13 Kananaskis Hikes Well Worth the Effort

We had a fantastic summer hiking all over Kananaskis. Every day we could we would get out from our home in Canmore and explore. So many beautiful memories were made around Kananaskis.

I want to share with you our favorite Kananaskis hikes from this summer, and will continue to update this list year after year as we get out more. Here are the best hikes around Canmore and Kananaskis in no particular order.

Our Favorite Hikes in Kananaskis Country

1.) Mount Smutwood

Mount Smutwood was probably our favorite Kananaskis hike this summer. The views almost the entire way are absolutely stunning and it’s doesn’t truly get difficult until the end.

This hike is best done with a group as you are in grizzly country and in trees for the beginning (and end of the hike). Although we didn’t see our grizzly friend until we reached the saddle. We kept our distance and he went on his way.

The first hour or so of this Kananaskis hike is straightforward with no elevation gain. You’ll pass a cool waterfall and once you get into the alpine meadow the views are amazing. Don’t mind the whistling marmots. Your first taste of steepness is going into Smuts Pass, where it’s relentless for 2 km or so but then lightens up again as you first lay your eyes on Mount Birdwood.

There were many groups hiking here when we went but all of them stopped at the saddle and enjoyed the lakes. The route from the saddle up to the summit of Mount Smutwood looks long and steep, but it’s easier and shorter than it looks.

Continue on pass Birdwood and around the two lakes to your right. Here’s where your ascent truly begins. You have about 45 minutes to one hour to go. The view from the false summit is great of Birdwood, but continue on to the true summit for 360 views. This is where the route gets a bit scrambly and slightly expose. A fall here certainly wouldn’t be good, but it’s not certain death (that’s next door on Mount Smuts).

Keep pushing for the summit and enjoy the views. Descend the same way you came. Smutwood Peak took our group seven hours with a 45 minute summit break. It’s one I would easily do again! Read the full report here.

  • Length: 17.9km (11.1 miles)
  • Duration: 5 – 9 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 961m
  • Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult, mainly towards the summit.
  • Scrambling Involved: Mild scrambling at the very end towards the summit.
  • Best Time To Go: June – October
  • Where to Park for This Kananaskis Hike: Just Past Mt Engadine Lodge along Mt. Shark Rd.
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Lunch, Layers, hiking poles, Trail Runners

2.) Tent Ridge

Tent Horseshoe Ridge is one of my favorite hikes in all of Alberta. Just an hour drive from Canmore in the Spray Valley is this beautiful loop trail. It’s the perfect hike with amazing views of the surrounding mountains and lakes. In summer you’ll find wildflowers and bird watching. If you’re looking for a quick, but moderately difficult hike Tent Ridge is a must do. Let’s dig in with all the details.

Tent Ridge Horseshoe is a 10-kilometer loop trail. We are reasonably fit but by no means the fastest hikers in Canmore. This trail took us about 5 hours, with LOTS of photo stops and a lunch break near the satellite tower. If we weren’t taking any photos or video (or waiting around for the sun to get lower for sunset photography), we should have been able to do this loop hike in four hours.

Although AllTrails rates this as hard, I would put it slightly above moderate. There are a few steep pitches that will have you panting, but I believe the real reason it’s rated as hard is because of the scramble up (or down depending on which way you go), from the ridge. I saw all ages of life on this trail, the scramble was slightly exposed in two sections, but not too sketchy.

This trail would be best between April and October, though I’ve seen photos in the winter and the images are gorgeous. Just make sure you have gaiters, crampons, and poles if you decide to do a winter hike.

We hiked this trail on Canada Day weekend (July 1st). There were a few spots with slushy snow, but for the most part, it was a dry trail. It’s still the mountains though, and the weather changes rapidly. When we started this hike, it was a bright sunny day. When we reached the top of the ridge it was snowing, and the wind was howling, no views at all, then we waited over the Spray lakes and the beautiful sun showed it’s face again. See our full write up here.

