Few places in this world captivate me like the striking Canadian Rockies. It’s a place of wonder that is somewhat hard to put pen to paper to describe. The mountains erupt from the ground, jagged yet comforting, with glaciers covering miles and miles of their rocky surface. But, then, add in all of the great Canadian Rockies hikes, and it’s almost too much ‘wow’ to hold in. This is why I want more people to experience the awe of the best hikes in the Canadian Rockies
Below, we’ll dive into my Candian Rockies hiking guide and help get you into the mecca of the outdoors world!
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How to plan a Canadian Rockies hiking trip
What to wear while I hike in the Canadian Rockies?
Hiking in the Canadian Rockies is like most other mountain hikes. You’ll want sturdy boots, moisture-wicking shirts, flexible pants, and a solid day pack to carry your belongings. You’ll also want to remember the layering strategy of baselayer, fleece jackets and/or puffies, and an outer shell in case of weather.
I suggest bringing some of the 10 Essentials for your Canadian Rockies hikes. Furthermore, having bear spray is a must, and you’ll be able to find it at most local stores. Just remember you can’t fly with it.
- Wool base layer to keep you warm: Men’s and Women’s
- Nice comfy fleece as a mid-layer: Men’s and Women’s
- Down Jacket for extra warmth: Men’s and Women’s
- Comfy yet durable pants: Men’s and Women’s
- Rain jacket: Men’s and Women’s
- Wool Socks: Men’s and Women’s
- Sturdy Hiking Shoes: Men’s and Women’s
- Midsized hiking backpack: 20L, 25L, 30L
What you should know before planning your Canadian Rockies Hiking Trip
What are the best months to hike in the Canadian Rockies?
Of course, the best time for Canadian Rockies hikes is in summer. It’s a short window, though, with July, August, and September being the best months for hiking in the Canadian Rockies. In mid-June, I found the trails decent but muddy from all the snow and ice melting.
While that part is annoying, hiking in the Canadian Rockies in June has fewer visitors, and the days are pretty long. This will allow you to adventure until well past 9:30 pm. My below list of best hikes in the Canadian Rockies will have you going from dawn to dusk!
Related: My weeklong Canadian Rockies roadtrip
Is it safe to hike in the Canadian Rockies?
Yes, but there are some dangers. Wildlife, especially grizzly bears, are much more common here than in the United States. Whenever you are hiking in the Canadian Rockies, bring bear spray in case of a bear encounter. Additionally, make sure to hike in groups of at least two, if not three, or more.
Additionally, it’s especially important to be bear-aware if the location is known for bear activity. Also, if you go during Elk mating season, do not provoke or get near them. I’ve seen a video where they headbutted a van with their full head of antlers. Overall, as you complete the best hikes in the Canadian Rockies, there’s still a low chance you have any wildlife encounters.
Where to Stay in the Canadian Rockies
There are plenty of places to stay in the Canadian Rockies. The five cities/towns listed below are your best bets for a home base while you tackle the best hikes in the Canadian Rockies.
- Lake Louise
- Field, BC
- Banff, AB
- Canmore, AB
- Jasper, AB
If you’re looking for luxury while doing the best hikes in the Canadian Rockies, Fairmont Hotels offer the best quality in the area.
- Book at Fairmont Banff
- Book at Fairmont Lake Louise (Undoubtedly the best-located hotel in Canada, in my humble opinion.)
The Best Hikes in the Canadian Rockies and Around Banff National Park
These following Candian Rockies hikes are some of the greatest I’ve ever done or seen and plan to do. I sadly haven’t had the time to do them all, but they come with my stamp of approval. You will have the time of your life.
The fame of Smutwood Peak has risen over the years thanks to social media. It’s arguably one of the best hikes in the Canadian Rockies, thanks to its accessibility and views from the top. While difficult (12 miles, 3,000 feet of elevation gain), it’s not technical. It’s simply a classic Canadian Rockies hike that gets you high and provides a view of the surrounding peaks. I honestly think it’s one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen.
Impeccable views await you when you get to the top of the Tent Ridge Hike. Like many here, it has about 2,800 feet of elevation gain. I recommend this to many people as it’s a simple, strenuous trek considering it is just a 6-mile round trip. If you do this clockwise, your legs will thank you, as it’s a more gradual approach than counterclockwise. From the views and what people say, I believe this is one of the best hikes in the Canadian Rockies.
If you’re looking for a great hike and fall colors, Floe Lake is the one! It’s longer, 12 miles with about 3,100 feet of elevation gain, but you’ll be presented with a giant rock wall above the lake. The first 4.5 miles are a stable incline, with the last 1.5 miles gaining 1,500 feet of elevation. So be prepared for a butt burner at the end. When thinking about hiking in the Canadian Rockies, put this at the top of your list!
