Cooler autumn temperatures and a bit of precipitation finally put out most of the forest fires in BC and Alberta. As the skies cleared and the summer crowds thinned out, we closed out the 2017 conventional hiking season with an up and back hike to the high point along the Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park. The majority of the trail is across barren landscape that was covered by glaciers just a hundred years ago. Pioneering alpine shrubs added touches of warm, fall colour to the rocky terrain - a beautiful contrast to the icy pools of turquoise glacier melt.
An awesome wildflower season hike, the Helen Lake trail is also a good option for early fall. It offers great views of Crowfoot Glacier across the valley, has a relatively modest elevation gain of just under 600 meters from trailhead to lake shore, and includes a long stretch of trail with expansive views of Dolomite Peak and several unnamed ridges and peaks. 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.
The Stanley Glacier hike in Kootenay National Park has a lot going for it: 1) less than two hours from Calgary (under an hour from Canmore) it's about the same travel time to/from as many of our favourite hikes deep in Kananaskis; 2) it's pretty easy; 3) fossils; 4) new and old growth forests; 5) Mount Stanley, Mount Storm and Mount Whymper; 6) waterfalls; 7) a hanging valley; and 8) Stanley Glacier! After our second trip up and down the trail, we added Stanley Glacier to our list of all-time favourites hikes.
This hike is a scenic powerhouse: four waterfalls, a turquoise mountain lake, a wildflower-filled amphitheatre and an amazing view of the Waputik Icefield (including Daly Glacier, source of Takakkaw Falls). It's ample payback for the challenging 1150 meter elevation gain and total distance of just over 22 km. Allocate a full day to this hike and be sure to pack your camera!
The trail to the summit of Fairview Mountain is steep and short, which just about qualifies it as a conditioning hike. But two key factors distinguish Fairview Mountain from most conditioning hikes: 1) the trailhead is at Lake Louise, so you're probably looking at a bit of a drive to get there; and 2) reaching the summit rewards with outstanding views of Lake Louise, plenty of glaciers and range after range of Canadian Rocky Mountains. If you're lucky, you'll also enjoy an abundance of wildflowers and the company of a marmot or two along the way.