  • Length: 10.6km (6.6 miles)
  • Duration: 4 – 6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 750m (2460ft)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Scrambling Involved: Two short sections. Do this loop clockwise so you are scrambling up these sections instead of down.
  • Best Time To Go: April – October
  • Where to Park for This Kananaskis Hike: There’s trail parking across the street from one of the trailheads. From the parking area go LEFT to start this hike clockwise.
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, hiking poles

3.) Mount Indefatigable

Indefatigable is a great short hike in Kananaskis and provides unreal views over upper and lower Kananaskis. To start on this trail you do have to walk past a big sign stating that this is Grizzly territory. Alberta Parks decommissioned this trail in 2005 due to grizzly habitat, but it is not a closed trail, it is a voluntary closed trail. It’s up to you whether you want to continue on, but it’s best to go with a group and be bear safe. (We did not see any grizzlies when we hiked this, but a group in passing did).

You’ll be going uphill from the start of the trailhead. This never lightens up and it’s a steep climb pretty much the entire way to the summit.

If you’re feeling lazy you can stop at the viewpoint about 25 minutes in as it’s simply stunning and turn around there. To reach the south peak summit continue on the trail. You’ll soon reach a steep scree section, and will be using your hands for a bit, but it’s not too bad and you’re never exposed. A fall here would be some bruises and scratches.

From the south peak summit the views are out of this world. If you stop here and turn around your hike will be about 4-5 hours. If you’re feeling ballsy you can continue on to the exposed section and scramble the ridge summit to the true Mount Indefatigable summit, but this traverse should be left to experienced scramblers only.

  • Length: 7.2km
  • Duration: 4 – 6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 979m
  • Difficulty: Moderately Hard, especially if you go for the full traverse
  • Scrambling Involved: Towards the top you’ll be using your hands
  • Best Time To Go: May – October
  • Where to Park for This Kananaskis Hike: There’s trail parking at Lower and Upper Kananaskis Lakes
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, hiking poles for the descent, gloves, bear spray

4.) East End of Rundle (EEOR)

East End of Rundle is easily one of the most popular hikes in all of Kananaskis. It’s also the best effort vs reward in all of the regions with breathtaking views of Spray Valley and Ha Ling Peak in a very short amount of time. Given it’s proximity to downtown Canmore, and relative ease it sees heavy foot traffic. It’s a beautiful hike up that provides visitors with astonishing views over Canmore, the Bow Valley, and Ha Ling Peak.

Although, just because East End of Rundle (or EEOR, or “Eeyore” as locals like to call it) is close to town doesn’t mean it’s an easy climb up to the summit.

The hike up East End of Rundle starts at Whiteman’s Pond dam at the top of Canmore Hill. There are two parking areas, but the latter from Canmore is the best for access to EEOR. The trail starts right between two flagged power poles you can see in the photo below.

The trail is a bit of a mixed bag through the ascent as it makes several switchbacks, changes in trail material, before several rocky sections that may require a handhold or two. It’s nothing difficult and any hiker should be able to handle the terrain, but it is steep. It’s is fairly easy to follow with the small pieces of tape, painted rocks, and cairns leading the way to the peak.

On the way up you begin to see views down Spray Valley to the East, Ha Ling Peak, and Mount Lawrence Grassi. With this in mind, there are a ton of off shots and goat trails from the main trail that leads to various viewpoints.

The hike up comes out of the first section of treeline to a small ridge. This section has some route finding and small portions of scree. It’s not too difficult and the most advanced section comes on a large rock slab that can be bypassed by heading to the left.

Once you get above the final bit treeline you’ll find a steep wide open scree section waiting for you. Once you make it past the scree (hiking poles helped me!) you’ll find two paths leading up to the summit.

We took the one to the left which seemed to be the easier trail up. Once you get to the rockband you’ll want to put your gloves on (and helmet if you have one) as you’ll be walking along the cliff for about five minutes using your hands and careful footing. The helmet is more necessary on a busy day as it would it’s easy for clumsy hiking groups above to dislodge rocks.

After this scramble, you’ve reached the summit and get to enjoy the views over Canmore! The view was particularly exciting for us as we could see our home way down below.

If you don’t want to tackle the entire hike, many parties stop about an hour up which still provides great views over Ha Ling. Read the full blog post here.

  • Length: 5.8km
  • Duration: 3-5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 870m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Scrambling Involved: Towards the top you’ll be using your hands. Gloves will come in handy.
  • Best Time To Go: April – November
  • Where to Park for This Kananaskis Hike: Whiteman’s Pond dam. You can’t miss the cars.
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, hiking poles for the scree descent, gloves, bear spray

5.) Read’s Tower

Another rewarding and short hike on this list is Reads Tower. This one is perfect for those that want fantastic views over Spray Lakes but don’t want to put in a whole days worth of effort to get up. This is only a four hour round trip hike, but you do have the option to keep going past to scamble Mount Sparrowhawk for a more complete day.

The first hour or so of Read’s Tower winds through the forest. Get used to going uphill as it never really lets up once you start. Fight the rock slide and slabs uphill until it opens up. From there you’ll get a great view of both Mount Sparrowhawk and Reads Tower. Now is your choice of what kind of length and time you want to be on the trail.

If you choose Read’s Tower you have about a 45 minute to hour scree climb to the summit. Going up the treadmill scree is brutal, but the scree run down is super fun and quick!

Read’s Tower is a very rewarding hike for such low exposure and minimal scrambling effort.

  • Length: 6.8km
  • Duration: 3-5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 855m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Scrambling Involved: No
  • Best Time To Go: April – October
  • Where to Park for This Kananaskis Hike: Across the street from the trailhead. Parking for Sparrowhawk.
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, hiking poles for the scree descent, hiking boots to protect ankles against scree, bear spray

6.) Windtower

Right before you reach the parking for Read’s Tower you have the option to try another Kananaskis hike – Wind Tower! Wind Tower provides that of similar views over the Spray Lakes Reservoir that Read’s Tower does, with about the same amount of effort.

We completed this hike in four hours on a fantastic summer day and were rewarded with an epic sunset from the peak.

To hike Wind Tower you’ll want to start across the street alongside the roud. You’ll hike in the treeline for the first 45 minutes or so until you reach West Wind Pass. If you want a nice, short, moderate hike – stop here and enjoy the views. To conquer Wind Tower you have at least an hour and some change more of light scrambling and moderate incline to go.

Once you reach the summit of Wind Tower enjoy the views over Canmore to one end and the Spray Lakes to the other. From here you can get great views of Mount Lougheed. Just watch your step – it’s a straight drop off up here! Return the same way you came. Read the full blog post here.

  • Length: 9.8km
  • Duration: 4-6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 898m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Scrambling Involved: No
  • Best Time To Go: April – October
  • Where to Park for This Kananaskis Hike: Look for West Wind Pass signs along the Smith Dorrien
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, hiking poles for the descent, bear spray

7.) Grizzly Peak

Grizzly Peak is an uphill grind all the way up. Not just a moderate uphill grind either, but a steep and loose uphill battle. You are gaining 875 meters in 5.6 km afterall. If it weren’t for the epic views at the summit I wouldn’t be recommending this one as the trail is in very poor condition.

However, once at the peak of Grizzly you can see endlessly over Kananaskis Valley and even Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes.

This hike took us four hours round trip and was perfect for a half day, regardless of the leg burn. Gloves were definitely helpful as there is light scrambling involved. Poles are ideal for the steep downhill climb.

  • Length: 5.6km
  • Duration: 3-5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 875m
  • Difficulty: Hard because of the nonstop uphill
  • Scrambling Involved: Scrambling route optional
  • Best Time To Go: May- October
  • Where to Park for This Kananaskis Hike: There is no designated parking area for this. Instead park on the side of the road near Ripple Rock Creek.
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, hiking poles for the scree descent, Trail Runners or Hiking Boots

8.) Opal Ridge

Before you reach the parking point for Grizzly Peak (Coming from Calgary/Canmore) you’ll come across the Fortress petrol station stop. Park here to tackle Opal Ridge. You can’t miss the trailhead by the picnic tables. After parking you’ll mosy along the powerlines for a few hundred meters before the work up begins. The trail goes through the treeline until you break past it for magnificent views. Here’s where the work REALLY begins. The trail is pretty easy to follow, but it’s easy to get off it and have a “choose your own adventure” kind of day and find your own way up the mountains.

Opal Ridge South Summit is a really fun half day hike that provides a hiking trail, but also many optional scramble sections should you want to challenge yourself. There’s nothing death-defying about this scrambling and it was great for beginners.

Like Grizzly, it’s a pretty steep climb but the views from the summit are amazing.

This hike took us four hours round trip, but for a more challenging day you can take on all of Opal Ridge. There’s plenty of opportunity for an extended summit. Once you reach the south summit you can traverse back to where you reached the ridge and go left, to check out the North view just a couple hundred meters up (scrambling involved).

  • Length: 6.4km
  • Duration: 4-6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1,026 m
  • Difficulty: Hard if you choose mainly scramble route
  • Scrambling Involved: Scrambling route optional
  • Best Time To Go: May- October
  • Where to Park for This Kananaskis Hike: Park at the Fortress petrol station.
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, hiking pole, Trail Runners or Hiking Boots

9.) Mount Allan

When the weather for a hike we wanted to do in Banff National Park turned out to be poor and the sun was shining in Kananaskis we turned around. We made the quick decision to summit Mount Allan, a popular hike in Kananaskis, but a long day with significant elevation gain.

With a distance of 15.8 km and an elevation gain of 1,485 meters Mount Allan is no short hike. Though it is a great day out with a beautiful summit and no scrambling or anything technical involved. It’s a steady incline for most the well worn and marked path, making it a great hike for anyone.

Mount Allan via Centennial Ridge links Ribbon Creek and Dead Man’s Flats. For a super long day and those with two cars you can do the entire traverse. We only had one car and decided to start our journey at Centennial Ridge trailhead where we had a steady but easy incline up into the valley. The views start here and never end. From the car park to Centennial Ridge is about 1.5-2 hours. Most people stop when the reach the ridge, but it’s worth it to keep pushing and go for the summit of Mount Allan. It’s easy, until the final push, and well worth the views across all of Kananaskis and Canmore.

Past the ridge, it’s another 1.5 hours to the true summit. Along the way you’ll see huge pinnacles that look unworldly, these features make this hike one for the books alone. From here you can keep going on to Dead Man’s Flats or turn around for an easy and enjoyable hike down. The summit of Mount Allan sits at 2819 meters, making it the highest maintained trail in the Rockies, and it is very well maintained! Read the full blog post here.

  • Length: 15.8km
  • Duration: 6-9 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1,485 m
  • Difficulty: Easy, but long
  • Scrambling Involved: No
  • Best Time To Go: June – October
  • Where to Park for This Kananaskis Hike: Centennial Ridge trailhead near Nakiska.
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Trail Runners or Hiking Boots

10.) Wasootch Ridge

Wasootch Ridge is a favorite near Canmore in Kananaskis Country. The trail is straight forward to follow and gains quick elevation then travels along a ridge that delivers spectacular views for hours. The roadway slowly evaporates from view on the ridge before a challenging scramble to the true peak.

The scramble can be avoided, and the trail is plenty wide enough for the first 5km with no exposure. The result is a dog/kid-friendly hike that doesn’t need to be completed to enjoy as the views are great early on the trail.

Wasootch Ridge starts off hard at the beginning with a leg burning climb right out of the parking lot. The parking lot is a little confusing as there are several trails through the woods leading up the ridge along with a path along the creek. Head up through the woods near the beginning of the parking area in a southeast direction. The trail through the woods is not technical with plenty of traction on dirt. Once you come out of the forest which takes twenty to thirty minutes, depends on your fitness, you’ll be treated to some fantastic views of Barrier Lake to the North and Nakiska to the South.

The hike then continues along the ridge for several kilometers where you’ll climb up and down a series of five peaks. Towards the final and tallest peak the ridge turns into a scramble. The scramble is difficult with several moves that are high exposure. Its first technical move may be the most exposed with a rock less than a meter wide and a tall rock wall on either side. This section of the trail should only be attempted by advanced hikers/scramblers or at least people of strong fitness. The vast majority of hikers either turn around before this point or at the beginning of the scramble.

 In hindsight, I’ve researched that it is possible to avoid the scramble by descending the ridge on the and traversing before ascending for the peak again. From here it’s only the halfway point as you turn around and make your way back to the parking lot along the same trail. It is possible to descend the backside of the peak for a circuit, but the descent involves bushwacking and loose scree. Past reviews discourage this route as it’s dangerous, a pain, and then ends with a long walk out Wasootch Creek.

The trail is 15.4 km in length and has an elevation gain of 850 meters. You should expect a long hike if you finish at the peak. We spent around seven hours on the tail and took time for photos and lunch with no rush to finish. It’s a stunning hike and the perfect place to unwind in nature. Read the full report here.

