7 picturesque Alberta hikes for that perfect mountain shot

Summer has just arrived and that means the glorious mountains we are so lucky to call home are going to be veryĀ popular in the coming months.

It can be hard to decide which of the many, many hiking routes to conquer in the Rockies, so we’ve put together a handy guide of a few moderate-to-difficult trails to check out this year, each of which leads to some stunning views. If you’re an experienced hiker looking for some photo-worthy adventures, this one is for you.

We’d like to preface this list by noting that we are all incredibly fortunate to live in such close proximity to the Rocky Mountains and their surroundings, and it’s important that we take care of them. So when you head out with your group of friends, family, or favourite hiking buddy in the coming months, please follow these simple etiquette tips.

Be prepared

The best time to hike is after breakfast or before dinner, and it’s recommended that you travel in groups. Make sure to tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back. Be on the lookout for signs that an animal could be in the area, including tracks, scraped bark and soil, and droppings. Ensure that you pack plenty of water and food, especially if you are going for a longer or more difficult hike. You can’t go wrong with a first-aid kit, hiking poles, crampons, and extra layers, either. The mountains aren’t a casual stroll by the river in the city ā€“ you’re in raw terrain and may have little-to-no cell service if something goes wrong, so pack and plan accordingly.

Make yourself known

Travel in groups and always carry bear spray within reach. You can also make noise to alert animals that you are in the area. If you do encounter one, do not panic and try your best to think critically about how to react.

Do not disturb wildlife

It really is a privilege to be able to observe some of the amazing wild animals that live alongside us, but with this comes great responsibility. Please do not feed any wildlife or leave food where they can find it. It’s bad for their health, teaches them to associate humans with food, and is actually illegal.

If you’re bringing your furry friend out on the trails with you, they have to be kept on a leash. This is for your safety and for their safety. Domestic dogs can cause great stress for wildlife and, unfortunately, can also trigger an aggressive response. You’re not alone out there. Wolves, coyotes, elk, moose, bears, bobcats and cougars are just the tip of the iceberg. Please keep your dog on a leash.

If you see wildlife on the side of the road, please slow down, stay inside your vehicle, and keep driving. It’s very exciting to see a bear or a moose, but it also causes obstructions for other drivers and teaches the animals that they don’t need to be afraid of highways.

Give wildlife plenty of space if you see them. It’s an incredible experience, and yes, grabbing the best photo possible so you can show all your friends is a strong desire. But you should never turn your back on an animal, nor should you try to get closer to it. Wildlife can be unpredictable, and you don’t want to end up in a life-threatening situation.

Be cautious of trail conditions

We know it’s exhilarating to finally reach the summit of a mountain, and you’re eager to look over the edge or take that awe-inspiring Instagram shot. But be incredibly careful of edges and cliff faces, as you have no idea how sturdy that ground is. If you need convincing, just do a quick internet search on accidents that have happened in the mountains from scenarios such as these. They are no joke. Please take some time to be aware of the area you’re in.


Do you remember as a kid when you were taught to stop, look, and listen? The same goes for the mountains. You’d be surprised at how much you can pick up on if you take a second to tune in to your surroundings. You could hear the rumble of an avalanche if you are approaching wildlife, if there is a rock slide, or if someone is calling for help. Your ears are two of your biggest assets out there.

Be aware of your surroundings

This is super important for both new and experienced hikers and adventurers. The smart ones know where they’re exploring and what the conditions are like. It’s a good idea to research the area before you get out there. Be wary of avalanches and rockslide areas.

Leave No Trace

Every outdoor enthusiast is responsible for their impact on the environment. We need to leave as little trace as possible when adventuring in the mountains. Know the regulations of the area you’re visiting: some locations do not allow fires, and you may need a permit to camp or fish. Don’t venture away from campsites, and make sure you’re pitching a tent on a durable surface that isn’t harming the vegetation. Furthermore, we shouldn’t have to tell you not to litter. It’s 2022, and we should know by now that it’s not alright to leave plastic, apple cores and banana peels, cigarette butts and other garbage in the wilderness. If you’re a little litterbug, then the mountains are a no-go zone for you.

Now that we’ve got that sorted and we’re sure that everyone reading this is going to follow those tips as best they can (right!?), we’ll share those amazing hikes.

Without further ado, here are seven epic Alberta hikes, rated moderate to hard, that you need to add to your bucket list this year.

Devil’s Thumb


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Difficulty: Hard
Location:Ā Trailhead located at the Lake Louise parking lot
Length: 12.7 km
Elevation: 815 m
Route type: Out & Back

This challenging hike is definitely worth it for the views. When you get to the top you’ll have the chance to get a full view of both Lake Louise and Lake Agnes from above. Summer is the perfect time to visit because it’s an avalanche risk during the winter months. People start hitting the trails here beginning in mid-June.

Yates Mountain via Prairie View Trail


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Difficulty: Moderate
Location: Trailhead located at the Barrier Lake day-use area, off of Highway 40 (Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park)
Length: 11.9 km
Elevation: 699 m
Route type: Out and back

You’ll find parking at the Barrier Lake day-use area off of Highway 40 out to Kananaskis ā€“ be sure to get there early as the lot fills up pretty quickly.

