Exploring the Canadian Rockies: Hiking Trails for All Skill Levels

The Canadian Rockies are one of the world’s greatest untamed natural wonders. I’m lucky to have spent multiple summers exploring the towering peaks, glowing glacial lakes, and deep forests that extend thousands of kilometres across the heart of western Canada. There are many ways for you to explore this incredible region of Alberta and British Columbia. However, I believe there is a side to this vast mountain range that is best appreciated on foot.

There are thousands of kilometres of hiking trails in the Canadian Rockies suitable for all skill levels. From choosing the best hike to packing the correct gear, there is much to consider before beginning your journey. Here are some of the best hikes in the Canadian Rockies for all skill levels, with tips on how to best prepare.

Beginner Hikes in the Canadian Rockies

The Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park.

Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

  • Length: 2.5 mi / 4 km (return)
  • Time: 1-3 hours
  • Elevation: Minimal
  • Best time to go: Year-round
  • Trail type: Out-and-back

Take your time as you walk along the twisty 1.3 mi / 2 km trail around the world-famous Lake Louise and enjoy the grand views of Mount Victoria and the Victoria Glacier from this natural amphitheatre. Witness the turquoise waters change to a milky texture from the glacial rock silt churned up from the bottom of the lake. Continue along the bend at the end of the trail, and marvel at the glacial runoffs around the impressive Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise as they come into view. This trail is accessible for strollers and wheelchairs during the summer but is often quite busy, so I recommend hiking the trail at sunrise or sunset to avoid the crowds. The sole parking lot at Lake Louise fills up quickly, so it’s best to secure tickets for shuttle buses departing from the village to ensure availability.

Emerald Lake Trail, Yoho National Park, British Columbia 

  • Distance: 3.2 mi / 5.2 km
  • Time: 1-2 hours
  • Elevation: Minimal
  • Best time to go: Year-round  
  • Trail type: Loop

This gentle 3.2 mi / 5.2 km loop around Emerald Lake is a perfect trail for families and leisurely hikers. Marvel at the stunning President’s Mountain Range to the west and a lush Columbian forest to the east as they reflect off the teal glacial water. Emerald Lake is the largest lake in Yoho National Park and a popular destination year-round so you will most likely run into others during your hike. More advanced hikers also have the option to continue 3.2 mi / 5 km up an avalanche-carved glacial bowl to the Emerald Basin for incredible views of waterfalls and glaciers.

Intermediate Hikes in the Canadian Rockies 

Overlooking O’Hara Lake in Yoho National Park.

Stanley Glacier Trail, Kootenay National Park, British Columbia

  • Length: 6.2 mi / 10 km (return)
  • Time: 3–6 hours 
  • Elevation: 2,018 ft / 615m gain
  • Best time to go: June-October
  • Trail type: Out-and-back

Marvel at the power of Canadian wildfires as you hike through naked burnt forests scattered with purple fireweed as you ascend into the alpine. This trail is moderately difficult with consistent switchbacks and a steady incline up grassy slopes and rocky terrain, but the countless waterfalls, hidden caves, creeks, unique rock formations, and of course, Stanley Glacier make this hike worth the effort. Around 2.5 mi / 4 km into your journey, you will reach a sign saying you’ve hit the end of the maintained route, but those interested can enter the boulder field in front of them and continue their ascent for 1.9 mi / 3 km to an excellent viewpoint. The Stanley Glacier Trailhead is located between Lake Louise and Banff and is only 2.5 mi / 4 km from the provincial border between Alberta and British Columbia, so it’s a perfect day hike for anyone staying in this region of the Canadian Rockies.

Iceline Trail, Yoho National Park, British Columbia 

  • Length: 8.7 mi / 14km out-and-back or 12.4 mi / 20km loop
  • Time: 5-8 hours
  • Elevation: 2,835 ft / 864m gain
  • Best time to go: June-October
  • Trail type: Out-and-back or loop

The Iceline Trail is a perfect trail for intermediate hikers looking to walk along powerful waterfalls, glaciers, and alpine lakes. You can choose between an 8.7 mi / 14 km out-and-back trip, a single-day 12.4 mi / 20 km loop, or a multi-day backcountry camping trip where you will experience spectacular views of glacier fields, mountains, and the second-tallest waterfall in Canada, Takakkaw Falls. 