  • Length: 15.4km
  • Duration: 6-10 hours. Depends on where you want to stop.
  • Elevation Gain: 1,451m
  • Difficulty: Moderate. Hard if you choose the scramble.
  • Scrambling Involved: Scramble optional
  • Best Time To Go: May – October
  • Where to Park for This Kananaskis Hike: Parking area for Wasootch Creek Trail and Porcupine Trail.
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Trail Runners or Hiking Boots

11.) Sarrail Ridge via Rawson Lake

Sarrail Ridge

Rawson Lake is a beautiful glacier lake suitable for a wide range of abilities and when combined with Sarrail Ridge it makes for a quick classic hike in the Canadian Rockies. The views in particular from Sarrail Ridge are stunning, but you’ll have to put in plenty of work.

The hike starts at the Upper Kananaskis Day Use Parking lot. From there you walk through a wooded trail along the lake, catching glimpses of the stunning water and nearby Mount Indefatigable. For the first major site come soon as you cross a bridge over one of the better waterfalls in the region. Not long after the waterfall you depart from the loop around Upper Kananaskis Lake and head for Rawson lake.

For the less adventurous the hike up to Rawson lake is a great beginner hike in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. It’s about a 300 meter elevation gain and can be done early or late season. It skirts around Lower Kananaskis Lake and crosses a waterfall before ascending 300m to the enchanting Rawson Lake. If the bugs aren’t bad it’s the perfect spot to enjoy lunch before heading back down. Stop here at Rawson for an easy and enjoyable hike. To get the views in the photos above you’re going to have to continue on and work for them.

If you’re continuing up to Sarrail Ridge the trail winds around the Lake to the Southeast before climbing the ridge to the Northeast. The ridge climb is a bit of a slog and goes straight up avalanche shoot and prime grizzly bear habitat. A switchback trail would be nice, but unfortunately it’s just straight up. It’s a steep section and a pole is highly recommended. We climbed late in the afternoon and saw multiple tracks from ill-prepared hikers sliding down the trail. It’s not quite a scramble, but those not sure-footed may find themselves on their hands at a few sections as it is very steep.

At the top of the path, you reach the ridge which provides unreal views. Once you reach the top of the pass you can look out over Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes and Mount Indefatigable. We spent over an hour on the ridge exploring, taking photos, and enjoying the view. Watch out for the ground squirrels – it’s here that we left our hiking poles unattended and they started to eat away at the handle grip.

Rawson lake took us just under 45 minutes from the car park and continuing on to Sarrail Ridge took another hour. That was at a pretty good pace with some miles under our legs. All together this hike can be done in 4-5 hours round trip. See full blog post about Sarrail Ridge here.

  • Length: 11.3km
  • Duration: 3.5-6 hours to Sarrail Ridge 2 hours to Rawson Lake
  • Elevation Gain: 1,066m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Scrambling Involved: No
  • Best Time To Go: May – October
  • Where to Park for This Kananaskis Hike: Upper Kananaskis Day Use Parking lot
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Trail Runners, Bear Spray, Hiking Poles
  • Note: This trail is frequently closed due to bear activity. Make sure to check with Alberta Parks before driving out here.

12.) Burstall Pass

Burstall Pass is a classic hike in Kananaskis Country and off Smith Dorrien Trail. The hike moves past several marshy lakes and streams, before a steep ascent up to an alpine meadow, and then finished on a high mountain pass with grand glaciated mountain views. We loved our time in Burstall pass and spent the majority of our time alone in the woods. It’s a long one at 16km and a little redundant since it’s an out and back trail, but it has everything you could want out of Canadian hike.

Burstall Trail starts out from Smith Dorrien Trail with a large parking lot that serves the trail and stunning Mud Lake. The hike starts out along Mud Lake before heading along an old road for 2.7 kilometers which can be used by bicycles. As you move along the trail be sure to keep an eye out for the trails down to the three Burstall Lakes. All of them are breathtaking and offered some of the best views on the hike until reaching the pass at the end.

From there the trail continues along through the forest and valley. It’s a prime spot for birders and we stopped multiple times to listen to their calls. When you reach the end of the first forest section you come to the alluvial fan of the Robertson Glacier.

Come prepared for some smart route finding and waterproof shoes, or perhaps some hiking sandals. The fan spreads across the trail with multiple streams and flooded sections. It wasn’t difficult, but it does take some time making it across the streams about 500m in length. There are some helpful signs marking the trail for hikers to follow across the plain. However, we used them as a reference to find the ideal route to remain dry.

After you make your way across the flooded sections of trails you reach more forest. This is where the trail begins to ascend to an alpine meadow. It’s a pretty steep climb, but easy enough for most people to handle without too much of a struggle. From there it takes around a half hour to reach a sub-alpine meadow filled with wildflowers. Read the full details here.

