This post may help a beginning hiker get started in the enjoyment of wilderness adventure.
Recently, I was given the privilege of addressing a group of Suncor employees at their head office in downtown Calgary. The focus of my presentation was the process of beginning to hike. This post suggests an organized way to embrace the process of developing wilderness familiarity and skills. Although it is specific to the Calgary, Alberta area, an alternative for any hiking region could be similarly developed. Please reference topics below to find expanded information.
Calgary is blessed with an inner-city extensive pathway and bikeway system. There is information on The City of Calgary Parks website to access an electronic PDF version of the map, and locations to obtain a paper copy.
The Pathway Map includes spectacular areas like Fish Creek Provincial Park in the south and Nose Hill Park in the north. All communities and parks are interconnected to create pathway systems containing hundreds of kilometres/miles of easily accessible walking/hiking opportunity. There are excellent guide books for Calgary inner city hiking. They are available at a library or for purchase at several book stores. Two of the more popular guides are:
- Calgary's Best Hikes and Walks by Lori Beattie, and
- Calgary Parks and Pathways: A City's Treasures by Barry Bullick
The view of Asulkan Glacier from the Abbott Ridge Trail in Glacier National Park at Rogers Pass in British Columbia, Canada. An aggressive hike.
After some inner city experience and practise with appropriate footwear and layers of clothing, a reasonable next step might be to join some easy hikes within a group. Calgary is a mecca of organized hiking. Two of the most prominent, well established and popular are:
- The Calgary Outdoor Club or COC, and
- The University of Calgary Outdoor Centre
The hiking courses and group hikes at the University of Calgary are excellent and recommended. It is an excellent way to build knowledge and skills safely at reasonable cost. Pick up a free copy of their current season program at most grocery store newsstands. Another popular source for getting started in hiking may be found in a Meet Up group.
Outdoor and wilderness skills should be built gradually. Outside the City of Calgary, there are excellent hiking opportunities, within reasonable range, to the west of Calgary. Several distinct areas offer a wide variety of hiking opportunities. It would be sensible to choose shorter distance and/or lesser elevation hikes to begin with and gradually increase scope as experience, knowledge and skill develop. Many people are disillusioned near the beginning by being ill-equipped for volatile weather or by tackling projects far in excess of their ability. Slow and steady is the best approach. Be prepared for an unexpected change in weather. Some of my posts, which may be helpful at the beginning, are in the Introductory Series. The links following will reference information which may be useful for getting a start in hiking. These include:
- Backpack Selection
- Backpack Contents
- Hiking Poles
- How to Tie Hiking Boots
- The Sherpa Step
- Finding a Hiking Partner and
- Selecting a Hike
Some of the more popular hiking areas near Calgary are:
- Sibbald Area - Jumpingpound Note: On the drive west from Calgary, there is a sign for Jumpingpound Road. This is not it. Continue west to Sibbald Creek Trail South (Hwy 68). This is it. Follow the signs.
- Bow Valley Provincial Park
- Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park
- Kananaskis Country
- Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
- Spray Lakes Provincial Park
- Banff National Park
- Yoho National Park
- Kootenay National Park and
There are categories in the right hand margin of this blog for each of the hiking areas listed above. Click on the area you wish to investigate for a selection of hikes in that area.
My post 10 Easy Hikes near Calgary may be helpful in getting off to a good start.
On the home page of my Hiking with Barry blog, categories are listed in the right hand margin. Selecting 'Easy' will list hikes more suitable to beginners.
Happy Trails and Stay Safe.
For those who will include children on your hikes, an excellent beginning reference is: Take a Hike with Your Children in the Canadian Rockies by Lynda Pianosi. There are a number of very good websites for hiking with children in Southern Alberta.
Hiking opportunities are virtually endless. If you wish to accumulate anything in life, I recommend it be memories. Many of the hikes you may choose to do will provide indelible, lifelong memories. And, it is very good for your physical and mental well being.
In 1998, I was in terrible, self-imposed, physical condition. My concern was the ability to honor the millennium objective to hike across the Grand Canyon from south to north with my son. It was an objective we had settled on many years prior. At 101.4 kilograms (223 pounds) with a 42 inch waist, I was a walking heart attack. The reservations at Phantom Ranch were confirmed for September, 2000. It would be my fourth trip to the Grand Canyon. For my son, it was his first and there is no way I was going to let him down.
Two years of training began, including diet, swimming, weight training, treadmill and cycling, both stationary and traditional. My long-time friend, Ken, offered to walk with me and we set our objective as walking the entire City of Calgary Pathway System without the slightest idea of what we were getting ourselves into. We began in Fish Creek Park and walked a flat, 2 KM (1 - 1/4 miles). Each Sunday, every season, for the next 2 years, Ken and I would walk a bit farther from where we had previously finished, from one parking area to the next. Often we were hiking 10+ KM (6.3+ miles) in each outing. It was an amazing experience. Neither of us could possibly have imagined the unexpected sights we would see.
There are hundreds of natural alcoves within the City of Calgary where it is difficult to realize they are concealed within urban surroundings. Flat easy walks are mixed with more challenging areas of minor or occasionally aggressive elevation gain and loss. It was an amazing experience I always recommend to anyone. Set a goal and get it done. I was able to reduce my weight to 84 kg (185 lbs.) and my son and I achieved our life-altering goal of hiking across the Grand Canyon in September of 2000. Indelible, life-long memories. Happy trails and stay safe. I fully expect to cross paths with a few of the Suncor 'lunch and learn' participants. Thanks for taking the time.
"Collect experiences, not things: for that is what will truly nourish you" Grey Wolf.
An Adventure Muse from Summit Stones and Adventure Musings by DSD