Although pretty much every trail report shows conditions to be muddy & wet or even covered in snow & ice, now’s the time to start planning for this year’s hiking season. Check your equipment to be sure everything is in working order, that your pepper (bear) spray hasn’t expired and that your boots don’t need to be replaced.
Things are starting to drying out in the city, so you can even stretch your legs and start your conditioning by going for some relatively flat hikes (often on paved trails) in Fish Creek Provincial Park, Nose Hill Park or headed west out of Valley Ridge (this is a geocaching power trail, with some 15+ hides along the way).
There are also a couple of really small provincial parks, each home to several geocaches, not far outside the city limits, which would be good introductions to easy hiking: Big Hill Springs (a little east of Cochrane) and Brown-Lowery (southwest). These would be easy half-day or less trips with no more than about 5 km of walking / hiking.
If you’ve never hiked outside the city before, you might want to borrow some guidebooks from the Calgary Public Library (see our recommended picks on the left side of our home page), pick up a Gem Trek Publishing trail map or two and check out the online trail reports for Kananaskis Country. Also, keep in mind that access to some parts of K-country is controlled by gates, which remain locked until mid-May (just past Elbow Falls on Highway 66) or mid-June (just past King Creek on Highway 40).
Over the past 5 years, we’ve done most of our hiking in the various provincial parks and forestry land use areas that make up Kananaskis Country. This is primarily because our kids are fairly young (when we started hiking again in 2003 our youngest was only 4 years old) and they tend to do better when there’s not too long a drive before you can start hiking.
If you’re just getting interested in hiking, we strongly recommend that you start with some of the easier trails, generally not more than 5 to 7 km total distance with minimal elevation change. Our suggestions for hikes like this include:
Peter Lougheed – King’s Creek
Smith Dorrien – West Wind Pass
West Bragg Creek – Crystal Line & Sundog Loop Trails (not for the views, only for the geocaching), Rainy Summit (no trails, but a few geocaches), Pocaterra Ridge (park several km up along the the gravel road which turns north off Highway 66 shortly before Forgetmenot Pond)
Bow Valley – Grotto Canyon
Highwood Pass (open June 16 to Dec 15 each year) – Ptarmigan Cirque, Arethusa Cirque, Pocaterra Tarn
You will also find lots of good recommendations for shorter outings in Gillean Daffern’s "Canmore & Kananaskis Country: Short Walks for Inquiring Minds." Another good approach is to check out BVPETE’s hides; he’s introduced us to many great hiking spots in beautiful K-country.
Watch for future entries on more challenging hikes and updates on our hiking adventures this summer.