  • Length: 16.4km
  • Duration: 4-6 hours.
  • Elevation Gain: 667m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Scrambling Involved: No
  • Best Time To Go: May – October
  • Where to Park for This Kananaskis Hike: Parking along the Smith Dorrien near Mud Luke.
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Trail Runners, Bear Spray

13.) Grassi Lakes

The Grassi Lake hike is the perfect hike for friends and families. It’s an easy trail with a wide path that leads through the forest up to two sparkling turquoise lakes. If you’re looking for a good hike in the Canmore/Banff area that is child-friendly this is a great choice. 

This hike is a highlight in the area as the well-trodden and wide trail is manageable for any skill level of hiker. The two sparkling lakes nestled below Ha Ling Peak and the east end of Mount Rundle are a wonderful sight to be seen by all visitors. Grassi Lakes are two sparkling teal alpine lakes with two the areas most famed peaks towering above. On the way up to the two shallow lakes, there are a few viewpoints that offer wonderful panoramic views of the town of Canmore down below.

This is where we take any visitor who want a short and very easy hike to beautiful lakes. There are two options to see Grassi Lakes – a hard hike and easier hike. Take the hard one, it’s not bad. Compared to any other hike on this list Grassi Lakes (hard or easy) is a walk in the park.

For the more adventurous and local’s, there are are a number of rock faces popular for rock climbing. Routes are pretty easy to find with a large number of bolts in place. 

The trailhead begins on Spray Lakes Road around 2kms past the Canmore Nordic Center. You’ll see a small sign that says “No Exit” on the left and gravel parking lot on the right. Drive down the hill to the parking area and sign for the Grassi Lakes Trail. I’ve dropped the GPS coordinates where you need to take a left coming from Canmore.  See the full write up here.

  • Length: 4km
  • Duration: 1-3 hours.
  • Elevation Gain: 233m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Scrambling Involved: No
  • Best Time To Go: Year Round
  • Where to Park for This Kananaskis Hike: At the Grassi Lakes Trailhead. Past the Nordic Center off of Ken Ritchie Way
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Trail Runners, Bear Spray

Helpful Hiking Websites

All Trails: We like to use the All Trails app to plan out our hikes. Make sure to download trail maps to your phone (available on the pay version) so that you can map your route.

Windy.com: Make sure to check the weather before setting out for a hike. Our favorite website to check is Windy.com.

Alberta Parks: It’s important to check if the trail you want to go for is open or not. Alberta Parks updates their trail reports.

Facebook: Try joining Facebook groups like Hike Alberta to get more up to date information about certain hikes. The group has thousands of members and people our hiking in Kananaskis every day.

What to Wear Hiking in Kananaskis?

East End of Rundle
Hat, Sunglasses, Shell Jacket, Shorts, Trail Runners, Backpack, Pole and Gloves

Always be prepared when hiking in the Canadian Rockies. The most basic principle of what to wear hiking is layering. Anyone that has spent time in wilderness or mountains can speak to the fact your temperature can fluctuate a lot on a hike. You can easily start off cool at the base of the mountain and get hot as soon as you begin moving before getting cold at the summit again.

The goal of hiking clothes is to regulate your body temperature, provide element protection, and manage moisture. Temperature management is best done through a layering system if you want to learn more about what to pack for a day hike or what to wear on a hike, you can see our full post! 

What to Wear Hiking!

Leggings and Sports Bra (for Women)

On hikes less than five hours I don’t always feel like wearing heavy duty hiking pants, and that’s where yoga pants come in.

Leggings are great for any backpacking packing list as they are lightweight and pack up super small. They are comfortable to hike in as they are stretchy and breathable.

Alala makes some of my favorite leggings and sports bras ever! They have many fun and colorful designs as well as your standard colors. I have many colors, but also love traditional black (pictured to the left in their criss cross bra) Their leggings are heavy duty and have lasted me through the years.

Alala LeggingsAlala Bra

Best Travel Pants - Outdoor Research Ferossi

Outdoor Research Ferossi Pant

The pants are really lightweight but similar to a softshell pant with great water resistant and windbreaking capabilities.  With that in mind, it keeps you warm in cool weather, but the breathability of the pants keeps you cool in hot weather. They also have a lot of water resistance and are more comfortable than a pair of rain pants.

