Are you looking for some of Alberta's best hiking routes? Check out these three interesting options in the Rocky Mountains and the Parkland:
1. Tonquin Valley Trail
Jasper National Park (Alberta Rockies)
Length: 43 km
Jasper never fails to impress, no matter how many times one has visited, no matter how daunting the crowds, no matter how familiar the scenery. And the multi-day classic backcountry route through the Tonquin Valley is Jasper at its most resplendent. This high-elevation hike wanders above the treeline; gaining and losing more than 1,000 metres, and topping out at 2,500 metres, it takes hikers through alpine meadows and along ridgelines above the Astoria River and Mccarib Pass. Due to its length and challenge, crowds are rarely a problem; a welcome fact considering this is one of Canada’s most popular parks. Along with backcountry camping ($9.80 per person), there are two wilderness lodges available for booking. Dogs and fires are prohibited; use your bear sense, this is grizzly country. Summer conditions can be muddy — September is ideal for fall foliage and dry conditions, but keep in mind it can snow year-round. Access the trailhead from Marmot Basin, less than 10 km from Jasper townsite.
Best For: Experienced multi-day hikers.
2. Hayburger Trail
Elk Island National Park (Edmonton)
Length: 10 km
Located 45 minutes east of Edmonton on Highway 16, this is Canada’s largest fully-fenced national park, at nearly 200-sq-km. With mildly undulating terrain consisting of parkland, boreal forest, wetland and grasslands, the hiking in this park is really “nature walking.” Where it shines is in the wildlife it holds. Set out on the relatively flat 10-km Hayburger Trail at first light (or towards the evening) and you’re likely to see some furry critters and sure to see vibrant fall foliage. Elk Island is home to North America’s largest and smallest land mammals, the wood bison and pygmy shrew, respectively — also keep on the lookout for the slightly-smaller plains bison, elk, moose, coyotes, mule and white-tailed deer and more than 250 species of birds. Bison stick together, so if you miss them on the Hayburger Trail, you’ll surely find them elsewhere in the park (there are 11 marked hikes, ranging from 300 metres to 16 km).
Best For: Wildlife watchers and wilderness photographers.
3. Larch Valley-Sentinel Pass
Banff National Park (Alberta Rockies)
Length: 12 km
The Rocky Mountain’s larch trees are the most spectacular of all Canada’s fall foliage — as their needles turn from green to gold (the only conifer to do so) they seem to glow like Christmas lights. Combine this with postcard Rockies’ scenery and it’s no wonder Larch Valley-Sentinel Pass is one of Banff’s most sought-after day-hikes. Stretching for 12 km from the parking lot on Morraine Lake Road, don’t let the hike’s popularity fool you into thinking it’s a cakewalk. Grizzlies are known to roam the area, and it has an elevation gain of more than 700 metres. The trail starts alongside glacial Morraine Lake, before giving up views of the famous Valley of the Ten Peaks. Chase after 3,500-metre Mount Temple for a few hours and you’ll reach Sentinel Pass and a knee-weakening panoramic of Paradise Valley. Beat the crowds — hit it on a weekday.
Best For: Mountain hikers looking to tackle a Canadian classic route; fall foliage aficionados.
Related content on Explore: