The pandemic has imposed a staycation of sorts for most of us. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still get out and enjoy some magical spots close to home. Fall is a terrific time to be out hiking but with changeable weather, it pays to be prepared with the right gear, the 10 essentials (find these at HikeBikeTravel.com) and an easy-to-access can of bear spray.
The Prairie View Viewpoint – Jewell Pass Hike in Kananaskis
Need a hiking fix but don’t want to drive too far? Head for the Barrier Lake Trailhead in Kananaskis, about an hour from Calgary, to do the Prairie View viewpoint–Jewell Pass loop hike. It won’t wow you like a traditional mountain hike but it does offer superlative views of Barrier Lake and Mount Baldy along with a pretty forest walk on the descent to Barrier Lake via the Prairie View and Jewell Pass trails. You’ll hardly see a soul once you start down on the west section of the loop. Take ice cleats if there’s snow on the ground.
Sulphur Mountain via Cosmic Ray Road
You can get to the top of Sulphur Mountain three ways; via the Banff Gondola, the steep one-way hike beneath the gondola or via the long but beautiful 8.5-kilometre, one-way hike along the Cosmic Ray Road starting from the Cave and Basin parking lot in Banff. It’s pretty in the fall, particularly with some snow on the ground. Much of the hike is out of the trees so views are vast and plentiful. Top out on Sanson Peak where you can admire a jaw-dropping panorama that includes the Banff townsite along with six Canadian mountain ranges.
Begbie Falls Trailhead
Because Revelstoke is located in a unique temperate inland rainforest, you will find hikes leading to some truly spectacular waterfalls. The Begbie Falls trailhead is only a 10-minute drive from downtown. Approached from the Begbie Bluffs climbing area parking lot via the Bluff Trail, this 5 kilometre round trip hike follows Begbie Creek and delivers stunning scenery en route. Once you have reached the falls, make sure to continue down the trail to the Columbia River for beautiful views across the valley towards Revelstoke Mountain Resort.
Mount Fernie Ridge
In just three hours you can drive from Calgary to Fernie. That drops you into a landscape of mountains and trees. Experience both on a hike up Mount Fernie Ridge, easily accessed from town. Start hiking in dense forest that gives way to avalanche chutes with views of the Three Sisters Peaks. At the three quarters point marked by a bench, the trail noticeably steepens and the trail becomes rockier. Many people turn back here. Continue for panoramic views of the valley, ski resort and wilderness backcountry. It’s an 8-kilometre round-trip hike with 910 metres of elevation gain.
Upper Kananaskis Lake Loop
The 16-kilometre loop hike around Upper Kananaskis Lake in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park is perfect in the fall. People are few and far between and the varied landscape is compelling no matter what direction you choose to hike. You’ll get a great workout, even though you never climb more than 60 metres above the lake. Allow five hours to do the full loop, more if you stop at one of the scenic waterfalls. Make the side-trip to Rawson Lake or laze on a driftwood-covered beach admiring the majestic mountain views. Dress for cool winds on this largely lakeside hike.
10 Essentials for hiking
- Warm clothes
- Sun protection
- First-aid kit
Check trail reports before you leave in case of any last minute closures.
RBC Olympic hopefuls Hayley Daniels, Sam Effah and Kate Wright as our inspiring cover athlete stories! Get prepared for winter running, making movement part of your workday, and exploring great hikes near Calgary and Vancouver.