Easy spots for best views in Alberta

Morriane Lake

Easy spots for best views in Alberta

Let’s cheat a little. Do we really need to drive into the outback then strap on gear and backpacks to trek 20 kilometres just to stand in awe of amazing scenery? Nope. There are so many gems hidden along the highway in Alberta that all you need to do is park, shuffle your feet down a path and voila! You are standing at the base of a thundering waterfall, at the edge of a canyon or the edge of a mountain pass. Alberta is full of short and I really mean micro hikes to awesome natural attractions. Here are our five favourite short hikes to epic scenery and a shout out to William Watson Lodge.

Frank Slide

Frank Slide Interpretative Trail in the Crowsnest Pass

Nature is such a powerful force. A little freezing water in a crack in a mountain will overtime, cause catastrophic events. A stop in Frank in the Crowsnest Pass in Southwest Alberta will prove this point. The face of Turtle Mountain slid into the valley in 1903, wiping out most of the town. There is an interpretive centre where you can learn about the event or just wander along the trail to the lookout to see how the valley is slowly re-growing. Take the drive through the massive boulders from Hillcrest to Frank to learn more.

Frank is on highway 3. Just over two hours southwest of Calgary.

Horseshoe Canyon

Photographer
Joanne Elves

Take a day to tour central Alberta to see where the dinosaurs once roamed. On your way to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller stop at the edge of Horseshoe Canyon on Highway 9. You can just stand there to take in the view or use the new staircase to slowly drop the valley bottom. The badlands landscape is very misleading and everything gets out of proportion so be prepared to drop a few hundred million of years as you descend into the deep valley.

Horseshoe Canyon is on Highway 9 northeast of Calgary only a few minutes west of Drumheller.

Cave and Basin hike

Cave and Basin Hike

There are hundreds of trails in Banff National Park but one of my favourites leads you to where it all started. Park at the Cave and Basin and take the little hike above the Rundle-stone bathing pavilion. The trail winds a short and easy distance to see where the rail workers dropped down to the hot pools in the cave. Their discovery led Cornelius Van Horne to create the fist national park in North America. Along the trail see how two small hot springs seep from the mountain and form pools full of unique species including pink bacteria, white and green algae, small fish and insects. Take a tour through the Cave and Basin to learn more about the parks history and the tiny little snails that live there and nowhere else in the world.

Bow Falls

Bow Falls
Photographer
Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography

Bow Falls in Banff National Park is a lovely place to stop and well, just stop. If you go early in the morning or late in the evening, the crowds are gone and the river and the falls are yours. Park at the base of the falls and take a seat on a bench or find a boulder along the shores to sit on and admire the view. There is a trail that leads to a viewpoint above the falls and during the summer months it leads straight into town about 1.2km.

To get to the falls, from downtown Banff, follow the directions to the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and take the directions to the falls beneath the castle.

Jasper Parkway

Jasper Parkway
Photographer
Joanne Elves

The Icefield Parkway has at least a dozen places where you can stop and marvel at spectacular scenery. Take the TransCanada highway from Banff and turn north onto the Icefield Parkway. Be prepared to see hanging glaciers, pristine turquoise lakes, thundering waterfalls and amazing snow-clad peaks – all from your car. Stop at Bow Summit to see Peyto Lake. Stop at the Columbia Icefields and walk to the snout of the glacier. And, stop near Jasper to watch Athabasca Falls as it crashes through a narrow gorge. This journey should be on your bucket list.

William Watson Lodge

Maybe you’ve got someone in your group that needs a short hike that is barrier-free. Check out the William Watson Lodge in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. This facility and the trails through the trees and down to the lake are designed to open up the wilderness to persons with disabilities, seniors and their families. The trails are free to use because as they say there, “Everyone belongs outside.” There are affordable cabins available for persons who meet the requirements.

Looking for even more Zen inspiration? Subscribe to our YouTube channel