The first time I hiked Skoki Mountain in Banff National Park I was 17. I'll never forget the feeling of gravel tumbling beneath my boots. Gazing at the 360-degree view of bald-headed peaks, I knew I'd be a mountain girl for life.
True to that moment, hiking in the Canadian Rockies became my enduring passion. The choices are endless. Pick from paths braided beneath evergreens or above-tree-line scrambles. And take my advice – go with a guide.
The Swiss guides of the early 1900s ensured the success of many first ascents. The tradition continues. Hike with a certified guide from Canadian Rockies Hiking or a Mountain Heritage Guide to maximize your alpine experience.
Hiking guides complete four years of training, including wilderness first-aid. They safely connect us to the rich flora and fauna of the alpine. What I love the most is their intimate knowledge of the terrain. With a guide, it's never just head down and trudge up.
Hut to Hut with the Alpine Club of Canada
Canada's national mountaineering club is integral to Alberta's alpine history. Formed in 1906, it runs six huts in Alberta. Imagine a sky where stars burn bright and hikers and mountaineers share stories in front of a wood burning stove.
The Neil Colgan Hut at Valley of the Ten Peaks in Banff National Park is Canada's highest permanent habitable structure. Plan your climb over breakfast. I can vouch that pancakes taste better at 2,950 m (9,700 ft.) You can climb a number of peaks from here in a single day and come back for a coffee or lunch in between.
Sitting astride the continental divide, the Abbot Pass Hut was built in 1922 with stone brought in on horseback from Lake Louise and winched or carried up the pass. Talk about dramatic views. It might be the highest place you ever go – a place where hikers can rub shoulders with mountaineers who dare to go even higher.
Stone and Sky
Head to the wild lands of south Kananaskis and try Ptarmigan Cirque, a 4.4 km (2.7 mi) loop. Within the cirque's protective headwalls, you’ll feel like you’ve gone back a couple of eons. Fossils from a lost age decorate the rocks, ancient evidence of a time when this land formed the ocean floor.
Hiking enthusiast that I am, I'll take the detour above the loop for a longer hike into a microcosm of slate and ice. I adore this wild world where vegetation disappears and life is pushed to the edge, replaced with impassive stone, snow and sky.