The first time I hiked Skoki Mountain in Banff National Park I was 17. I'll never forget the feeling of scree 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 1900's 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 experience.
Hiking guides complete four years of training, including wilderness first-aid. They connect us to the rich flora and fauna of the alpine - safely. 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'm here to tell you that pancakes taste better at 9,700 feet! You can climb a number of peaks from here in a single day - come back for a coffee or lunch in between!
Sitting astride the continental divide, the Abbott Pass Hut was built in 1922 of 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 wildlands of south Kananaskis and try Ptarmigan Cirque, a 4.4 km (2.7 mi) loop. Within the cirque's protective headwalls I get the feeling I've gone back a few eons. Fossils from a lost age decorate the rocks, ancient evidence of a time when this land formed the ocean floor.
Hiking hound 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.
For more information, visit Yamnuska Mountain Adventures and the Alpine Club of Canada.