Canada’s Western provinces of British Columbia and Alberta are home to the Canadian Rockies, offering some of the best hiking and most scenic views in the world. When visiting this side of the country, there are some trails that hikers simply can’t miss if they want to fully experience the beauty of the country.
These are 10 hikes with epic viewpoints, all with varying difficulty levels. There’s something for everyone so all visitors to Canada’s Western provinces can appreciate their natural wonders.
10 Joffre Lakes
Joffre Lakes is a 10.9 km out and back trail in British Columbia. The route is a moderate difficulty level with an elevation gain of 880 meters over the course of the hike. Set among massive trees, these rocky paths take hikers to three lakes, each at a higher elevation than the last. While all three lakes are stunning shades of turquoise, the third lake is the best viewpoint of this trail. Surrounded by vast mountains and forests, hikers might enjoy a peaceful moment at the third lake all to themselves.
9 Stawamus Chief
Located near Squamish, British Columbia, the Stawamus Chief Trail is a challenging yet short hike that takes an average of 2 hours and 39 minutes to complete. It’s a 6.0 km loop with a whopping 654 meters of elevation gain. Hikers should anticipate climbing a series of rocky staircases, ascending ladders, and scaling rock faces with the help of chains to reach Peak 1, Peak 2, and Peak 3.
While no easy feat, reaching the peaks of the Stawamus Chief Trail is well worth it for the incredible views of Squamish and Howe Sound. Although dogs are permitted on the trail when on a leash, this is not a particularly dog-friendly route due to the ladders and rock climbing involved.
8 Lynn Canyon Loop
Visitors to Vancouver for a weekend can still get on an epic hike without venturing too far outside the city. Lynn Canyon is located in North Vancouver and allows travelers to get a taste of British Columbia’s beautiful forest landscapes on a short and fairly easy hike.
The Lynn Canyon Loop is a short 2.6 km trail that takes only 47 minutes (on average) to complete. Despite its brevity, the loop offers three scenic viewpoints that are definitely photo-worthy. These include the suspension bridge, twin falls, and 30-foot pool.
7 Garibaldi Lake Trail
In the Squamish-Lillooet region of British Columbia lies Garibaldi Lake Trail, a trek with a moderate difficulty rating that takes just under six hours to complete. The trail is 18.2 km out and back, and because of its length is a popular choice for camping overnight before hiking back the following morning.
BC Parks has taken steps to reduce the number of hikers on the trail to avoid overcrowding. As of 2021, visitors must register online for their trek at discovercamping.ca to obtain their day-pass.
6 Panorama Ridge
Also located in Garibaldi Provincial Park, Panorama Ridge is a long trail with a high difficulty rating. It is a 28.3 km loop that typically takes just over nine hours to complete. The hike has 1541 meters of elevation gain, which means the views from the summit are truly unforgettable.
Since this is a long and difficult trek, it’s best to complete this hike between June and October when the weather is pleasant and the trail is free from ice and snow.
5 Big Beehive
The Big Beehive is one of the most rewarding hikes in Banff National Park. The 10.9 km out and back trail is considered a challenging route that takes approximately four hours to finish. Hikers gain 776 meters of elevation throughout the trek.
The trailhead starts at Lake Louise near the Fairmont Hotel. Partway up the trail, the Lake Louise teahouse is the perfect spot for a tea and lunch break before continuing up the trail to the actual Big Beehive. Here, hikers encounter steep switchbacks leading to the top where there are stunning views of Lake Louise’s vibrant blue waters down below.
4 Wilcox Pass
Located in Jasper National Park, Wilcox Pass Trail is a challenging point-to-point hike that takes approximately three and half hours to complete. The trail is 11.4 km long with 414 meters of elevation gain. This is a great stop while driving the iconic Icefields Parkway and offers exceptional views of the Columbia Icefields.
The trail starts out in the forest and moves into an open pass where it’s not uncommon to see big-horned sheep grazing. Keep your camera ready to snap some shots on this unique hike in Western Canada.
3 Sentinel Pass via Larch Valley Trail
A popular trail near Moraine Lake, the Larch Valley Trail is named for the gorgeous larches that line the pathway. In late September, these unique trees turn a vibrant shade of yellow, making this trail ideal for autumn photography.
Sentinel Pass via Larch Valley is an 11.1 km out and back hike with 799 meters of elevation gain. It takes just over four hours to complete and is challenging. The Sentinel Pass especially requires a good pair of hiking shoes to navigate the steep switchbacks. However, hikers who reach the top are rewarded with wondrous views of the peaks surrounding the lake.
2 Parker’s Ridge Trail
Parker’s Ridge Trail to Saskatchewan Glacier is a 6.4 km out and back trail in Alberta, along the Icefields Parkway. It only takes about two hours to complete with 338 meters of elevation gain. The trail is open year-round and can even be done in snowshoes during the winter months.
In any season, the viewpoint looking out over the Saskatchewan Glacier at the end of the trail is a sight to behold.
1 Upper Kananaskis Lake Trail
Many visitors to Banff National Park choose to stay in Canmore, Alberta for the duration of their trip due to more affordable accommodation options. While in Canmore, avid hikers should check out some of the best trails in Canada’s beautiful Kananaskis Country.
For a short and easy hike near Canmore, the Upper Kananaskis Lake Trail is just under two hours and 7.7 km out and back. It requires just 154 meters of elevation gain but still rewards hikers with a panoramic viewpoint that overlooks the region’s many mountain peaks.