What a Guided Hike With Active by Nature Is Like
Guided hikes with Active by Nature are conducted at a leisurely pace. We make multiple stops to admire the scenery, using the senses of sight, sound and smell plus we stop often to take photos. I tell lots of stories. Including breaks, we will average about 2 - 3 km per hour. If your idea of a hike is to get a great fitness workout and perhaps set a personal best time, an Active by Nature hike is not for you. We go at the pace of the slowest in the group and we always stick together. Presently, the maximum group size is limited to six, unless there is a large cohort that wishes to hike together. Rest assured that I have travelled these trails many times and none of them involve scrambling (using your hands and feet to scale steep, rocky terrain) or exposure to steep drop-offs. In order to make the decision of deciding which Active by Nature hike you would like to do, the slate of hikes presently offered has been ranked according to difficulty in the next section.
A Ranking Of Active by Nature Hikes From Easiest to More Difficult
(1) Grassi Lakes (CLOSED BY ALBERTA PARKS FOR THE 2022 SEASON: Year Round): This is the easiest of the Active by Nature guided hikes. Even so, it is not flat. There is over 125 metres of elevation gain. There is an easier trail to Grassi Lakes with a very gradual incline and a more difficult route (not available in the winter time) that involves a steep stair-climbing section. Usually, we go up the more difficult route to see the Grassi Lakes waterfall and come down the gradual route. I feel it is much easier to go up steep terrain than come down it. In the winter, we go both directions on the easier route. Distance: 4 km. Time: Approximately 2 hours
(2) Hogarth Lakes Winter Hike/Snowshoe (Winter Only): The terrain is virtually flat and avalanche free, through forest, beside a creek, skirting two small lakes. If there has been a recent snowfall, then the difficulty is considerably more. However, this popular winter trail gets quickly packed down after a snow dump. Distance: 4 km. Time: Approximately 2 hours
(2) Troll Falls (Year Round): The trail to lower Troll Falls is virtually flat. But we go on from there to view several other waterfalls, turning around at Upper Troll Falls. Although there is a bit of elevation gain and some steep sections and stairs to negotiate, we take our time and make many stops to view the scenery on this popular, beautiful little hike. Distance: Approximately 5 km. Time: Approximately 2 hours.
(3) High Rockies Trail From Goat Creek Trailhead (CLOSED BY ALBERTA PARKS FOR THE 2022 SEASON: Winter Only): This is a very short trail, but one that will give you a taste of the wilderness. It will take you as far as the "side door entrance" to Banff National Park before we access the High Rockies Trail and descend down to pretty little Goat Creek. There are two somewhat steep hills to negotiate both on the way out and the way back. Still, this terrain is considered easy and avalanche-free. Distance: Approximately 4 km Time: Approximately 2 Hours
(4) Watridge Lake/Karst Springs (Year-Round): It takes about one hour to get to Wateridge Lake along a mostly flat, avalanche free and very easy to negotiate trail. From Watridge Lake, the trail steepens considerably. But similar to Troll Falls, there are many places to stop along the way to admire the cascading creek and take photos before we turn around at the Karst spring and re-trace our steps. Distance: 10 km. Time: Between 3 and 4 hours.
(5) Chester Lake (Year-Round): At 11 km in length, this is one of Active by Nature's longer hikes. The elevation gain on this hike is right from the start of the trail, as it winds its way gradually up an old forestry road. By the time we reach the spectacular alpine meadow, the trail flattens out. 300 metres of elevation gain. Time: Approximately 4 hours
(6) Mountain Vistas (Spring, Summer, Fall): The exact location of this trail is not disclosed. It is a less busy trail that has not been excessively exposed through social media and we would like to keep it that way. It is a wildlife rich environment that kicks you up into an alpine meadow relatively easily and quickly. At ll km in length, with 400 metres of elevation gain, it is similar to Chester Lake, but you definitely notice it is steeper. Time: Approximately 5 hours
(7) The Ha Ling Half (CLOSED BY ALBERTA PARKS FOR THE 2022 SEASON: Year-Round, depending on avalanche conditions): At 6 km, this is a relatively short hike, but it is never flat. It is continously steep, rising approximately 450 metres. By comparison, the full Ha Ling hike to the saddle is only about another kilometre in length, but another gruelling, almost 360 metres in elevation gain over 500 metres. So this little hike is well over half the total distance to the saddle (more like 6/7's!), but it is a little over half of the elevation gain. The Ha Ling Half does get you to a fabulous lookout and gives you a good idea of what the trail is like, possibly inspiring you to come back and do the Ha Ling hike to the saddle. Although a lot shorter hike than Mountain Vistas, I have rated this one as slightly more difficult because the elevation gain is greater over a shorter distance, meaning.... steeper. I believe most people find it easier to do more distance than more elevation gain. Time: Approximately 3 hours
(8) Burstall Pass (Summer, Fall): At 15 km, plus a little bit of added distance exploring the pass, this is the longest hike Active by Nature offers. It is a full day hike and it requires a good level of hiking fitness. I recommend people having done a few hikes of 10 km or more in the hiking season before tackling this hike. It also has a healthy amount of elevation gain: 470 metres. But it is worth every bit of effort to get there! Time: Approximately 7 hours.
