Having had the pleasure of living in Canmore since 2014 I have become biased, and for good reason, that the Canadian Rockies are home to the most magnificent day hikes out there! This is my list of the 5 must-do hikes in Banff National Park and Kananaskis.
#1 Larch Valley, Sentinel Pass. This was my first hiking experience in the Rockies and perhaps that is why it holds such a special place in my heart. This hike begins at Moraine Lake, near Lake Louise in Banff National Park, and is about 12km long, with 792m of elevation to gain. It is most famous for its alpine meadows and the incredible changing colour of larch trees in the fall, which transform into a spectacular yellow gold.
If you are interested in learning about the natural landscape, flora, and fauna, this is most certainly the spot to go. Yamnuska guides are well-versed in the Canadian Rockies’ natural history and all hold an Interpretive Guides qualification with the IGA (Interpretive Guides Association). Our guides are great at sharing local stores and pointing out hidden spots which may be bypassed if you were hiking on your own.
#2 Tent Ridge, Kananaskis Country. I love this hike because of its amazing views! After paying your entrance fee by hiking in the trees for an hour you
are rewarded by being in the alpine for the remainder of the day – a great treat. Located off the Smith Dorian Highway, in Kananaskis Country, this hike offers a full value hiking loop that goes for 10.4km and boasts 657m of elevation gain. Guests often hire a guide for this incredible hike as it is not uncommon to spot grizzly bears in the area! It is important to carry bear spray, which Yamnuska has available to guests, but it is also great to equip yourself with a guide trained in bear behaviour.
#3 Mount Corey Pass, Banff National Pass. This scenic and challenging loop covers approximately 13km with over 1000m of elevation gain. My favourite part about Mount Corey is the section of hiking through aspen trees which are not generally found in many other hikes in the Bow Valley. Mount Corey is also a great place to spot wildflowers and if you are travelling here any time before mid-July there may even be enough snow to have a snowball fight!
I find this hike to be a great guided day option as the terrain is a little more challenging with scree and scrambling rock steps. You may even need to use your hands to assist you in some tricky spots. Yamnuska guides are great at preparing guests for technical travel and coaching techniques for a hike like this, that you may not be comfortable doing alone.
#4 Mount St. Piran, Lake Louise. With epic views of Lake Louise and the surrounding peaks, I recommend this hike if you would like to experience Lake Louise for all it is worth. With 12.3km of hiking and 970m of elevation to gain this hike isn’t for the faint-hearted. Escaping the crowds is one of the best parts of this hike, as many hikers typically walk around the Lake Louise or stop at the Lake Agnes Teahouse.
If there is any uncertainty of snow coverage on the route, it’s best to hike with a guide. Mount St. Piran is known to have significant avalanche danger en route! Yamnuska guides can tell you when it’s safe to do this hike, avoiding avalanche hazard, especially if you are visiting early in the hiking season.
#5 Pocaterra Ridge, Kananaskis Country. Last but not least, Pocaterra Ridge – a challenging 12km hike with 727m of elevation gain off Highwood Pass. This hike makes the list as most of the day is spent walking along a grassy ridge! That does not happen very often and makes for endless views. It is another terrific option if you would like to see the larch trees changing colour in the fall.
This one-way hike (not a circuit), requires a vehicle shuttle and the route finding can be challenging as the trail is not always obvious and can be overgrown. For these reasons, it can be valuable to have first-hand knowledge of a guide to visit this area.
So the next time you’re visiting the Bow Valley and Banff National Park, be sure to check out these incredible hiking areas and don’t hesitate to contact us to book a guided hike.
Yamnuska Mountain Adventures, Operations & Scheduling Coordinator