The Outdoor Report's greatest hits from the past 10 years of hiking
The Calgary Eyeopener's Paul Karchut celebrates the last decade by choosing a few of his favourites
To celebrate 10 years of Outdoor Reports, I chose 10 — in no particular order — of my favourites.
It wasn't easy. Overall, I've done around 125 to 130 trips. Trying to choose 10 was like paring down a wedding list.
In the end, I just wanted to find something that was a nice range of experiences, coupled with a nice range of geographical reach. It was tricky though.
1) Akamina Ridge, Waterton Lakes National Park
It's a 20-kilometre ridge loop with great views and fantastic early summer wildflowers. It's closed right now, however, because of the wildfires. Here's hoping the fires spare this area, because it really is a treasure.
2) Mount Temple, Banff National Park
A grind of a day with more than 1,500 metres of elevation gain and some moderate scrambling, but so cool to get on top of a 3,500-metre peak on just a day trip. Beware the crowds at the Moraine Lake parking lot though, especially during larch season.
3) Mount Burstall, Kananaskis Country
This one is a full-on, technical scramble with some big exposure. Make sure you have lots of climbing/scrambling experience before attempting to do it — but the views of the French and Robertson Glaciers and the surrounding peaks are unreal.
4) Lake Oesa via Lake O'Hara
With the shuttle bus and the early bookings, it might be a pain to get into the Lake O'Hara area but, man, is it worth it. Lake Oesa is one of those damn-near spiritual places, complete with remarkable rock steps and masonry along the way by the legendary Lawrence Grassi.
5) Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Accessed either by Sunshine Meadows (more exciting but a shorter snow-free season) or Mount Shark in Kananaskis Country (a 25-kilometre access that many people turn into a multi-day backpacking trip), this park — its peaks, alpine lakes and stunning meadows — is eye-poppingly beautiful. Once you're there, you can either camp, stay in the basic — but comfortable — Naiset Huts or splurge on the plush Assiniboine Lodge. The back country in this area is also being affected by wildfires right now, so be sure that it's open before heading up
6) Caldron Lake, Icefields Parkway
Although it starts at the very busy Peyto Lake overlook, you leave the crowds behind quickly and the trail becomes pretty primitive. This is a 16-kilometre return trip with great vistas, waterfalls and glacier views along the way. Then the lake itself is a stunning example of a high alpine lake, too. There is some modest exposure just before you get to the lake, so make sure you know the route before you go.
7) The Whaleback, Cowboy Trail
This is a zone that is most used by horseback riders and hunters but it would also be a great place to go for a hike or mountain bike ride. It's sprawling, rolling terrain is the finest example of unspoiled foothills I've seen in Alberta. But since this is not park land, it is widely used for hunting in the fall, so it's best experienced earlier in the summer while the wildflowers are in full bloom.
8) Northover Ridge
A 33-kilometre grunt out to Kananaskis Lakes, up to Aster Lake, over Northover Ridge, down to Three Isle Lake and back to the car. Many people turn this into a two- or three-day circuit. We opted to travel light and do it in a day but it was a big one. The views, however, and the variety of terrain that you travel through make it one worth training for.
9) Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park
A little known park southeast of Red Deer. It's like Dinosaur Provincial Park but 50 years ago. There's fascinating Indigenous history, the hoodoos and coulees are beautiful and it's also a hot bed for dinosaur fossil discoveries — so don't be surprised if you run into a paleontologist digging for bones. There are no official trails in this park so you just forge your own path. But beware, it can get very hot in the middle of summer. Also, when it rains, the trails and access road become as slippery as a skating rink. Keep your eye on the forecast.
10) Bugaboo Provincial Park
It may be 45 kilometres down a bumpy logging road to get to —but it's worth it. Even from the parking lot, the glacial views are breathtaking. And whether you do the nine kilometre out-and-back trip to Conrad Kain hut, the much more ambitious 20-kilometre Cobalt Lake circuit that we did, or go to explore the world-renowned rock climbing, this is an area that doesn't disappoint. The Bugaboos are world famous among serious rock climbers as a sort of mecca. My expectations were high and they were still blown away.
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With files from The Calgary Eyeopener