The best short hikes in Kananaskis are only 2-6 kilometres round trip! If you missed the first installment, you can check it out here: The Best Short Hikes Near Calgary (<4 km return, 30-60 minutes from Calgary).
For detailed trip reports, click on the title links.
1. Flowing Water Trail, Bow Valley Provincial Park (2.4 km, minimal elevation gain) is a fun, short hike with stairs, boardwalk, wetlands, and river views. In early summer, there are tons of wildflowers too!
Picnic at Middle Lake Day Use and take a quick stroll to the other side of the lake for an awesome view of Yamnuska. There’s a camping store at Bow Valley Campground if you need a snack. Otherwise, Chiniki Village is a good spot to dine or pick up an ice cream bar or slurpee.
For more great, short hikes in this park, please see this post: Family Fun in Bow Valley Provincial Park.
|Flowing Water Trail|
|Flowing Water Trail|
2. Forget-Me-Not Pond, Little Elbow Provincial Recreation Area (2 km loop, no elevation gain) is a beautiful spot for a walk and picnic. Arrive early to get a picnic table with a fire pit as this day use area is extremely popular! The trail around the emerald green pond is Chariot friendly and super scenic. For the perfect day trip, stop at Elbow Falls on the way home, then get an ice cream in Bragg Creek.
Directions: Take the Little Elbow Campground turnoff from Hwy 66 then turn left at Forget-me-not Pond Day Use. Please note that there is a seasonal road closure from December 1-May 14 at Elbow Falls, but you can bike in when there isn’t snow on the road.
|Forget Me Not Pond|
3. Ptarmigan Cirque, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (5 km, 200 m elevation gain) begins at Highwood Pass, the highest paved pass in Canada. From this lofty height, you climb to a sculpted cirque (carved by glaciers), alpine meadows, and waterfalls. It’s our favorite short hike in Kananaskis followed closely by West Wind Pass! If the kids need a good job treat, pop in to the gas station at Fortress Junction. They have frozen treats and scoop ice cream with homemade waffle cones!
|Waterfall on Ptarmigan Cirque Trail|
4. West Wind Pass, Bow Valley Wildland Park (4.2 km, 380 m elevation gain) is the most challenging of these hikes, but if you take it slow and steady, it’s manageable with kids 4 & up. Enjoy views of Wind Tower and Rimwall on the ascent, and panoramic views from the pass. Wind Valley, Spray Valley and Spray Lakes are magnificent to behold. There are lots of fun rock outcroppings to climb too! Mountain Mercato, Harvest, and the Old School Bus are excellent places to refuel your bellies in Canmore.
|West Wind Pass|
|West Wind Pass|
5. Black Prince Cirque, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (4.5 km, 150 m elevation gain) is a less strenuous option and good choice when the winter gate is closed and you can’t access Ptarmigan Cirque. The first part of the hike is easy going on an old fire road, but becomes more interesting as you approach Warspite Lake. Look for Tree Rock and pikas living among the rocks. The little lake is lovely on a calm day when it acts like a mirror (except in fall when it becomes a puddle). Get a Japanese beef bowl at Moose Family Kitchen in Kananaskis Village on the way home or dine at Kananaskis Lodge.
|Black Prince Cirque|
6. Elbow Lake is a short, but steep hike that takes you to a pretty alpine lake. 2.6 km return, 150 m elevation gain. There’s a backcountry campground here (reservations required), lots of picnic tables, and fishing! If you’d like to explore further, carry on to Edworthy Falls or Rae Glacier.
For more information on things to do at Elbow Lake, read: Camping at Elbow Lake Backcountry Campground.
|Edworthy Falls – a great dayhike from Elbow Lake Backcountry Campground|
- The Best Short Hikes Near Calgary
- The Best Short Hikes in Banff – Part 1
- 10 Banff Day Trips to Do This Summer!
- The Path to Happy Hikers (how to make hiking fun for kids)
- Camping and Recreation Guide for Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
- Raising Nature Lovers and Little Scientists – embrace teachable moments!
- Family Fun in Bow Valley Provincial Park