Top 10 Easy Hikes Near Calgary

By Samantha Lemna  | 
7/11/19 11:35 AM
    

We live in a beautiful province and there’s nothing better than getting outside to enjoy it. Luckily, Calgary is close to many excellent trails that aren’t too challenging. If you’re looking for scenic hikes that aren’t too difficult, you’ve come to the right place. Our collection of 10 easy hikes near Calgary from the most popular to the lesser known will help you find your next adventure. Our top 10 list includes:

  1. Ribbon Creek Loop
  2. Bill Hill Springs 
  3. Troll Falls
  4. Johnston Canyon and Ink Pots
  5. Upper Kananaskis Lake
  6. Chester Lake
  7. Galatea Creek
  8. Fescue Trail
  9. Grotto Canyon
  10. Elbow Falls

Ribbon Creek Loop Trail - Easy Hike from Calgary - View of the creek, forest, and mountains in late spring with bare trees and some snow.

1. Ribbon Creek Loop

This popular trail departs from the Ribbon Creek Day Use area, just over an hour from downtown Calgary. It’s a popular destination but has a fair amount of parking. The trail begins at the far end of the parking lot, marked by a sign explaining the history of the area. Follow the trail alongside the creek, winding through the forest and taking in the mountain peaks with this easy 5.6km loop. You’ll cross several bridges but the overall elevation gain is only 226 metres, keeping this a short, easy hike. You can also bike this trail.

Ribbon Creek Loop is an excellent choice for early in the season and is great for families.  It is well signed, but take care you don’t continue on to Rainbow Falls. The trail becomes quite difficult and is 25 kilometres round trip - not for you if you’re looking for something easy!

At the trailhead, there are various picnic tables as well as pit toilets and a shelter. You’re nearby Kananaskis Village as well if you’d like to grab lunch. 

 

2. Big Hill Springs

This small provincial park is a prairie oasis to the northwest of Calgary. Only a 40-minute drive from downtown, The trail here is a 1.6 km loop, but it’s a wonderful little adventure. Enjoy the woods, prairie, creek, and waterfall along with the many dogs who enjoy the trail. It’s short and sweet, but a good place to explore and wander. 

 

If you’re interested in wildlife, it’s a good place for birdwatching. Deer also frequent the area. There is parking, washrooms, and interpretive information as well. It’s simplicity and nature features make it ideal for families. You can learn more about the park here.

 

3. Troll Falls

This trail is very popular and can be broken up into different stages. The first stage, from the parking lot to the lower falls, is a very short, easy hike. It winds through the woods to a cliff’s edge with a beautiful waterfall. During winter, it freezes solid. This takes about an hour from the trailhead, covering a distance of 3.4 kilotmetres with an elevation gain of only 150 metres. 

 

Take care around the waterfall and the cliff’s edge. There are signage and fencing blocking you from climbing - heed these warnings as it is dangerous. There is an (unsanctioned) trail if you backtrack from the lower falls.

 

This second part of the hike follows a trail up the backside of the cliff. It is steep and can be very slippery, so proceed with caution. It will lead you to the upper pools and falls. 

 

Continue along this unsanctioned but well-travelled trail. The going is a little tougher with a few more obstacles and a less-defined trail. You will see views of the mountains as well as more of the lovely creek and various upper falls. In the winter it freezes into an ice wonderland - but it can be very slippery. Keep in mind that the ice may not be frozen solid - stick to the trail!

 

This hike is only an hour and 15 minutes from downtown Calgary, located very near Nakiska and Kananaskis Village. It’s a very popular hike so you may have to park down the road. This trail is great year round but is best enjoyed during the winter for the incredible ice falls (and as a bonus, it’s less busy).

View of Johnston Canyon's caves, waterfall and river.

4. Johnston Canyon and Ink Pots

This popular trail is another one best enjoyed in the shoulder seasons. An hour and 40 minutes to 2 hours 10 minutes away from downtown Calgary (depending on traffic), this hike is well worth the drive. It’s very busy on weekends and parking can be tough (you can also start this hike from the Moose Meadows trailhead). Get there early or plan to go mid-week, especially in the summer.

 

The total trail is 11.7 kilometres with just over 600 metres in elevation gain. Though it’s longer, it’s still quite an easy hike. You can always turn back at the upper falls as well.

 

Follow the Johnston Canyon hike with its boardwalks through the canyon alongside the water. This is a stunning hike and it only gets better when you arrive at the lower falls. There’s a bridge to a small cave that will let you get quite close to the falls themselves (although it can get very crowded during a busy day). 

 

Continue up the trail to the upper falls. In the end, there is a catwalk bringing you closer to the falls. In the winter, it freezes to become an ice fall and you can see ice climbers tackling the challenge nearly every day. 

