The Helen Lake trail is an awesome wildflower season hike. With a relatively modest elevation gain of just under 600 meters from trailhead to lake shore, a long stretch of trail also offers expansive views of Dolomite Peak and several unnamed ridges, peaks and three glaciers. Upon reaching the scenic highlight that is Helen Lake, there are a few options to extend the day, including hiking to the Cirque Peak or a nice ridge walk above the lake.
While not the most scenic hike, there is definitely a fun factor to this half-day outing - creek crossings, rock-hopping, pictographs, waterfalls and rock climbers are all appealing. Natural turnaround points are at the waterfall (approx. 2 km return) and at the hoodoos (approx. 6 km return). The steep canyon walls and creek can be a cool respite on hot summer days. In the winter, ice cleats should be considered essential for this trail.
Up near Highwood Pass in Kananaskis Country, Arethusa Cirque is an easy hike with a couple of options to make it shorter or longer as your fitness or schedule permits. It's a good choice for wildflower season, since the trail crosses an expansive meadow that erupts into bloom at just the right time of year. It's also a decent option for larch season. We've hiked here 8 or 9 times and are still discovering new aspects of the landscape, which includes small waterfalls and a rock field with plenty of fossils.
It's hard to accept that it was July 22 before we finally made it out for our first hike of the 2010 season. It's easy to make excuses: bad back, lousy weather, other commitments, holidays. But the reality is that when we took that first breath of clean mountain air, we realized how much we …