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It was raining lightly at the Bear’s Hump trailhead in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, and as we debated whether or not to tackle the trail in the rain, something happened. In one glorious moment, the clouds parted, the rain stopped and the sun shone down. My four children and I took it as a sign that we should head up the trail, while my husband insisted that he would wait in the car.
About a five-minute walk up the trail, we had another sign from above. The sky clouded over, the wind picked up and the rain started to pour down. By the time we reached the top, we were so drenched and cold that we barely looked at the view before running at high speed back down the mountain.
Staying in the car was clearly the smart choice to make, but that rainy day hike turned out to be one of our most memorable family hiking experiences — at least it’s the one we laugh about the most.
Alberta is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, and summer is the peak season to breathe in the fresh air, see unique flora and fauna and enjoy the outdoors on foot. Here are some suggestions for unique hiking experiences that will help your clients make unforgettable — and hopefully less soggy — memories.
Bear’s HumpWaterton Lakes National ParkThe most popular hike in Waterton, this steep, less-than-one-mile trail up Mount Crandell leads to a rock outcropping that is shaped like a grizzly’s hump and provides excellent views of the lake, the townsite and the Prince of Wales Hotel.
Getting There: A 2½-hour drive southwest of Calgary
Good Sleep: Prince of Wales Hotel or Bayshore Inn
Also Recommended: High tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel
Hike to the Drive LanesHead-Smashed-In Buffalo JumpUsed continuously for almost 6,000 years by aboriginal people of the North American Plains, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. On the first Saturday of each month, the site’s Interpretive Centre hosts a three-hour educational hike. Led by a Blackfoot guide, visitors hike to the drive lanes that native hunters once used to drive buffalo to the precipice — or buffalo jump. Visitors can call ahead to reserve a spot.
Getting There: A two-hour drive southwest of Calgary
Good Sleep: Bloomin’ Inn or Ramada Pincher Creek
Also Recommended: The Musical Ride at The Fort Museum
Centrosaurus Quarry HikeDinosaur Provincial ParkThe surreal landscape of the Alberta Badlands contains such a rich deposit of fossils from the late Cretaceous period that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. From May to October, visitors to Dinosaur Provincial Park can sign up for a four-hour guided hike that will take them past the eerie rock formations known as hoodoos to a bone bed containing the fossilized remains of hundreds of horned dinosaurs. Spots can be booked in advance online.
Getting There: A 2½-hour drive east of Calgary
Good Sleep: Ramada Brooks
Also Recommended: Royal Tyrell Museum
Johnston Canyon Banff National ParkTaking you into the depths of a canyon, this hike offers a shorter, three-quarter-mile trail to a waterfall and a longer 1½-mile hike that leads to the impressive 100-foot-tall upper falls.
Getting There: About a two-hour drive west of Calgary
Good Sleep: Fairmont Banff Springs or Hidden Ridge Resort
Also Recommended: Driving the Icefields Parkway, riding the Banff Gondola or sampling the Sunday brunch at the Fairmont Banff Springs
Path of the Glacier/Cavell Meadows HikeJasper National ParkThe Path of the Glacier Interpretive Trail is ideal for families with younger children. This less than one-mile-long paved circuit trail has good interpretive signage that passes fascinating geological formations and leads to the base of Angel Glacier. More advanced hikers will wish to go on and enjoy the more difficult three-mile-long Cavell Meadows hike, which is famous for wildflowers in mid-July.
Getting There: A 3½-hour drive west of Edmonton
Good Sleep: Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge or Alpine Village
Also Recommended: Maligne Canyon, Athabasca Falls or Athabasca Glacier
Dinosaur Provincial Parkwww.tpr.alberta.ca/parks/dinosaur
Fairmont Banff Springswww.fairmont.com
Fairmont Jasper Park Lodgewww.fairmont.com
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jumpwww.head-smashed-in.com
Hidden Ridge Resortwww.bestofbanff.com
Prince of Wales Hotelwww.nationalparkreservations.com
Ramada Pincher Creekwww.ramada.com
Royal Tyrell Museumwww.tyrrellmuseum.com
The Fort Museumwww.nwmpmuseum.com