5 Scenic Winter Hikes Close to Calgary
One of the great things about living on the west side of Calgary is your proximity and easy access to the mountains. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump to get out into the beauty of nature. If you’re looking to explore the outdoors this winter but don’t want to ski or snowboard, here are 5 beautiful trails you can hike year-round – and they’re less than a 60-minute drive away!
Located near Kananaskis Village, Troll Falls is great for anyone looking for a nice, easy hike through an aspen forest. It has very little elevation gain, making it popular for people of all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and — in the winter — snowshoeing. Dogs are allowed, but must be kept on a leash. The 3.5 km hike can get fairly busy during peak seasons, but with many little waterfalls and one larger one — the hike’s namesake — it’s well worth the trek.
This is actually more of a starting point for a variety of hiking trails in the pristine wilderness of the West Bragg Creek area. Creeks flow throughout the foothills and mature forests surrounding these trails. The skill level of these hikes varies.
A couple of the shorter, easier hikes are Alder Trail and Elbow Falls. They will only take you about an hour each to complete yet provide the scenic gentle, stroll your soul desires. If you’re looking for a bit of a longer yet still easy hike, Sulphur Spring Trail will take you between 2 to 4 hours to complete. It’s very popular with the mountain bike crowd, with its rolling hills and wildflowers in the springtime.
Those looking to test themselves might want to check out Moose Mountain. This hike traverses the ridge and reaches Alberta’s highest fire lookout. It can take between 4 to 7 hours to finish and the elevation gain is half a kilometre. There are signs that warn of lightning during storms and loss of footing when ascending the peak.
If you’re looking for something with incredible views throughout, this moderately steep hike is for you. Ten minutes from the town of Canmore, Grotto Canyon can only be accessed by foot. Smooth limestone walls get steeper and steeper the further along the trail you go. You will eventually come across a glistening waterfall, but if you look carefully on the way to the falls, you will see Native American pictographs painted on the rock some 500-1,000 years ago.
Although this hike can be somewhat gruelling, the payoff when you get to the top is breathtaking. The trail is fairly steep while in the forest, but once you clear the treeline, it’s a more manageable, gradual slope. The other benefit of clearing the trees is the nice view of the valley. At the summit, you can take a lunch break behind a few small trees that work as a windbreak. All the while, you can enjoy the 360-degree panorama view. To the north you’ll see Moose Mountain’s fire lookout. On a clear day looking east, you’ll be able to see Calgary’s skyscrapers.
Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park is a nature lover’s delight. In between Cochrane and Calgary, more than 30 kilometres of trails — paved and dirt paths — are accessible to hikers and mountain bikers. You’ll see plenty of wildlife be it deer, coyotes, elk, and even cougars. Most people start out on the Glenbow Trail but if you cross the railway tracks the Bow River Loop will move you parallel to the Bow River for several kilometres. The views are spectacular and there are plenty of benches along the trail for rest stops.