This trail is packed down well for spring hiking, though there are some slippery points as it gets more steep and the snow begins to melt, so use caution. The hike is rated as moderate, and it’s pretty steep. It’s pup-friendly; however, your four-legged friend needs to be kept on a leash at all times. Most of the trail is located within the tree line, and it can be windy at the bottom during the walk to and from the trailhead and then again at the top of the cliff, but the views are worth it!

Mist Mountain Peak Trail


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Difficulty: Hard
Location: Trailhead accessible from Highway 546 (Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park)
Length: 9.8 km
Elevation gain: 1,253 m
Route type: Out and back

This trail features not only a beautiful waterfall but also natural hot springs! Mist Mountain gained popularity a few summers ago, and it’s easy to see why: this is probably one of the most aesthetic hikes we’ve ever been on. The trail varies greatly, from trekking through dense tree lines with exposed roots trying to trip you up to wide-open mountainsides to scree. Let us reiterate: there is a scramble spot on this trail that you’ll need to get through in order to access the summit and the hot springs.

Mist Mountain is a popular trail for a sunrise hike, but please refer to the above etiquette tips. If you’re going on a sunrise adventure, it’s important to be prepared, as hiking in the dark can be dangerous. However, once you arrive, you might just have the hot springs to yourself for a while, and combined with a dusty pink sunrise, we’d say that’s a pretty epic way to spend your morning.

It’s important to note that Highway 546, the road leading to this trailhead, closes seasonally between December 1 and May 14, so this might be a good one to try later in the spring or summer.

Little Lougheed


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Difficulty: Hard
Location: Trailhead begins to the left of the Spencer Creek day-use area, off of Highway 742 (Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park)
Length: 5 km
Elevation: 727 m
Route type: Out and back

Little Lougheed is anything but little! The views are huge and so worth the 5-kilometre trek. It gives you 360-degree views from the summit. Be aware that there is a scree area to cross on this hike, and current reviews say that there are some loose rocks on the trail. If you stick closer to the ridge when you exit the tree line, you’ll have a better trail to follow.

If you’re planning on heading out in the winter or early spring months, you’ll need crampons and potentially poles for this route. Snowshoes aren’t recommended because of the incline. It’s pretty windy at the top, but this hike is great in both the winter and summer seasons. You’ll be blown away (almost literally) by the summit’s view.

Giant Steps in Paradise Valley


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Difficulty: Hard
Location: Trailhead is located in between Lake Louise and Moraine Lake
Length: 20 km
Elevation gain: 712 m
Route type: Out & Back

Get ready to wake up before the crack of dawn if you want to complete this hike in a day, it’s a long one at 20 kilometres! This hike is more about length than height, so if you have the stamina to make it to the end and back, it is absolutely worth it for the views. Once you make it to Giant Steps, there are picturesque waterfall views and some great places to picnic by the waterfall. You’ll also be walking through floral meadows to get there, so don’t forget your camera!

Gypsum Ridge Route


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Difficulty: Hard
Location: Trailhead is located off of Highway 742 (Peter Lougheed Provincial Park)
Length: 4.8 km
Elevation gain: 434 m
Route type: Out and back

This trail is located near Kananaskis and is typically only lightly trafficked. It’s rated hard and is recommended for experienced hikers ā€“ that means you need to prepare properly if you’re going to tackle it. And oh boy, if your abilities are a match, you should! The summit features epic views of the mountains and Blackshale Creek. You might not need snowshoes to complete this hike at the moment, but crampons and poles would be an asset. The trail can get pretty covered in waist-deep snow during the colder months, so tackling this ridge walk would be better in the summer, especially if you’re doing it for the first time.

King Creek Ridge


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Difficulty: Hard
Location: Trailhead is located off of Highway 40 (Peter Lougheed Provincial Park)
Length: 6.8 km
Elevation gain: 777 m
Route type: Out and back

King Creek Ridge is a heavily trafficked out-and-back trail located near Kananaskis. This hike is absolutely stunning and features a waterfall. It’s common to see dogs on this trail, but please keep them leashed. If you’re heading out in the winter or spring, make sure you check the snow conditions, as you might need to make it a snowshoeing expedition! As always, in the early months of the year, crampons and poles are recommended. It can get quite slippery on the way down as the snow melts throughout the day. If you keep your eyes peeled, you might even spot some ice climbers.

For your own safety, please make sure you are prepared before heading out on your next adventure. Information on how to prepare for your trip and stay safe while on your hike is available from Albertaparks.caĀ andĀ AdventureSmart. Parks Canada visitor guidelines are availableĀ here. Always remember to leave no trace, pack out what you pack in, stick to designated trails, and refrain from feeding wildlife ā€” and please note that irresponsibly taken selfies (even if they look great for the ā€˜gram) can be fatal.Ā 

So get your boots on and your poles packed! These hikes will test your lung capacity, but they’ll also provide you with an incredible perspective of life that you can really only get right here in Alberta.

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