Men’s Ferossi PantWomen’s Ferossi Pant

Outdoor Research Shirt Echo Series

I have six Outdoor Research Echo shirts and rotate them on all my hikes. They are lightweight and moisture wicking. Seriously, you don’t want to be stuck with a cotton shirt while hiking it traps all your sweat and then when you get cold it becomes a problem.

Outdoor Research shirts provide full coverage with their long sleeve collections, but you won’t get hot under the sun. These shirts are built with UPF sun protection, AirVent™ moisture management, and ActiveFresh™ odor control technology.

Womens Outdoor Research Echo ShirtsMens Outdoor Research Echo Shirts

Down Jacket

I ALWAYS have a down jacket with me on every single hike I go on. It’s a just in case jacket that I usually end up wearing when I reach the summit, and it gets cold. Down jackets pack up light and small so there is no reason NOT to have one in your bag. Seriously it could save your life in a bad situation. We wrote a whole post on our favorites (hint – Arc’Teryx Cerium LT Hooded Jacket, Patagonia Down Sweater, REI Coop Down Jacket)

Best Packable Down Jackets

Packable Rain Jacket - Arcteryx Women’s Beta SL Gore-Tex Jacket

Shell Jacket

We’re building up a collection of shell jackets. We always carry one in our pack and they’ve come in handy a number of times. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof. We have a bunch of different shell jackets after several years, but my favorite right now is from Arc’teryx. Any jacket can do the job, but the top-dollar ones will hold up and really help in inclement weather.

Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket


We both have a pair of Outdoor Research gloves in our hiking packs at all times. They are great for when you are scrambling and I always end up using them. I never want to come back with bloody hands and they protect against that.

Outdoor Research Gloves

Wool Socks - Morocco Packing List

Wool Socks

We’ve learned to love our feet with a good pair of merino wool hiking socks. You will want to keep your feet nice and dry while you walk around. Most importantly wool socks stay fresh for several days as they have natural antimicrobial properties.

We travel with a couple pairs of the Darn Tough Merino socks and our feet have never felt cold or wet. As a bonus, they’re produced in Vermont!

Darn Tough Merino Socks

Hiking Backpack

If you’re not on a long hike a large multiple day hiking backpack may not be necessary. Expect to still carry several pounds of gear on your pack so it’s important to have a backpack that sits well on your back with good suspension. However, you don’t need a 50L+ backpack instead opt for a size around 35L that should be enough to carry all of your necessities.

We have a large number of hiking backpacks and they range in sizes. If you have plans for other short treks that may or may not have a porter you can go with a 50L that will lend more versatility without being so large its unnecessarily cumbersome on the trail.

We personally like to use between a 30-40L pack for most day hikes in the mountains as it allows for us to carry everything we could need. Major plus side is a large bag means we can bring things like a stove to make coffee or a hot meal for a nice rest. As far as our recommendation on smaller backpacks we love the Traverse from REI and the Exos/Tempest from Osprey.

Men’s REI TraverseWomen’s REI TraverseMen’s Osprey ExosWomen’s Osprey Tempest

Water Bladder

While I like having a water bottle on my hikes I like having a bladder even more. A bladder keeps me drinking regularly since I never have to stop hiking and take out my bottle. It’s always readily available for when you need it.

You should consume at least two liters a water a day while hiking in the mountains, often this means you either carry two bottles of water. The better option for carrying that much water on your treks is to carry a water bladder. A water bladder additionally allows for you to carry extra water if needed.

Most hiking backpacks and even daypacks designed for hiking have a sleeve for carrying your extra water.

Water Bladder

Beach Packing List Sunglasses


Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun since you’ll likely spend a lot of time hiking in the sun at elevation. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes. Sunglasses are particularly important if you plan to visit any glaciers or high alpine passes as sun reflection from the snow is damaging to your eyes.

We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses; however, we love ours and will never buy cheap ones again. Polarized glasses are great at enhancing vision in bright environments and removing glare from windshields and the water.

Smith Lowdown 2.0


I always have a baseball cap in my bag in case the sun gets too intense. I’ve been out too many times without one and my forehead gets too toasty for my liking – even with sunscreen. A baseball cap protects against that and I highly recommend having one in your bag.

