Top Five Day Hikes in Western Canada
Mountain guide Steve Miller gives his pick of the five best one-day hiking trails in British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies.
On a trip to British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies last month I was lucky enough to be able to explore a few mountain trails. Canada is the place for hiking through scenic, pristine wilderness. From city escapes to hidden backcountry trails in the Rockies, here are five of Western Canada’s best summer day hikes.
Moraine Lake shoreline trail
The perfect introduction to hiking in Canada
Moraine Lake is a nice and easy introduction to hiking in the Canadian Rockies. A gentle trail winds along its west shore for about 1km, offering amazing views of the Ten Peaks surrounding the water. On a still day, each jagged summit is perfectly reflected in its mirrored surface. And don’t miss the huge rock pile at the start – climb this for a bird’s eye view before you start hiking.
Grade: Easy | Length: 2.2 km there are back | Visit from: Lake Louise town or Banff | Trailhead: Moraine Lake car park | How to get there: You can drive, but a better option is the free shuttle bus service
For views over Vancouver and the west coast
Proof that in Canada you don’t always have to travel far to get into the great outdoors. From the ski station car park, the trail meanders up through dense forest. Before long the trees thin out and you find yourself on the bouldery summit. The panorama over Vancouver is impressive and you can see the snow-capped Mount Baker far away to the south in Washington state, USA.
Grade: Moderate | Length: 9km there and back | Visit from: Vancouver | Trailhead: Mount Seymour ski resort | How to get there: hire a car and drive up the winding mountain road
A truly remote backcountry trail
Bear Lake is tucked away in the secluded backcountry of the Kootenay mountains. A 4×4 car with ground clearance is an absolute must to get to the trailhead. You’ll be rewarded with a steep but short waymarked trail through a forest, opening out into a wild lake. When I was there the ground was dusted with early season snow and the solitude was perfect. The ideal place for a picnic.
Grade: Easy | Length: 3km there and back | Visit from: Cranbrook | Trailhead: Bear Lake car park | How to get there: The best directions can be found in a local guidebook – Mountain Footsteps: Hikes in the East Kootenay of Southeastern British Columbia.
Milky blue waters and forested wilderness
The Joffre Lakes trail is very popular, for good reason. There are actually three lakes and most people go as far as the second (Middle) one. Their waters are filled with rockflour, fine particles of rock ground out by glacier, which shades them a striking milky turquoise. Don’t miss the large tree trunk that juts out from the shore floating at water level. It‘s a favourite spot for a photo, just don’t lose your balance!
Grade: Moderate | Length: 7km there and back | Visit from: Whistler | Trailhead: Joffre Lakes car park | How to get there: Drive east from Whistler on Highway 99 for one hour
A challenging trail with some scrambling and height gain
A more challenging hike with some easy scrambling, best for those with previous mountain trail experience. From the car park, the trail winds through aspen groves before taking a left turn up through the trees. Although steep and long, the trail is always clear and easy to follow. At the top of the pass you are rewarded with a panorama of Mount Louis. Strange, spiky rock pinnacles adorn the slopes nearby.
Grade: Challenging | Length: 12.5km there and back | Visit from: Banff | Trailhead: Car park near the turn-off to Highway 1A | How to get there: A short drive west from Banff along Highway 1.
Steve Miller is a mountain guide based in Glasgow. He owns and runs linesonthemap, offering professional and friendly guided hiking in the hills and mountains of western and central Scotland.