 

Once you’ve had your fill of the falls, trackback until you find a spur trail. This will take you to the trail connecting from Moose Meadows. Here you’ll begin to climb uphill for a bit and then you’ll come across the meadows and lakes that make up the Ink Pots. The clear, colourful lakes are fed from mineral springs and don’t freeze. 

View from the highest point on the Upper Kananaskis Lakes Hike: Over the forest there is the turquoise lake with an island and towering mountains in the background, still with some snow.

5. Upper Kananaskis Lakes

This scenic hike is an excellent choice if you’re looking to stretch your legs and enjoy nature without too much elevation gain. It's also the most difficult trail on this list. Covering a distance of 15.7 kilometres for the entire loop, you can always turn back partway through. The views truly are incredible between the lake and the mountains. There are also bridges across the Kananaskis River and Sarrail Creek, waterfalls, meadows, rockfall, and forest. Make sure you’re prepared for bears with bear spray and making noise as you hike, as they frequent this area.

 

You can begin this hike from two spots: the North Interlakes Day Use area or the Upper Lake Day Use area. From downtown Calgary, the former is just over a 2 hour drive, while the latter is around the 2 hour mark. You can do the hike in either direction although counter-clockwise is recommended if you begin in the morning.

A winter scene at Chester Lake, with the lake black, snow-covered trees and the mountain jutting upwards to fill the frame of the image.

6. Chester Lake

This is a stunning hike in Kananaskis Country. It’s quite popular and relatively easy, around 10 kilometres and only 425 metres of elevation gain. This trail is closed between May 1 and June 28, although it is open the rest of the year.

 

Arriving at the end of your 2-hour drive from downtown, there is a parking lot at the trailhead with information and pit toilets. It can fill up so you may need to park on the road. The trailhead is at the far end of the parking lot entrance. It begins with a slight uphill but soon levels out. The forest gives way to an incredible meadow with exceptional mountain views. Soon, you’ll reach the beautiful Chester lake. There is a trail around it, although it is quite narrow.

 

Although busy in summer, this is a truly fantastic hike with unparalleled scenery. It’s not too long or difficult, either!

A view of Galatea creek from a point along the easy hike near Calgary. The water is rushing around a stone island in the forest. It's very green.

7. Galatea Creek

Another longer but rewarding hike. Just over an hour from downtown Calgary, it’s a perfect option for a good day hike. There is a seasonal closure between April 1 and June 29.

 

On this hike, you’ll walk through the forest, crisscrossing the creek over many different bridges. You’ll have excellent views of mountain peaks, valleys, and lakes. This 14 kilometre hike is slightly more challenging with nearly 800 metres of elevation gain, but overall this hike is quite straightforward. You end at Lillian Lake, a serene spot to eat lunch before you begin your return trek. 

 

You can also opt to climb up the switchback to the incredibly picturesque Galatea Lakes. This climb is steep and adds on an extra 300m and 3 kilometres round trip to your hike, but it’s definitely worth it.

 

8. Fescue Trail

The Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area is a short 30 to 45 minute drive from downtown Calgary, making it easily accessible even for a summer hike after work. There are a few trails here and you can easily make up your own adventure in this little park. We focus on the main loop, which is around 5 kilometres with an elevation gain of only 120 metres. 

 

Arrive at the parking lot and check out the entrance booth which has maps and information. It’s recommended to leave a donation and register before heading out to start your hike. Follow the signs for “Fescue Trail.” You’ll go through woods and meadows and eventually end at the top of a gentle hill with lovely views over the rolling foothills and prairies. 

 

You may want to explore the other trails, including the Mountain trail. This trail offers the best views of the mountains and Calgary. There are several other paths that meander through the woods as well. This is the perfect place for a quiet day spent in nature that isn’t too physically demanding.

 

9. Grotto Canyon

Just over an hour from downtown Calgary, this is a short but interesting trail. Find the trailhead at Grotto Mountain Day Use area and follow the trail along the powerline. While the start of this hike is a little mediocre, the rest of the hike makes up for it. Once you pass the industrial plant you’ll enter a narrow canyon and follow it along until you reach the pair of waterfalls.

 

This hike is a quick 4 kilometres with around 225 metres of elevation gain. You can see pictographs on the rock at several points, although they can be hard to spot. Walking through the canyon itself is a cool experience and the falls are nice. 

 

Once you reach the end of the trail, there is another (unmaintained) path that leads up to some great valley views and hoodoos, including one with a cave.

View of Elbow Falls, an easy hike near Calgary.

10. Elbow Falls

The official Elbow Falls trail is 1 kilometre with under 50 metres of elevation gain, making this an incredibly short and easy trail. But you can add length by following the river downstream and the falls, river, and surrounding scenery are more than worth the trip. Only an hour from downtown Calgary, this is a great easy hike near the city.

New Call-to-action

 

About The Author

0 Comments