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The Best Short Hikes Near Calgary

by Karen Ung

The best short hikes near Calgary: less than 4 kilometres round trip and only 30-60 minutes drive from Calgary!

Looking for the best short hikes near Calgary? These hiking trails are within an hour’s drive from Calgary and are four kilometres or less round-trip; perfect for when you are hiking with little ones or are short on time. All of these short hikes have minimal elevation gain and are suitable for kids of all ages. Enjoy the best short hikes near Calgary and let me know which one is your favorite!

best short hikes near Calgary
Some of the best short hikes near Calgary (clockwise from top left): Grassi Lakes, Grotto Canyon, Upper Falls, Bow Valley/Heart Creek Bunker

Tiger Lily Loop, Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park

Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park
Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park

Tiger Lily Loop is the perfect length for toddlers and preschoolers. Take the short detour to the lookout before you start, then head through an aspen grove into the ravine. Look for geocaches along the way, then make your way to the Park Office at the top of the hill for sweeping views of foothills and mountains.

  • Distance: 1.4 km (Note: Bikes are not permitted on the Tiger Lily Trail, but are permitted on most other trails)
  • Geocaching: Yes
  • Stroller friendly? No due to a barrier at the trailhead (though we were able to lift our single Chariot over it).
  • Driving distance from Calgary: 33 km

Going Further: There are several options for a longer hike or bike ride if you wish – we like heading down to the river, the old Glenbow Store (no longer open for business), or the lookouts on Yodel Loop. History buffs will enjoy learning about local history and viewing the old store, sheds and corrals. Picnic on the site of an old home with brick fireplaces and chimneys still intact (directly behind the park office). 

Know Before You Go: Check for trail closures as the park is still a working ranch and certain areas are periodically closed to the public.

Read more about Glenbow Ranch in our story: Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park – So Close to Calgary, So Much to Do!

Big Hill Springs Provincial Park

(August 2020 Update: Big Hills Springs Provincial Park is closed until Summer 2021).

Big Hill Springs is the perfect place to cool off on a hot day! Splash in the creek and little waterfall, then follow the trail markers around the short, forested loop. Please stay on the trail to preserve plant life; this popular area has been affected by trail braiding. 

  • Distance: 2.3 km
  • Geocaching: Yes
  • Stroller friendly? No
  • Driving distance from Calgary: 42 km

Troll Falls & Hay Meadow, Kananaskis

Troll Falls & Hay Meadow is a fun trail to do year round as the trail is flat and ends at a waterfall. I recommend making a loop with Hay Meadow, for views of the Kananaskis River and surrounding peaks; a nice change after the forested Troll Falls trail. In fall, expect to see volunteers  in Hay Meadow tracking the Golden Eagle Migration near the river.  In winter, wear ice cleats or snowshoes depending on trail conditions and use caution near the falls (there is risk of falling ice and rocks). 

  • Distance: 3.1 km
  • Geocaching: Yes
  • Stroller friendly? Yes, but the last 100 metres is very bumpy. Sports stroller recommended.
  • Driving distance from Calgary: 86 km

Going Further: On your way back, look for the Upper Falls trail marker and hike up the hill to beautiful Upper Falls (approximately 2 km round trip from Troll Falls). More info in Hiking Marmot Creek’s Waterfalls.

Alternate Route to Troll Falls: Instead of the usual forested trail, you can hike Stoney Trail to the junction. I call this “the sled route” because it’s easier to pull a sled or tow a Chariot here in winter. Read more in our story The Sled Route to Troll Falls

Bow Valley Provincial Park

Bow Valley Provincial Park has several short and beautiful interpretive trails (1-3 km round trip) to choose from. Start with a picnic at Middle Lake,then hike and geocache around the lake. Two other great short hikes in the park are Many Springs and Flowing Water Trail. For more information please read: Family Fun in Bow Valley Provincial Park

  • Distance: 1-3 km
  • Geocaching: Yes.
  • Stroller friendly? Montane, Middle Lake, and the paved Bow Valley bike path are doable with a sports stroller (be prepared for rooty sections), but Flowing Waters is not (has stairs and very narrow sections). Many Springs Trail is best done with a carrier as the boardwalk is sometimes flooded.
  • Driving distance from Calgary: 97 km 

Know Before You Go: There is an annual road closure west of Middle Lake from mid-October to April 30. (You can bike the road when it is closed, however, to access trails beyond the winter gate.)

Heart Creek, Bow Valley Wildlands

Children will enjoy hiking along Heart Creek as it passes over nine bridges and offers several opportunities to play in the creek. There is a small uphill section from the parking lot, but from there on the trail is fairly flat. Mid-summer is great for wildflower viewing (look for wood lilies!) and there is a pretty aspen grove near the beginning that blazes yellow in fall. A kid favorite on a hot day!

  • Distance: 4 km return
  • Geocaching: Yes
  • Stroller friendly? No
  • Driving distance from Calgary:  102 km

Bow Valley Bunker, Bow Valley Wildlands

Hike to large manmade caverns that were built during the Cold War to house sensitive documents. While the project was abandoned, the caverns remain. Note that the Bow Valley Bunker is located on an infrequent avalanche path, so you should not attempt this trail if there is snow on the mountain. For more information, read my story: The Bow Valley Bunker.

  • Distance: 3.8 km return
  • Geocaching: Yes
  • Stroller friendly? No
  • Driving distance from Calgary:  102 km

Grassi Lakes, Canmore

With two azure lakes and a waterfall, Grassi Lakes is one of the best short hikes in Canmore – and one of the busiest. Go midweek during the summer to avoid the crowds, or in the offseason. There is an “easy” and “more difficult” route to the lakes. The easy route is a forested, stroller-friendly, old road. The more difficult route passes a pretty waterfall, but has stairs, uneven terrain, and narrow sections. 

  • Distance: 3.8 km
  • Geocaching: Yes (our favorite cache is “The Small Cave” located just past the lakes)
  • Stroller friendly? Easy trail – yes. Difficult trail – no. 
  • Driving distance from Calgary:  108 km

For more information, please read our story: Hiking Grassi Lakes Trail, Canmore. Note: The “difficult” trail to Grassi Lakes is closed in winter conditions due to ice flows across the trail, but the easy trail is open year round.

Grotto Canyon

Grotto Canyon can be hiked year-round, but the best time of year is when the creek is frozen so you can check out the pictographs and ice falls! For more information on the ice walk (traction devices required), please read our story: Grotto Canyon Ice Walk.

  • Distance: 4.2 km round trip
  • Elevation Gain: ~100 metres
  • Trailhead: Grotto Lake Parking Lot (on Highway 1A)
  • Stroller Friendly? The regular trail is sports stroller friendly. For the ice walk, you can only take a stroller on the first 1.1 kilometres.
  • Driving distance from Calgary: 93 km
best short hikes near calgary on play outside guide
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What is your favorite short hike near Calgary?

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Playoutsidegal May 2, 2017 - 2:39 AM

We are truly lucky to have so many great choices! Which are your favorite short hikes south of Calgary?

Playoutsidegal May 2, 2017 - 2:38 AM

You're welcome!!! Enjoy! 🙂

stilltrekkin March 29, 2016 - 7:29 AM

If you want a longer hike, several of these routes can be combined into a morning and after lunch option. We are really lucky in this area. There are many more options that could be added to this list, like Brown Lowry and others. Enjoyed your picture So!

suelee March 27, 2016 - 1:41 PM


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