(9) Ha Ling Trail to the Saddle (CLOSED BY ALBERTA PARKS FOR THE 2022 SEASON: Year-Round, depending on avalanche conditions): At 7.2 kms and 810 metres of elevation gain, I rate this as Active by Nature's most challenging hike. When people ask me what this is like, I say imagine going to the gym and spending 4 hours on the stair-climber machine. Although half of this 4 hours is going downhill, that is hard, if not harder than going uphill, depending on the state of you knee and hip joints. It is never flat. But oh.... those views! Again, it is so worth the effort. Four hours on the stair-climber machine does not at all compare with the sense of joy, wonder, exhileration or sense of accomplishment you will get from completing this hike on a well-defined and well-engineered trail. Did I mention the jaw-dropping views? Time: Approximately 4 - 5 hours. Note: This hike does not go all the way to the very summit, as that becomes a scramble on loose rock and more challenging terrain. It is another 400 metres in distance and 103 metres in elevation gain.
Your Safety Is Top Priority
Every Active by Nature hike is led by me, Mandy Johnson. In addition to a degree in physical education and a certificate in adult education, I have completed the Ontario Hike Leader Course, the Outdoor Council of Canada Field Leader 1 (hiking) course, the Interpretive Guide Association's Apprentice Interpreter course and Four Season Group Management Course. I have current Wilderness First Aid Certification (40 hour) and I have completed the Avalanche Safety Training Level 1 course. On every Active by Nature hike, I carry a first-aid kit, bear spray, emergency ZOLEO communicator, map and all the other essentials a well equipped day pack contains. All Active by Nature hikes are conducted on designated Alberta Parks trails. I check the trail conditions before we go and last minute trail changes may be made if adverse conditions or closures are reported.
I ask that my guests ensure their personal safety by reviewing the Get Active Questionnaire, discussing it with their doctor or qualified health professional if appropriate. I require guests to wear the appropriate footwear - hiking shoes or boots in good condition, with good traction. Sandals are not permitted. If someone arrived with only sandals, we will have to change to a more suitable trail and potentially miss out on a fantastic hike. A well equipped day pack is also a necessity and it should contain:
As For Bears.....
Canmore and Kananaskis is bear country, home to both black bears and grizzly bears. A bear can be spotted at any time in and around Canmore and Kananaskis, even on popular and very busy trails. Many people are concerned about bear encounters. Dangeous encounters with bears are very rare. They are usually the result of humans approaching too close to a bear either by accident or intent:
To avoid encounters with bears, I take the following steps:
While hiking with guests, I keep a close eye out for signs of bear activity, like fresh scat (poop) or tracks. If a lot of activity is spotted or a bear is spotted nearby, we will find some other place to hike.
As for other animals, they can be of greater danger to hikers, especially animals protecting their young or males during the rutting season. We avoid coming close to any animals, observing them from a safe distance and we never feed any animals, even the cute little squirrels, chipmunks and birds. But seeing wildlife, at a safe distance, on a hike is definitely a highlight and a privilege, should it occur.
If you are considering a guided hike with Active by Nature, please take a look at the most recent customer reports from various sources (Google, Facebook, Trip Advisor, etc.) found on the bottom of this website's home page. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me directly via the contact form also on the website. I hope to see you soon for an unbelievable Rocky Mountain experience being active, by nature.
What to wear & bring (Spring, Summer, Fall):
What to wear & bring (Winter):
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Parking is available on-street or in public lots throughout Canmore. It is a good idea to arrive early on busy days to locate suitable parking.
Restrooms are available at the Malcolm hotel in the lobby.
Public restrooms are available within a short walk:
Public pit toilets are available at all trailheads.
Where to meet:
Starting locations will vary seasonally with instructions included in your booking confirmation.
Parking options will vary by location with details included in your booking confirmation.