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Six Short & Breathtaking Winter’s-End Hikes To Get You Moving Before Spring Starts

COOL WINTER GUIDE: Stories and information for all things winter in Alberta. Here are six hikes in Alberta to check out before winter bids us farewell. We’ve rounded up some of the best hikes to check out, all approximately five kilometres or less that guarantee a refreshing dose of nature.
Banff Lake Louise

As winter slowly releases its icy grip and the promise of longer days approaches, there’s no better time to lace up your hiking boots, hit the trails, and get your natural fill of dopamine! While the end of winter may still have a chill in the air, the breathtaking vistas awaiting you are worth every step. Winter in Alberta offers a unique opportunity to explore all its natural wonders, so If you’re eager to experience the beauty without embarking on an epic journey, fear not. Let’s explore some awesome end-of-season hikes, all approximately five kilometres or less so you can soak up the stunning scenery our magnificent province has to offer. Each offers awe-inspiring views and is suitable for all hikers of all skill levels.

Grassi Lakes

Location: Canmore, AB
Trail Length: 1.9 kms
Difficulty: Easy

Grassi Lakes is a classic go-to hike offering stunning views, no matter the season. Located just outside Canmore, this easy winter hike treats you to breathtaking vistas of the Bow Valley, the town of Canmore, and the towering peaks of the Canadian Rockies.

The trail gently ascends through a deep forest adorned with snow-dusted pines, eventually leading to the shimmering aquamarine waters of Grassi Lakes. In the winter, these serene pools often freeze over, creating a stunning contrast against the surrounding snow-capped mountains. At approximately 100 m from the trailhead, there is a fork with signage indicating an easier route and a more difficult route. The more difficult Grassi Lakes Interpretive Trail is closed in the winter due to icy conditions which develop from water flowing over the trail. Take Grassi Lakes Upper Trail and soak in all the beauty before retracing your steps to the trailhead. Ice cleats are highly recommended on this trail. While it may be a bit steep, it’s so worth it. You won’t believe how stunning this little mountain lake truly is. Extra bonus: you get expansive views of the below town of Canmore at a few lookout points as you go.

Heart Creek

Location: Kananaskis Country
Trail Length: 4.8 kms
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Located near Lac des Arcs, Alberta, Heart Creek has been a family favourite for generations. Known for its easy access just off the highway, it’s a scenic beauty and a popular destination for sport climbers.

The trail follows the meandering creek through a narrow canyon, with towering cliffs rising on either side. Along the way, as you traverse across wooden bridges and rocky outcrops, and you’ll encounter a picturesque waterfall and ice formations, creating a magical wonderland. The scenery is pristine and serves as a stunning backdrop for photos. Whether a pit stop along the way to your destination, or a casual nature lover, Heart Creek offers an accessible, yet enchanting experience.

Bear’s Hump Trail

Location: Waterton Lakes National Park
Trail Length: 2.8 kms
Difficulty: Moderate

For those seeking incredible panoramic views, Bear’s Hump in Waterton Lakes National Park is the perfect choice. This short but rewarding hike offers sweeping views of the townsite, Upper Waterton Lake, and the surrounding mountain peaks. It was once known as Bear Mountain by the Indiginous Blackfoot Tribe, as the mountain resembles the outline of a grizzly bear from a distance.

The trail zigzags its way up the side of Bear’s Hump, offering glimpses of the stunning scenery below with every step. As you reach the summit, you’ll be greeted by panoramic views that stretch as far as the eye can see. It’s the ideal spot to watch the sun dip below the horizon, casting a warm glow over the mountains and is the perfect balance of challenge and reward.

Elk Island National Park

Location: Edmonton
Trail Length: 3.5 kms
Difficulty: Easy

Just a short drive from Edmonton, Elk Island National Park beckons with its tranquil forests and abundant wildlife. Grab your hiking boots and explore the Beaver Pond Trail, a scenic loop that winds through dense woodlands and past tranquil beaver ponds. Keep an eye out for resident beavers, moose, and bison as you meander through this wonderland. With its flat terrain and well-marked trails, this hike is suitable for all ages and skill levels. Don’t forget to bring your camera - you never know what furry friends you’ll encounter along the way.

Tunnel Mountain Summit

Location: Banff National Park
Trail Length: 4.3 kms
Difficulty: Moderate

For panoramic views of the majestic Canadian Rockies without the strenuous climb, look no further than Tunnel Mountain Summit in Banff. This leisurely hike is perfect for families or those seeking a quick outdoor escape. The trail gently winds its way to the summit of Tunnel Mountain, offering sweeping vistas of Banff Townsite. Whether catching the sunrise or admiring the sunset, Tunnel Mountain promises to be a memorable experience.

Valley of the Five Lakes

Location: Jasper National Park
Trail Length: 4.5 km
Difficulty: Moderate

Rounding out our list is the Valley of the Five Lakes in Jasper National Park. This moderately difficult hike starts form the parking lot following a wide path through the forest.  From there, it forms a loop that takes you past all five lakes, which are renowned for their varying shades of gorgeous of jade and turquoise. The trail offers stunning scenery at every turn, as you venture through dense forests, cross wooden bridges and emerge at the lakeshores with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Soak in the vistas as this is one hike you won't soon forget, that rewards your efforts with unparalleled beauty.

As the snow begins to melt and the sun peeks through the clouds, now is a great time to hit the trails before the crowds of summer take over. No matter which path you choose, Alberta’s natural beauty never fails to impress. So grab your boots, bundle up, and embark on an unforgettable experience at winter's end. No matter the season, there’s no shortage of outdoor adventure. Let’s do this!

Before You Go

Be prepared for the weather as conditions can change quickly. Dress in layers, consider micro-spikes or crampons for your boots, follow the leave no-trace rule, always carry bear spray, and know how to use it. Check trail reports for current conditions and trail closures.

Any of the trails in Kananaskis Country, Banff or Jasper National Parks require a day pass. Passes to our National Parks may be purchased online or available in person at park gates and information centres. The Kananaskis Conservation Pass can also be purchased for daily use, or yearly for all vehicles parked at provincial parks and public land sites in Kananaskis Country and the Bow Valley.

Britanny Burr is a freelance writer and a contributor to Great West Media. This story was written for the 2023/24 Cool Winter Guide advertising feature. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff.

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