. As you approach the treeline, your path becomes steeper. Once you are above the treeline, you will be rewarded with amazing views of the surrounding mountain ranges. The trail becomes quite steep near the end, and just when you think its over, it continues up, nearly becoming a scramble. The panoramic views at the top are breathtaking and worth the sweat. Be forewarned and bring a light jacket, it is cold and windy at the summit. Bring some binoculars, the surrounding meadows are crawling with wildlife and the glacier is even more fascinating when zoomed in on. A nice lunch would also be in order. You definitely will want to spend some time admiring the surroundings and taking a break before heading back down. For the trip planners out there, this trek took my group ( varying levels of fitness) about 4 hours to complete. This included a nice stop for a picnic at the top.
Banff National Park
Established in 1885, Banff is the oldest national park in Canada. The Canadian Pacific Railway was instrumental in the creation of this popular park. In building the Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise, they sparked the tourism boom which has led to Banff becoming one of the worlds most visited parks. Don't worry though, many people do not venture far from their hotel suites, leaving the outdoorsmen trekking happily alone in the wilderness. As you are driving on the Ice Fields Parkway, you will at some point pass the Parker Ridge Trail. The parking lot is a well maintained gravel pull off on the side of the road, with the trail immediately staring up. You switchback up the mountain and come to a level ridge at the top. From there you can go right or left. Going right will take you to the summit which offers amazing views of the surrounding mountains. Going left will allow for a great many photo ops of the glacier in the valley below. The summit is very windy and cold. All said this hike only took about 2 hours for my group, comprised of fast walkers. Since this trail is easily accessible and very scenic, go early to have it all to yourself.
Alberta, Canada is a wildly beautiful landscape, full of hiking at every turn. These two are only a smidgen of what is available. It would be lovely to hear suggestions of other hikes below in the comment section.
Happy Trails !