Travel Photo Credit: alh1, Flickr

5 Calgary Hikes to Try This Spring (If It Ever Arrives)

We’re ready to stretch our tired winter legs on these heart-pumping mountain trails.  

Spring is less than a week away (it’s almost too good to be true!) and we can’t wait to get back to the great outdoors. Join us, won’t you? From inclined walking trails and blood-pumping quad-killers, there’s something for everyone—and all skill levels—on this list of must-try Calgary hikes.

Reminder: Always do thorough research and check the weather forecast before hitting the trails.

View from the top of Tunnel Mountain. (Photo: alh1, Flickr.)

1. Tunnel Mountain

Distance 2.3 km
Difficulty Moderate

Tie up your laces and go on a nice jaunt up the trails of Tunnel Mountain. Located in Banff, the top offers stunning views of the town, the Bow and Spray river valleys, and Mount Rundle. With only a few steep sections, this moderate hike takes about two to three hours to complete. When you’re done, finish the day off with a brew at one of the many local pubs on Banff Ave.

A waterfall along the Johnston Canyon trail. (Photo: Tim Nokes, Johnston Canyon Bungalows.)

2. Johnston Canyon

Distance 5.8 km
Difficulty Moderate

Visit Johnston Canyon before the summer tourism season hits. This popular hike, just past Banff and less than a two hour drive from Calgary, is suitable for families and those with less hiking experience. Staircases, footbridges, trails and catwalks take hikers over creeks and through canyons to the gorge’s beautiful upper and lower waterfalls (stick to the trail as waters can be swift and unforgiving). For an added bonus, continue three kilometres past the upper falls to see the ink pots—seven colourful mineral springs in an open meadow.


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Mount Lady MacDonald summit ridge. (Photo: Mark Townsend, AlbertaWow.)

3. Mount Lady MacDonald

Distance 6 km
Difficulty Difficult

She’s a tall one. If you’re ready for a challenge, try Lady MacDonald in Canmore. Peaking at 8,550 feet, this difficult hike takes anywhere between six to eight hours to complete (hello, legs). But, the steep, aerobic trek promises rewarding views of the mountains and the town below. At around 7,500 feet there is an abandoned teahouse and helicopter landing pad. From here you can turn back down or continue to the summit, but the remaining climb is not for the faint of heart or inexperienced. A steep scramble over scree (loose rock) will bring you to a ridge walk that will make you feel like you’re on top of the world (Note: there is very little room for error thanks to a sheer drop off.)

The chained ledge at Mount Yamnuska. (Photo: Mark Townsend, AlbertaWow.)

4. Mount Yamnuska

Distance 7 km
Difficulty Moderate

Just 45 minutes from Calgary, Mount Yamnuska is the first mountain you see heading west out of the city. It has a large vertical face, but hikers can wear regular running shoes and take a trail to the top through the trees. If heights aren’t your thing, you may not like this next part; along the ridge at the Yamnuska Traverse, there’s a section where you have to hold onto a chain to get around a corner (take extra precaution here) and you’ll need to do some scrambling to get to the summit. While some may decide that this is as far as they’ll go, adventure seekers will love it—either way, you’ll be treated to great views of the Bow Valley, and on a clear day you can see the Calgary skyline from the top.

View of Mount Lipsett from Mist Mountain. (Photo: Mark Townsend, AlbertaWow.)

5. Mist Mountain

Distance 11.5 km
Difficulty Difficult

Give yourself a full day for this challenging but beautiful hike. With an elevation gain of around 1,200 meters, expect to be huffing and feeling the burn. The mountain is not very exposed, so hikers can enjoy lots of greenery and wildlife sightings (beware of bears). Halfway through the hike, you can treat yourself to a dip in the natural hot springs that are located on the mountain. As you continue, there will be exposed areas and scree, but no chains that you need to hold onto. The best part, as always, is the amazing view from the summit.

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