Wondering where the best short and easy hikes in Kanakaskis are?
Banff National Park is one of the most well-known nature and hiking spots in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. However, just south of Banff and on the border of Canmore, you’ll find another unmissable outdoor paradise, Kananaskis.
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Kananaskis is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in Alberta and the entire country, boasting multiple provincial parks and an ecological reserve. Here you can enjoy breathtaking vistas of snow-capped mountains, glistening lakes, and refreshing waterfalls on the many hiking trails.
While Kananaskis has plenty of long and challenging hikes, don’t let this put you off a trip to this part of Alberta. There are also plenty of short and easy hikes in Kananaskis, suitable for all ages, levels, and fitness abilities.
Below, you’ll find 7 of the best easy hikes in Kananaskis.
Flowing Water Trail
- Distance: 1.3 miles (2.1 kilometers)
- Duration: 1 hour
The Flowing Water Trail is one of the shortest and most accessible hikes in Kananaskis. It is almost entirely flat and takes just 1 hour to complete, so you can easily fit it into a day at Bow Valley, where the trail is located.
The looped route travels through the thick forest alongside the Kananaskis River. Various points on the trail give gorgeous views of the river and nearby mountains, like Mount Yamnuska and Yates Mountain.
The Flowing Water Trailhead is located by the shower block at Willow Rock Campground. It is just a 20-minute drive from Canmore and can be combined with Heart Creek Trail (see below).
Note that the course is open between March and November only.
Heart Creek Trail
- Distance: 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers)
- Duration: 1.5 – 2 hours
The Heart Creek Trail is a pleasant return trail that leads to a lovely creek and a small waterfall. It’s not a challenging hike, but the first 1,640 feet (500 meters) are relatively steep as you climb up to the river bank.
However, from this point, the trail is primarily flat, albeit rocky, as it follows the river towards the canyon. Along the way, there are some creek crossings, which can be slippery.
So make sure you wear proper hiking shoes with a good grip and watch your step. You will enjoy several mountain views on this trail, and for the daredevils, you’ll love the rock climbing area towards the end.
The trail is located in the Heart Creek Provincial Recreation Area. You’ll find the Heart Creek Trailhead just off the Trans Canada Highway east of Lac Des Arcs, about 8.7 miles (14 kilometers) east of Canmore.
Troll Falls Trail
- Distance: 2.3 miles (3.7 miles)
- Duration: 1.5 – 2 hours
The Troll Falls Trail is one of the best easy hikes in Kananaskis and is just a 45-minute drive from Canmore. It is primarily a forested trail that takes you to the stunning Troll Falls, but the path sometimes opens up to give mountain vistas.
The trail can be slippery towards the waterfall as the falls create a spraying mist. However, the track is well maintained, and handrails have recently been installed.
You can do this hike all year round, but it is particularly magical in the winter. During the colder months, the waterfall freezes over.
So if careful, you can climb up next to and onto the frozen falls for some epic photos. You’ll find the Troll Falls Trailhead by the Stoney Parking Lot just off Mount Allan Drive in the Stoney Trail Day Use Area.
Grassi Lakes Trail
- Distance: 2.4 miles (3.9 kilometers)
- Duration: 2 – 3 hours
The Grassi Lakes Trail is a 2.4-mile (3.9 kilometers) out and back trail located about 15 minutes southwest of Canmore. The route takes you to the turquoise-colored Grassi Lakes, surrounded by trees and mountains, creating an incredibly serene spot.
The trail is open all year round but is at its best in the summer when the trees lining the lake are a lush green color. Moreover, the water will have an incredible bright turquoise hue on a sunny day.
The Grassi Lakes Trailhead is at the Grassi Lakes Day Use Area Parking on Ken Richie Way, about 1.3 miles (2.1 kilometers) from Canmore Nordic Center. Approximately 328 feet (100 meters) from the trailhead, you’ll see two trails, one easy and one hard.
Both lead to the lakes, but the easy one has a much more gentle incline. Many hikers combine both trails to create a loop, allowing you to see more sights along the way.
Grotto Canyon Trail
- Distance: 2.5 miles (4 kilometers)
- Duration: 2.5 – 3.5 hours
If you’re looking for one of the best easy hikes in Kananaskis that will keep you occupied for the whole morning, head to Grotto Canyon. The Grotto Canyon Trail is located in the Bow Valley Provincial Park, just 10 minutes from Canmore.
The canyon trail follows a creek upstream between two vertical cliffs. The season you visit will determine the experience you have here.
For example, in the spring, the stream flows at its fullest, requiring you to jump over the water at parts. However, in the winter, you’ll find a frozen creek you can hike directly on!
The hike is around 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) long, with a total elevation gain of 741 feet (226 meters). I recommend taking your time on this one as the canyon walls have some exciting features like ancient Indigenous pictographs, which are between 500 to 1,300 years old.
You will find the Grotto Canyon Trailhead at the dedicated parking lot on Bow Valley Trail Road.
Blackshale Suspension Bridge Trail
- Distance: 3.7 miles (6 kilometers)
- Duration: 4 – 4.5 hours
The Blackshale Suspension Bridge Trail makes for one of the best easy hikes in Kananaskis as it has a unique and fun activity at the end. The bouncy suspension bridge goes over Blackshale Creek, giving stunning views of the surroundings.
However, as a popular tourist attraction, it gets crowded, so I recommend going early in the morning. This way, you’ll have more time to admire the 360 degrees from the bridge and won’t be rushed along, as the bridge has a capacity of just 20 people at once.
The bridge and the trail to reach it are very well maintained. The downside is that it takes a while to get to the bridge.
Besides the bridge, the rest of the trail is not so exciting either. However, as the route has mild elevation gain, it’s well worth the forest walk to reach this iconic sight.
The Blackshale Suspension Bridge Trailhead is located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Start the hike from the Black Prince parking lot on Smith-Dorrien Highway.
Note that the bridge is closed during the winter, but the trail remains open as you can use the bypass trail to cross over instead.
Ptarmigan Cirque Trail
- Distance: 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometers)
- Duration: 1.5 – 2 hours
While in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, check out another of the best hikes in Kananaskis, the Ptarmigan Cirque Trail.
It is just a 25-minute drive from the Blackshale Suspension Bridge trailhead, and it is short, taking no longer than 2 hours to complete. Therefore, combining these two hikes into one day of adventure is well worth it.
The 2.8-mile (4.5 kilometers) trail takes you through a beautiful alpine meadow surrounded by mountains. It is best to visit between June and November (larch season) when the field has a golden hue and abundant wildflowers.
Wildlife sightings of bighorn sheep and mountain goats are also reasonably common here, so keep your eyes peeled.
The beginning of the route is pretty steep and challenging. However, the trail flattens out after about half a mile and becomes a more leisurely walk.
Plus, the elevation gain results in some splendid views. The Ptarmigan Cirque Trailhead is at the Highwood Meadows parking lot, just off the famous Highwood Pass, the highest paved road in Canada.
Final Thoughts On Hiking In Kananaskis
Thanks to these short and easy hikes in Kananaskis, anyone can enjoy Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. So whether you’ve been hiking for years or putting on your trekking boots for the first time, Kananaskis is for you.
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