Activities

10 family-friendly hiking trails in Alberta

Ancient rock paintings, a deep canyon and animatronic dinosaurs will wow your kids on these family-friendly hiking trails in Alberta.

Kids looking over the fence railing at Maligne Canyon. Photo: Parks Canada, Olivia Robinson

Kids looking over the fence railing at Maligne Canyon. Photo: Parks Canada, Olivia Robinson

1. Grassi Lakes Trail, Canmore

Entice your little hikers with the chance to see two small “Elsa blue” lakes at the end of this 3.8-km round-trip trail. About 100 metres in, there are two options: an easier wooded trail with a gentle uphill on a gravel road, and a steeper climb (which fortunately includes stairs at various points) that gives you a great view of a waterfall, Ha Ling Peak and the town of Canmore.

Go hiking:
Smith-Dorrien-Spray Lakes Road (Highway 742), 4.7 km south of Canmore
Free
www.tourismcanmore.com>

2. Jurassic Forest, Gibbons

Yes, it’s a theme park, but it boasts two kilometres of wide trails and boardwalks in an old growth forest just north of Edmonton, and holy stegosaurus, those are life-size animatronic dinosaurs beside the trail! There are lots of rest points along the way as well as cute dinosaur wagons to pull little ones. You can take a guided tour, ride on the back of a triceratops, go on a scavenger hunt or dig for (pretend) fossils. Make a day of it: There’s a snack bar, picnic area and dino-themed mini-golf course on site.

Go hiking:
2-23210, Township Road 564, Gibbons, Alberta
780-470-2446
Adult: $13.33; Kids 2-12: $7.62; Kids under 2: free
jurassicforest.com>

3. Johnston Canyon, between Banff and Lake Louise

Stroller-friendly and paved, this trail winds through breathtaking limestone cliffs and canyons with a gradual incline and offers multiple chances to check out waterfalls (watch out, you’ll get wet!). Go as far as Lower Falls, about 1.1 km each way or continue on to Upper Falls, about 2.7 km each way.

Go hiking:
Highway 1A, behind the Johnston Canyon Resort
$19.60/family
banff.com>

4. Grotto Creek Canyon, Canmore

Your little hiker will love hopping from rock to rock or jumping over small streams on this 4.6-km round-trip hike along a creek bed and narrow canyon. Highlights include a small cave about six metres deep and ancient rock paintings, mysteriously created by Hopi visitors far from their Arizona home.

Go hiking:
Highway 1A, Bow Valley Provincial Park, Canmore
Free
albertaparks.ca>

5. Maligne Canyon, Jasper

There’s no lack of things to see at Maligne Canyon: waterfalls, a deep canyon, fossils, six bridges and springs bubbling up through limestone boulders. The route is 3.7 km each way, but even if you venture partway you’ll see plenty. Some consider it even better in the winter, when you hike on the frozen river with a guide and check out the dramatic ice formations.

Go hiking:
Jasper National Park
780-852-6176
$19.60/family
www.pc.gc.ca>

6. Bears Hump, Waterton Lakes National Park

If you’re looking for a bit of a climb, rather than a walk, check out Bears Hump, just outside the Visitors’ Centre at Waterton Lakes National Park. It’s 1.4 km each way and steep, but doable for families. (Plus there are two benches to rest on your way up and down.) Once you’re at the top, you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of rolling prairies, mountains (Waterton Valley and Mount Cleveland), and sparkling lakes (Middle and Lower Waterton Lakes).

Go hiking:
Waterton Lakes National Park, Hwy 6
403-859-5133
$19.60/family
mywaterton.ca>

7. Troll Falls, Kananaskis

This trail is wide and flat, ideal for sports strollers, and is also a popular snowshoe trail in winter. It winds through towering trees, past mountain vistas and leads to a tall, narrow waterfall. You can return the way you came or go via the Hay Meadows Loop, which adds a few hundred metres to the hike and takes you along a meandering creek.

Go hiking:
About a half mile from Highway 40 in Kananaskis, just right of the Nakiska road
Free
albertaparks.ca>

8. 12 Mile Coulee, Calgary

If you’re looking for a taste of wilderness, but can’t venture far out of Calgary, check out this 190-hectare park in the city’s northwest. “Coulee” means valley or gully, and as you explore trails along both sides of the creek you’ll find endless opportunities for kids to hop on rocks or make their own log formations. (Tip: wear rubber boots or water shoes.) The landscape is a mix of prairie grassland, shrubs and trees and you might spot wildlife like Richardson’s ground squirrel, northern pocket gophers, deer and hawks.

Go hiking:
Tuscany Blvd NW and Stoney Trail NW
403-268-2489
Free
calgary.ca>

9. Tunnel Mountain, Banff

Your kids will be able to go back to school bragging they’ve climbed to the top of a mountain. Located right in the town of Banff, Tunnel Mountain has switchback trails, meaning that you gradually zigzag up the incline rather than making a super-steep climb. The 4.6-km round-trip trail is well-maintained and has been in use since the earliest days of Banff. Check out 360-degree views of the Bow and Spray River valleys, the bustling mountain community and the surrounding mountain peaks. Pick up some picnic supplies before you head out and enjoy an open-air meal at the top.

Go hiking:
St. Julien Road, near the Banff Centre
403-762-1200 (Town of Banff)
Free
www.banff.ca>

10. Path of the Glacier, Jasper

This moderate 1.8-km loop trail takes your family right up close to the beautiful Angel Glacier. There are icebergs floating in the pond and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to witness a big chunk of ice “calve” off the glacier and hurtle to the water below. It’s on the chilly side, even in summer, so grab your fleece jackets.

Go hiking:
Jasper National Park
780-852-6176
$19.60/family
pc.gc.ca>

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The best in family fun: Alberta>
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