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9 Of The Best Winter Hikes in Canada

9 Of The Best Winter Hikes in Canada

The winter solstice is behind us and winter has officially begun. You may think that the dawn of the darkest part of the year means our hiking days are now in hibernation, but they don’t have to be. Despite the shorter, colder days, and all that snow out there, you can still find quality hiking adventures.. Let’s discuss some of the best winter hikes in Canada.

1.Rawson Lake, Alberta

For the first 15 minutes of the hike to Rawson Lake, the trail is flat, following the shoreline of Upper Kananaskis Lake. Here, you’ll experience spectacular mountain views along an alpine lakeshore. Once you pass the Sarrail waterfall, however, the easy times are over; a 300-meter climb through a spruce forest awaits you. As the trail begins to level out again, you’ll know the lake isn’t far ahead.

The hike to Rawson Lake is 8 kilometers, with an elevation gain of 305 kilometers, and takes 3 to 5 hours round-trip. This hike will require snowshoes.

2.Troll Falls, Alberta

This easy, short hike begins at the Stone Trail parking lot. The trek offers evergreen forests and open aspens on a wide trail. Proceed onto a narrow trail that snakes along the left bank of Marmot Creek to witness debris from the 2013 floods. At the end of the trail, you will see the blue, u-shaped falls. For an other-worldly experience, take a look behind the falls; just make sure to wear proper crampons.

The trip to Troll Falls and back is about 3.4 kilometers and will take 1 to 2 hours.

3.Prairie Mountain, Alberta

If you want a decent workout, take a hike up Prairie Mountain. After arriving in the Elbow Falls parking lot, take the trailhead across from the lot, by the winter gates. This hike is steep for most of the ascent, making you feel more like a stair-climber than a hiker. The trail only moderates once you’ve almost reached the summit. Be prepared for wind and far-reaching mountain views at the top. Prairie Mountain is dog-friendly and open year-round, but crampons are strongly suggested for a winter hike.

4.Johnston Canyon, Alberta

Starting at the Johnston Canyon parking lot, located on the Bow Valley Parkway, you can choose from two short hikes to some of the most accessible waterfalls in Banff. In winter, use these as a great way to see frozen waterfalls without having to travel too far in the icy conditions. Strap on a pair of crampons and decide whether you want to make the 1.1-kilometer stroll to the Lower Falls or the longer 2.7 kilometers to the Upper Falls. 

Take a catwalk through the frozen canyon, marveling at the spectacular views. At Lower Falls, cross the bridge and traverse the tunnel to get up close and personal with the icefall. If you proceed towards Upper Falls, you will begin to gain elevation. At Upper Falls, you may see ice-climbers in action as well. The entire trip is 5.2 kilometers and will take 2 to 2.5 hours (to the Upper Falls).

5.Lake Agnes Tea House, Alberta

Beginning on the shores of Lake Louis near the Fairmont Chateau Hotel, the trail climbs uphill on a wide, switch-backed path for 3.6 kilometers. The trail is rated as moderate and takes most people between 1 and 2 hours. There is an elevation gain of 400 meters. Once you reach Lake Agnes, you will see the tea house, though sadly the business is closed between Canadian Thanksgiving and June 4th. Despite the lack of a hot drink provided, enjoy views of Lake Agnes’ alpine waters before heading back down the trail.

6.Nassagaweya Trail, Ontario

Located near Milton, not far from Toronto, this hike offers 14.4 kilometers of scenic views. Experience natural wonders such as cedars that are thousands of years old, sheer cliffs, caves, and glacial deposits. Take a chance at spotting snowy owls, chickadees, and a host of other wildlife.

Begin your hike at Rattlesnake Point and travel through forested areas until you reach Crawford Lake. The trail is an out-and-back.

7.The Crack, Ontario

In Killarney Provincial Park, you will find a 6-kilometer winter hike called The Crack. The out-and-back hike has steep areas and icy, exposed rock, so snowshoes, crampons, and trekking poles are recommended. Why is this trail called The Crack? Once you pass Kakakise Lake, cross a bridge, and ascend the elevation gain that awaits, you will see why. At the top of the trail, you will find a deep chasm encompassed by tall rock walls. A beautiful winter panorama will serve as another reward for reaching the end.

8.Barron Canyon Trail, Ontario

The Barron Canyon Trail runs along the north rim of the 100-meter deep Barron Canyon. The trail is located in the northeast corner of Algonquin Park and features gorgeous conifers and exposed rock cliffs. The trail does traverse the length of an unfenced cliff, so keep children close, pets leashed, and consider wearing crampons for added security.

9.Skyline Trail, Nova Scotia

Located along the famous Cabot Trail, a scenic drive in Nova Scotia, Skyline Trail is a 6.5-kilometer loop rated as easy. The trail is relatively flat, wandering along the coast. Don’t let the lack of elevation gain lead you to believe this trail is not worth your time; stunning views greet you at the end of the hike and you are quite likely to see moose. Try taking this hike near sunset to really up the “wow” factor. Allow 2 to 3 hours to complete this loop.

Winter Safety For Winter Hikes

Before you set off on an epic winter adventure, be sure to familiarize yourself with some basic winter safety.

  • Wear insulating layers that can be put on or removed as the weather and your body temperature change. Focus on lightweight and waterproof items.
  • Wear warm, waterproof winter hiking boots with a decent tread to accommodate slippery conditions. Make sure to have enough toe room for thick winter socks.
  • Hiking in the cold burns more calories: bring snacks.
  • Nightfall comes quicker in winter, don’t forget a flashlight or headlamp just in case.
  • Since we don’t feel as thirsty when the temperatures are lower, it’s easier to get dehydrated. Bring plenty of water and make sure you drink it.
  • Let someone know where you’re going, how long you expect your hike to take, and when you plan to be back. That way, if something goes wrong, someone knows where you are.

Photo by Gaurav Kukreti on Unsplash