Advanced Hikes in the Canadian Rockies

The hiking terrain changes as you head north to Jasper.

Crypt Lake Trail, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

  • Length: 11.2 mi / 18 km (return)
  • Time: 5-7 hours
  • Elevation: 2,625 ft / 800m
  • Best time to go: July-September
  • Trail type: Out-and-back

The Crypt Lake Trail is not only one of the best hikes in the Canadian Rockies but also the world. Accessible only by boat across Upper Waterton Lake, this challenging hike takes you from the Waterton Marina to the Crypt Lake Landing and onward to the secluded and emerald-green Crypt Lake. Climb roughly 2,953 ft / 900 metres over 6.2 mi / 10 kilometres through the Canadian Rockies to a ladder and pass through roughly 60 feet / 18 metres of natural tunnels before traversing a cliff with help from a cable railing. This trail is part of the Triple Crown hikes in Waterton and is a must-do for advanced hikers, but anyone with a fear of heights may prefer to turn back before climbing the ladder. It is also important to remember that the trailhead is only accessible via ferry, so you must manage your time accordingly.

Sulphur Skyline Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

  • Length: 4.9 mi / 8km (return)
  • Time: 4-6 hours
  • Elevation: 2,297 ft / 700m gain
  • Best time to go: June-October
  • Trail type: Out-and-back

The Sulphur Skyline Trail is one of the most popular and rewarding hikes in Jasper. The entire hike is a steady climb up to the summit of Sulphur Ridge where you will earn spectacular and open views of the surrounding mountain range. The trail’s proximity to the Miette Hot Springs is what truly makes this hike unique. Relax and reward your muscles with a soak in the warmest natural hot springs in the Canadian Rockies or spend a few nights at the Miette Hot Springs Resort.

Tips for Hiking the Canadian Rockies

Kananaskis is a popular day hiking location near Banff National Park.

It is important to remember that being well-prepared is crucial for any hike, regardless of skill level or length. Here are some tips I always follow to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Wear hiking boots.

Investing in a good pair of hiking boots is one of the best ways to ensure your hiking experience is fun and safe. Good hiking boots make it safer to explore more difficult terrain while keeping your feet dry and comfortable.


Staying hydrated is the most important aspect of hiking. It is necessary to research every trail so you can pack an adequate amount of water and even consider investing in a water filtration system you can use to refill your water during your journey. 

Use trail maps.

Not every trail is clearly marked, so you should always have a detailed physical trail map or GPS you can rely on to reduce the risk of getting lost. 

Be aware of wildlife safety.

I have encountered tons of wildlife while visiting the Canadian Rockies, including moose, elk, bighorn sheep, eagles, and grizzly and black bears. While these have been some of the most exciting and noteworthy parts of my trips, wildlife has the potential to be the most dangerous part of your hike. It is important to properly research and be aware of how to interact with all different types of wildlife to ensure your safety. You should generally warn wildlife of your presence by making noise during your hike, and it is worth investing in bear spray or other bear protection if you are embarking on any backcountry hike. 

Let people know you’re going.

Cell service won’t be available on many trails, so it is important to inform someone about your hiking plans – especially for backcountry trails – in case you get lost or injured. You can also brag a little if you’d like.

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Sael Forster
Sael Forster

Content Associate – Born to two parents who met travelling, Sael has always wanted to travel the world. Sael has hiked the Inca Trail in Peru, visited Blue Footed Boobies on the Galapagos Islands, stood on both hemispheres of the equator in Ecuador, climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, hiked the base of Uluru, surfed Pacific Ocean waves in Mexico, and skydived over the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns. Meeting new people and sharing stories are some of Sael's favourite parts of travelling, and he hopes he can help ignite this passion for discovery in others.

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