By Ava Zardynezhad, August 4 2022—
After living away from Southern Alberta for the first time over the past year, I decided that I was going to spend my entire summer in the mountains to make up for it. Unfortunately, my lack of physical fitness, Alberta’s “summer” weather and the gas prices put a real damper on my plans. But, I did incentivize myself to get out of town a few times over the summer with the promise of wildflowers. So, I thought I’d share some really nice wildflower hiking trails with you, in case they inspire you to also get out in the mountains.
Fullerton Loop Trail
Fullerton Loop is a beautiful and quiet trail in the Elbow River Provincial Recreation Area and the closest one out of this list to the city of Calgary. This trail starts right across from the Allen Bill Pond Day Use area and is incredibly well-marked. There’s quite a few streams and creeks along the way, so expect quite a humid hike. The trail is a 6.9 kilometer, circular loop with an elevation of 239 meters that branches off Elbow Trail and is only used for hiking and snowshoeing. There’s a variety of flowers along the ridge and the valley that surround this trail. This is also a fantastic place for wildlife spotting. Since this is humid and a pollinator-friendly trail, I would definitely recommend taking lots of bug spray with you, as the mosquitos are huge and relentless.
Stoney Hiking Trail
Stoney is quite a long hiking trail, with the trailhead located just to the north of Barrier Lake. This trail is located a bit further from Calgary, but it holds much opportunity for a choose-your-own-adventure sort of hiking trip. From this trail you can access Troll Falls, Jewell Pass and — if you’re up for a bit more walking — Yates Mountain. The trail is pretty well-marked, so whichever way you decide to go, the chances of getting lost are lower. The terrain varies quite a bit depending on how far you tread, but regardless, you’ll get to see all sorts of wonderful wildflowers and a beautiful view of Barrier Lake.
King Creek Ridge Trail
King Creek Ridge Trail is located further from Calgary in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. You can experience this trail both as an out and back route or a loop. This trail is about seven kilometers long and gains around 780 meters of altitude. This hike is a bit more difficult than the previous two. The trail isn’t the greatest for the first few kilometers and you might start out hating yourselves and curse me for recommending it, but once you get to the ridge, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view and lots of precious and unique wildflowers. This is a hike I would recommend taking with hiking poles.
Mount Lipsett Trail
Mount Lipsett might be the most popular wildflower hike area on this list. This trail is a 13.7 kilometer out and back route with an elevation gain of 700 meters, located in Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park — and is also quite further from the city. Mount Lipsett trail is pretty easy to follow. There might be some muddy spots to watch out for. Do be sure to take some bear spray with you as this area is known to be populated with its fair share of grizzly bears. The wildflowers along this hike are absolutely beautiful and so diverse.
Ptarmigan Cirque Trail
Ptarmigan Cirque is also another popular wildflower hiking spot in the Peter Lougheed area — a few kilometers further than King Creek Ridge. This is a less difficult trail than the couple before it — a 3.5 kilometer loop with an elevation of 258 meters. This is also a prime bear hangout spot, so don’t forget your bear spray. There’s a bit of an uphill hike, but once you get to the landing at the top, you’re greeted with a great meadow of tall grass and wildflowers. This hike also has the added bonus of a waterfall along the way.
These hikes are all located in the Kananaskis Country, so be sure to purchase a conservation pass before you drive out. Please be sure that you’re taking all the necessities with you, including but not limited to a first aid kit, bear spray, sunscreen, appropriate clothing and antihistamines — if you’re mildly allergic to, but achingly in love with wildflowers. Also, be sure to take all the necessary safety precautions when you prepare for a hike this summer. The conditions of these trails might change due to conservation, wildfires, winds and floods, so it’s best to check the conditions of the trail before you head out. Happy trails!