Baseball Caps

Hiking Poles

If you have plans to take part in a long day or multi-day hikes a pair of hiking poles are a great way to save your knees and prevent injuries. If you’re on a full day of hiking in the mountains you’ll gain and descend a lot of elevation. So, it’s easy for your legs to get tired so a pair of hiking poles will pay off. Although I don’t always need hiking poles, they are always in my pack. I ended up using them while hiking the ridge and descending on this hike.

Black Diamond is a company dedicated to mountain sports and has worked hard to craft wonderful products. I personally use the Black Diamond FLZ Hiking Poles, but there are some other great poles out there produced by companies like REI and MSR. “Z” poles are fantastic as they’re lightweight and can be stashed inside a backpack should you not need them.

Black Diamond FLZ Hiking Poles

Peak Design Capture Clip

Peak Design Capture Clip

This is has been one of our favorite additions to our camera equipment and hiking outfit. The Peak Design capture clip allows for a camera to be clipped on to your backpack strap or belt.It has to be one of the best accessories we’ve ever used for carrying our camera.

The clip feels secure and robust with a straight forward design that makes switching straps easy. We’ve brought it on several hikes around the Canadian Rockies now and it has changed the way in which we photograph hikes. The access it provides to your camera is so much better than a camera strap that allows a camera to swing and banging into everything.

It’s super handy and a must for anyone who want to carry their camera on hikes, but not have to fumble around in their bag every time they want to take a photo.

Check It Out On Peak Design

Camera (We have the Fujifilm X-T3)

This beautiful and reasonably priced camera is both weather resistant and mirrorless. It is easily the best ASP-C camera on the market and gives a serious run at many of the full frame cameras. After all, is a full frame camera really a necessity? In my opinion, not at all! We love photography, posting to Instagram, and posting on this website so we always have a camera on us on any hike. You can see our favorite cameras for travel here.

Check Prices Here!

Bear Spray - Hiking in Banff

Bear Spray*

This is a non-negotiable item if you’re in bear country and in some parks, it’s actually required by law. Bear spray should be on your person and not in your pack. We each have a neoprene sleeve that holds our bear spay on our belt pocket. It’s easy to reach in case of emergency which the most important detail.

It’s a good idea to make noise while hiking in bear country whether that is singing, ringing a bell, clapping, or banging your hiking poles. Be wary of blind spots on your hikes such as tight bends and forested sections of the trail.

Bear Spray


On any trip where we’ll spend time outside, almost every trip, a headlamp is on our packing list. I typically don’t plan on using it on a day hike, but it’s always there just in case.

We have several, but one of our new favorite is the Black Diamond Spot. It took several recommendations online before settling on this one because of its affordable price and durability. It delivers 325 lumens, costs $40, and will likely last a decade or longer sweet deal if you like to spend time outdoors.

Spot Headlamp on BackcountrySpot Headlamp on REI


Skin cancer is for real! Not having sun protection can lead to sunburn and in the long term skin cancer/skin aging. You will spend a lot of time outside and therefore under the sun. We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals.

They’re mineral based and usually only cost a few dollars more to help protect our natural bodies of water. If you’re not going to swim just go with a reliable name brand — granted runoff often still ends in our oceans and lakes.

Mineral Based Sunscreen

Backpacking Essentials

High Calorie Snack

Pack some high-calorie snacks for your hike on the trail. Popular options are energy gels, bars, or balls, jerky, nuts, or even a Snickers. Hiking at elevation can burn a lot of calories so it’s important to maintain your glucose levels.

It’s advised to eat as much as 200-300 calories per hour of exercise. If it’s a long day on the mountain you can always bring a packed lunch with a sandwich and high calorie like dried fruits. (I’m pretty much a kid and still love a peanut butter and jelly sandwich).

How to Choose Energy Foods

Kammok Down Blanket

Emergency Blanket

This is where preparation for spending a night out in the wilderness comes into effect. If you’re on a short loop around town it’s probably not necessary, but any significant hike in a national park or wilderness area presents the risk of spending the night outside. When temperatures drop at night it presents the very dangerous threat of hypothermia or frostbite.

Emergency Blanket

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About the Author



Natasha is a five-foot blonde that believes she was made short so she could fit in air, train, car, and bus seats comfortably. She believes in watching every single movie nominated for an Oscar and loves all animals. Natasha has a passion for environmentally friendly and sustainable travel. Natasha recently made a move to Canada and resides near Banff National Park in Alberta and loves new adventures in the mountains. Natasha's favorite countries are Italy, Iceland, Greece, Japan, Mozambique, and South Africa.

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