Avoiding the Rush and Making the Most of the Hiking Season

As anyone who has visited the Rockies during the summer can tell you, many hiking trails can become crowded tourist hot-spots. With free Park admission for the year to Banff many favorite hikes have become even more congested. From trying to find parking,  passing people on the trails, having to wait in line to take a picture or just not getting the solitude and sounds from nature, crowded hiking trails can definitely make an experience less enjoyable. Luckily, there are countless hiking trails all over the Rockies that go relatively unappreciated every year and still lead to gorgeous views. Outdated trail books, force of habit and sometimes confusing to follow directions can prevent many hikers from experiencing some of these lesser known but equally beautiful hiking spots. The following is a spotlight on a handful of some of the most worthwhile less popular hikes to check out this season.

Ribbon Creek Trail to Ribbon Falls

Difficulty: Low                                                                             Distance: 22km (return)

Location: Kananaskis Provincial Park                                     Elevation Gain: 311m

A relatively low difficulty day hike located in Kananaskis Provincial park, the Ribbon Creek trail leading to Ribbon Falls is a great early season hike for hikers of all skill levels. Though beautiful all throughout the summer, Ribbon Falls is particularly stunning from May to early July due to the spring thaw creating a particularly robust waterfall this time of year.

Located within an old mining area, history buffs will enjoy the trail’s beginning at an antiquated schoolhouse now converted into a modern hostel. The duration of the 10 kilometres trek up to the main waterfall follows, as the name might suggest, Ribbon Creek. Hikers travel through lush forest along a natural creek basin towards the falls with ample photo opportunities along the way due to the numerous smaller waterfalls preceding the main one.

Once arriving at Ribbon Falls, hikers find themselves in a great spot to relax and take in the sites, snap some photos and eat some lunch. The trail breaks off directly in front of the falls, so close that the spray is able to provide some typically much needed relief from the heat. This final resting place along the trail also provides hikers with a fantastic view, surrounded by mountains and the tops of trees on one side, and the impressive Ribbon Falls on the other.

One of the many small waterfalls leading to Ribbon Falls. 2017

Rawson Lake to Sarrail Ridge

Difficulty: Moderate                                                                  Distance: 11km (return)

Location: Peter Lougheed Provincial Park                            Elevation Gain: 742m

Rawson Lake is another casual day hike suitable for hikers of all levels. As the hike can be split into two sections, one leading directly to the lake and another up to the Sarrail Ridge, hikers can choose which section they wish to end their hike.  The portion of the hike leading to the lake is  moderately popular during weekends, as the lake is a great fishing destination and only 6.1 kilometres out and back.

The portion of the hike leading to Sarrail ridge, the more difficult portion of the hike, is  well worth the steep 4 kilometre trek up the ridge. Though only classified as moderate, the trail up to Sarrail ridge can be a bit difficult as this is where much of the  hike’s 742 metres of elevation is gained. It only lasts a short while though and at the end hikers are presented with the phenomenal view of valleys and lakes far below on either side as well as a great spot for photos. As few hiking groups make the journey past the lake portion, this area also gives one the serene and breathtaking sense of truly being one on one with nature.

The view from the top of Sarrail Ridge. 2016

Chester Lake

Difficulty: Low                                                                             Distance: 9km (return)

Location: Peter Lougheed Provincial Park                            Elevation Gain: 300m

The Chester Lake Trail is a beautiful 4.6 kilometre hike up to the alpine meadow beneath Mount Chester. The first 2 kilometres of the hike follows an old logging road which you can also mountain bike on. This trail is ideal during the June to November months in order to fully appreciate the wildflowers and creeks of the alpine meadow without large amounts of snow.

Low in difficulty, this casual day hike through the forest feels almost as if one is climbing a large but gentle spiral staircase through the woods. With roughly 300 metres of elevation to the meadow and with plenty of opportunities throughout the hike to glimpse and take photos of the surrounding mountains through the trees, this trail is certainly a fantastic choice for any day hike.

Though this trail ends with the meadow, there is an option to continue the hike along an additional pass. The meadow ending offers plenty of room to wander, explore and take great photos right at the foot of Mount Chester with the creek and hills making for a stunning end to a great trail.

These are only a few examples of the endless number of stunning and underappreciated hikes throughout the Rockies to try out during this summer’s peak season.

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