The days are getting longer and we're enjoying warm sunny days in the mountains. Even though it will be a long while before the Alpine hikes are ready to hike snow free some of our favourite early season hikes are ready to enjoy now.
The trails are packed down enough that you don't need snowshoes but that icy shine means I highly recommend wearing trail spikes for all of these hikes to keep you upright. I've seen people hiking without ice spikes and they are busy spending time looking at the ground or scooting down on their butts that they are missing out on a leisurely hike. I've heard of a few visits to the hospital with broken wrists and shoulders that could of easily been avoided by investing in and wearing ice spikes.
There are a lot of options right now for trail spikes. I've been loving these Kahtoola nano spikes which are perfect for icy trails I picked up at Switching Gear in Canmore. They fit over my Sorel boots and my hiking shoes really nicely and don't require any adjustments along the hike which I love. The placement of the spikes gives me great grip on packed trails. I chose blue because I love colour but they sell all black pairs as well that are really subtle. They come with a little tote bag so you can easily pack them along. In Banff you can find options for ice spikes at Monod's and Atmosphere.
Johnston Canyon in winter is absolutely stunning! The trails are packed and get icy pretty often so pack ice spikes for the best experience. Located about a 45 minute drive outside of Banff this beautiful walk is even more photogenic with frozen waterfalls along the way.
Grassi Lakes in Canmore is a beautiful hike where you are rewarded with gem coloured pools and views overlooking Canmore at the top. I've seen a lot of people attempt to hike this without ice cleats and they look terrified trying to make their way down the steep trails on the way home.
Sundance Canyon in Banff is a perfect early spring hike if you come prepared with ice spikes. You start from the Cave & Basin and walk up a wide pathway that is groomed with cross country ski tracks on two sides. Once you reach the end of the pathway you are entering the canyon which has a beautiful loop that brings you back to the pathway. We found a couple of sketchy icy parts as you get near the bridge that overlooks the canyon but otherwise the trail was beautifully packed. If you time this hike for when the snow has melted and before it gets too hot you might be lucky to see the fields of tiny orchids in the forest.
As we got close to the bridge that overlooks the canyon I switched out to my Yaktrak Extreme ice cleats for better traction. They work better on hard packed snow and ice. I bought mine at Atmosphere in Banff.
Tunnel Mountain in Banff takes about 45 minutes to reach the top where you are rewarded with stunning views. This is a hike that a lot of locals do daily to keep in shape and the views keep it motivating. Because it is a well used trail expect packed icy parts on the trail and wear ice cleats.
Sulphur Mountain is a series of switchbacks that lead to the Banff Gondola terminal up top where you can enjoy the views, grab some lunch and enjoy a gondola ride down. Generally speaking give yourself 2 hours to reach the top. A lot of locals love this hike to get in shape for summer hiking.