By No Vacation Required, on April 15, 2014

Hiking Alberta

Standing at a point near the beginning of the International Peace Park hike, I am reminded why Alberta’s travel literature uses the statement, “remember to breathe,” so prominently. It’s not only clever marketing; it’s wise advice.

In Alberta, the lucky home of the staggering Canadian Rockies, it seems there’s an impossibly beautiful vista at every turn. As full-fledged mountain lovers, we’re not easily impressed by any old rugged landscape. Alberta gets us every time. That’s why we try to return nearly every summer for some trekking.

Here are a couple of our favorite destinations that are home to our top hikes.

Waterton Lakes National Park

We’re big fans of this area – the Crown of the Continent – that shares space with Glacier National Park, just across the border. The guided International Peace Park hike, a collaborative effort between the two parks, is led by both a park ranger from the United States and an interpreter from Canada. The route takes trekkers nearly nine miles from Canada into the United States.

Viewfinder Tip: If you are an avid hiker, be sure that Alberta is on your list.

Starting with a powerful quote from Eleanor Roosevelt  (“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”), the hike’s purpose is to honor the enduring, peaceful relationship between the two countries. Via a number of fun activities along the hike, participants are inspired to contemplate peace and its importance.

Crypt Lake hike

As we’ve done nearly every hike in this corner of the world, it’s tough to select favorites. However, the Crypt Lake hike is another that quickly comes to mind. Trekkers are dropped off at the trailhead by boat before embarking on this 11-mile hike. The journey offers everything – a dense forest, an alpine mountainside, and a final ascent to the namesake lake (perfect for lunch). Particularly memorable is the 100-foot tunnel, the steel ladder, and the cable-assisted cliffside section of the trail. Yes, hikers accomplish a lot before returning to the dock for the short trip back to Waterton townsite. We were happy that our hotel was just steps away.

Jasper National Park

During previous visits to Alberta, we’ve spent time in Banff National Park. On our most recent visit, we were eager to get all the way back up to Jasper National Park to check some more trails off of the list. This time, however, we wanted to experience something new. So on the way up to Jasper, we made a little detour and hung out in Kananaskis Country for a couple of days. While our main focus was introducing ourselves to rock climbing, we did some low-key trekking in the gorgeous mountains surrounding our hotel. We’re eager to get back for a closer inspection.

Patricia Lake / Pyramid Lake hike

Our favorite trek in Jasper has to be the short, tough Bald Hills hike. The climax of this 6.5-miler is one of the most jaw-dropping views we’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing (see the header photo above). Starting near – and ultimately overlooking – the sparkling Maligne Lake, you journey through a lodgepole pine forest, a subalpine meadow, and on to a number of lookout points on the peaks above.

Our closest wildlife encounter came on a 13-mile trail run we did from our beautiful lakeside hotel up to Patricia and Pyramid Lake. Just over five miles in, we spotted a young black bear foraging for food. Always following wildlife best practices, we weren’t caught too off guard. Thankfully, we noticed the bear at a safe distance, alerted him to our presence, and moved along the trail. Look at this scenery we found waiting at this pair of stunning, green lakes.

What are some of your favorite hikes from around the world?