Emerald Lake Trail
This 6.7 miles trail around Emerald Lake is gorgeous. Unfortunately, I only had a short time at the lake, but the views, photo-wise, are to die for. It’s easily one of my favorite Canadian Rockies hikes and is an excellent place for the entire family. The route around the lake is relatively flat, though you can take a trail that gains elevation on the upper left side of Emerald Lake.
Related: Top lakes in the Canadian Rockies
The Niblet and Nublet
Getting to Assiniboine is one of the best hikes in the Canadian Rockies. But it’s not without complications. First, it requires a 17-mile hike (relatively flat) to the lodge. Then you can hike further for this one, which offers some of the most magnificent views in Canada.
There’s a lodge and campsites back here that are by reservation. However, if you’re not feeling a hike, you can fly in via a helicopter. If camping, you’ll want to stay at Lake Magog Campground.
Lake O’Hara Loop
The Lake O’Hare Loop is an absolute classic of the Canadian Rockies hikes. Unfortunately, it’s also heavily permitted, meaning you have to get a shuttle pass unless you want to add another 5-plus miles to your approach hike. Once at the lake, the most popular trail is hiking up and around the lake to the backside, where you’ve undoubtedly seen the classic shots. There are also additional hikes, especially in fall, with stunning colors.
Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass
You’re not hiking in the Canadian Rockies until you check this one off your bucket list. This offers incredible views and photography opportunities for a relatively small effort. Yes, there’s about 2,500 feet of gain overall, but the trek is well worth it.
Additionally, it’s best viewed in the fall when the larches turn golden. The only bummer is they’ve prohibited cars from parking at Moraine Lake, which makes getting this at sunrise/sunset more challenging. My suggestion, find a good bike and ride up the road.
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Pharoah Peaks and Egypt Lakes
One I haven’t done before, but it looks gnarly as heck! To reach the summit, which is not technical, it’s looking like an ~25-mile trip. This would be a multi-day backpacking trip for most, and it’s high on my Canadian Rockies hikes bucket list. It also looks like you’d start hiking the Rockies from the Kootenay NP side on the 93.
Plain of the Many Glaciers
A pretty standard trek for hiking in the Rockies. You’ll start at Lake Louise and head around the lake to the back, where you’ll rise above the lake. To either side, you’ll have glaciers hanging above you. At the end will be a tea house where you can get food and drinks. This is probably one of the more accessible and family-friendly hikes on this Canadian Rockies hiking guide.
Another impressive experience hiking in the Canadian Rockies. This is specifically great for fall colors with lots of larches in the basin. The first few miles are mundane switchbacks before you see the massive rock walls in front of you. What I liked about this trek was how few people we saw, which allowed us to soak in the smells and sounds of nature. Hiking the Rockies is truly a sight to see!
Lake Agnes and the Beehive
The last hike of my Canadian Rockies hiking guide, though hardly the last of impressive hikes in Canada. (We’d be here forever if I listed them all!). This one also starts at Lake Louise and takes you up the right-hand side of the lake.
The views at Lake Agnes are wildly impressive, and if you keep going to the Beehive, your views will be superb. Be warned, though, that there is some loose footing near the top and exposed terrain.
Canadian Rockies hikes FAQs
Is Banff National Park worth visiting?
100 percent yes. Banff National Park is one of North America’s most brilliant and majestic locations. Even the touristy spots are worth a visit, and you’ll have the time of your life. Additionally, drive up and down the Icefield Parkway to see more of what makes Banff National Park so wonderful.
Then, if you have more time, visit Jasper National Park and nearby Yoho National Park to see the full display of the brilliance of hiking in the Canadian Rockies.
Are the Canadian Rockies prettier than the USA mountains?
Few places in America can rival the Canadian Rockies. The vast amount of wild space with a much less dense population does make hiking in the Canadian Rockies a more pleasant experience. However, Southwestern Colorado, the Tetons, and the Washington Cascades can hold their own. Each place is beautiful in its own right, and you’d be lucky to visit them all in your lifetime.
Is driving through the Rockies in late December a bad idea?
It’s not a bad idea if you are equipped with the right car and gear. It’s going to be quite cold, but Lake Louise and Banff have incredible skiing, and tons of people drive from Calgary or Vancouver into the mountains daily.
Make sure to carry extra blankets, food and water, and warm gear in case of weather/road issues. Hiking the Rockies can be done during this time frame, but you’ll want to snowshoe and know that avalanche danger can be severe.
Is Banf National Park dog friendly?
Dogs are welcome in Banff NP. However, they have to be leashed. This is similar to rules in America’s National Parks.
What is Banff National Park known for?
First, of course, Banff is known for its stunning mountains, gorgeous lakes, and world-class skiing in the winter. Indeed, it is an adventure hub that attracts millions and blows their minds with its beauty. Furthermore, the Canadian Rockies hikes are superb and offer something for everyone! These are genuinely the best hikes in the Canadian Rockies.
Thanks for taking the time to read my Canadian Rockies hiking guide, and I hope you get to experience these Canadian Rockies hikes soon!
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Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
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