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6 Epic Winter Hikes in the Alberta Rocky Mountains

This time of year always feels like it drags on and on.  We’re finished with the Holiday Season rush, and now we’re all feeling pretty ready for spring time.  But with a few months until the official first day of spring, (and let’s be honest – here in Alberta it’s more like 6 months away) I’m sure we could all use a bit of a pick-me-up.  So, I decided to put together 6 of my all-time favourite winter hikes in Alberta (near Banff, Canmore and Kananaskis) to hopefully inspire you to get out there and make the best of these next little while.

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1. Rawson Lake

Rawson Lake is a wonderful hike / snowshoe for all levels.  It is moderately challenging, but totally doable in about 4 of 5 hours at a 9km round trip.  When we snowshoed Rawson Lake a few weeks ago, there wasn’t enough snow on the trails to need our snowshoes, so we just hiked in good hiking boots and gaiters.  However, once we got to the actual lake, snowshoes were totally necessary, so they’re definitely a good idea!

Once at the lake, you can do a lot of your own trailblazing off the beaten track.

The Rawson Lake trailhead can be accessed from the Upper Kananaskis Lakes parking lot.

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Rawson Lake

2. Troll Falls

Troll Falls is an easy, 3km stroll along a well maintained trail that leads to a stunning frozen waterfall in the winter months.  When we did this hike a few years ago, we didn’t end up needing our snowshoes at all, but we were grateful that we wore good hiking boots because the area around the actual falls themselves was super slick.

The Troll Falls trailhead can be accessed off the road to Nakiska.  Look for signs for “Stoney Trailhead”.

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Troll Falls

3. Black Prince Cirque

Black Prince Cirque is a gentle 4km nature walk along an “Interpretive Trail”.  When we went, we basically just trail-blazed and explored wherever we wanted to.  I don’t think we stayed on the trail at all, but that is the beauty of snowshoeing!  This is a great spot for beginners, and offers plenty of natural beauty.

The Black Prince Cirque trailhead can be accessed from the Mount Black Prince day use area in Kananaskis, just off of Smith Dorrien / Spray Trail.

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Black Prince Cirque

4. Johnston Canyon & Ink Pots

Johnston Canyon is probably the most popular year-round hike in Alberta, but don’t let the throngs of tourists scare you away if you haven’t seen this majestic beauty in the winter time.  Johnston Canyon itself is a network of paved, railed pathways through the rocky mouth of the canyon, but if you’re up for the challenge, hike the extra few hours up to the Ink Pots.  This makes the total round trip about 12km, and it’s a moderate challenge, but it really is cool to see this area in the winter, especially if you’ve seen it in the summer before.  It takes on a completely different personality.

When we went, we didn’t need our snowshoes at all, but they might not be a bad idea just in case.

The trailhead for Johnston Canyon can be accessed at the Johnston Canyon resort in Banff.

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Johnston Canyon

5. Chester Lake

Chester Lake was my very first snowshoe trek, over 3 years ago now, on New Year’s Day.  We didn’t see a single soul, and it was amazing.  We also didn’t do the entire hike, as I was brand new to the sport and we weren’t up for the entire 10km trek.  We still had an amazing time, frolicking through the fresh powdery snow and exploring all around the lake.  If you plan to do the whole hike, I would recommend saving this one for when you’ve had a bit of experience snowshoeing.

The Chester Lake trailhead is well marked on the Smith-Dorrien / Spray Lakes road in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.

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Chester Lake

6. Tunnel Mountain

A fantastically rewarding and quick year-round hike located right in the heart of Banff, Tunnel Mountain never disappoints.  We went in March of 2015, and definitely didn’t need snowshoes, although we did wish that we had crampons for our boots because the trail was pretty icy.  It’s about a 4km round trip, isn’t too challenging, and offers stunning views of the town of Banff, the Banff Springs hotel, and the surrounding mountains.

The Tunnel Mountain trailhead is pretty hard to miss, just on the left side of the road past the Banff Centre for the Arts.

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Tunnel Mountain

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What are your favourite winter hikes?

How do you beat the winter blahs?

Ashley Dempster is a twenty-something Canadian Travel and Adventure blogger based in Calgary, Canada. Her passions include good food, minimalist packing, running, music, and chasing down every opportunity for adventure.

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