Hiking is my favourite activity. The feeling of enjoying nature while working towards the goal of the completion of a trail or the view at the summit is incomparable. Many hikes tend to be an all-day excursion because on hike day, I am up before the sun to start the drive time to the Rocky Mountains and then there is the hike itself and finally, the drive time home. Those 5:00am wake ups and getting home by 2 or 3pm have provided me with some of the most wonderful experiences and memories. However, there are some times where a full day hike isn't in the cards and I can't be gone for several hours. Is that the same for you, as well?
Here are three hikes that are close to Calgary for those days when you're looking for some hikes that are fun, scenic and doesn't require an all-day commitment.
1. Prairie Mountain - Kananaskis
This hike is located less than an hour west of Calgary along highway 66 and the trail is literally right across the street from the Elbow falls parking lot.
This challenging hike starts off hot and doesn't let up. The views of the Elbow valley below are gorgeous and while you're enjoying micro-breaks along the trail, there is ample opportunity to stop and enjoy those views as you head up.
Prairie Mountain, although short and steep is a challenging hike that gets your heart pumping and in some places along the trail, may make you wonder why exactly you're doing this hike (ha ha!). Bring lots of water and power through this one because the one the greatest reward after the beautiful forested views where the only thing that you can hear is the sound of your breath, your heart pumping, the adrenaline rush is the view and amazing feeling of accomplishment once you've summited.
This hike is also a great one because you don't have to venture too deep in to Kananaskis country. This hike is also a great year-round hike because there is virtually no avalanche risk. I have personally done this hike early in the morning for the sole purpose of my entire afternoon free. It is also a fairly well trafficked trail and one that I would have no problem doing solo.
Bonus: If you're looking for a sunrise hike, this is it!
2. Powderface Trail
Keep driving down the road past Elbow falls and the trailhead for Prairie mountain and you will find Powderface trail. I honestly don't know why it took me this long to take this hike, but this is one that I will be heading back to again very soon. A couple of friends and I headed out from Calgary early to get a head start on this moderately trafficked trail. The view is forested, calm and at the beginning, the trail is wide. So wide! Wide enough that you and your hiking buddies can walk side by side for most of the hike. This was so exciting for me because normally we are trekking up single file.
The trees eventually give way to the portion of the where you are exposed to the elements. I had heard that the trail was windy once out of the protection of the trees and it was true. There were a couple of wind gusts that really gave me a good push. I can see icy cold gusts having the potential to make for a rough hike in the winter months - I would modify it by stopping where the trees end and would still feel like I had a great hike or checking the weather forecast for how windy it might be before I go. Powderface also starts out pretty steep but once your body warms up, you can go at your own pace and still feel that beautiful, heady feeling of the fresh air filling your lungs. There are some nice views on this trail - my favourite is the dramatic view of the tree line when heading back down.
3. Elbow Valley Riverview Trail
This trail is more like a walk because there is little elevation is involved, but offers up some great views of the Elbow River and is equally as enjoyable as a stroll, or giving it a bit more power and speed in your step. This trail is a loop, but you can cut off the non-river view part to make it an out and back, which was is my favourite way to do this hike because I can't get enough of the views of the Elbow River from high up on the trail. I also enjoyed heading down to the banks of the river to sit on the rocks and watch the water while hanging out with friends. I would consider doing this hike year-round, except if there was low visibility or a lot of snow as the trail could become hard to see while you are high above the river on the narrow trail. In early spring, muddy sloppy conditions might make me stay away until the sun dries the earth and makes the trail easier to navigate.
There are more trails in the area that I have yet to check out, but plan to enjoy for the remainder of fall and into the winter. If you have any favourite trails in the area, I would love to hear about them! Hit me up on Instagram or via email.
As Calgarians, we are so lucky to live in such close proximity to the gorgeous Rockies. The quality of my live has improved so much by year-round hiking because while I am hiking, I'm not concerned with what happened in the past or any anxiety about the future. I am firmly immersed in the present, senses heightened and feeling everything as it is happening.
My goal is to help inspire people in Calgary to get out and enjoy our backyard and playground. The world might be feeling a bit heavy and hiking is one way to be present for even just a few hours.