You really haven't experienced world class hiking until you have hiked through the Canadian Rockies. Particularly, the Bow Valley between Banff and Lake Louise in Banff National Park, a short 90-minute drive from Calgary airport. There are well-groomed trails for people of every experience level, from novice day trippers to experienced mountaineers, but, there is one that stands out above the rest -- Mount Rundle.

Photo Credit: Richard Jones

Mount Rundle is the tallest point in all of Banff National Park, at just under 10,000 feet of elevation. It is a grueling 5,000 foot elevation gain to the summit, taking over 10 hours round-trip (so get started early!). Not appropriate for beginners, it is an intermediate level day-hike that only requires a good pair of hiking boots and walking sticks to deal with the steep, rocky, exposed slopes from the summit. It's peak bagging at it's finest.

The trail starts from behind the golf course of the famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, and almost immediately turns straight uphill through dense forest. After about two hours and a series of switchbacks, you will finally clear the tree line and get your first impressive view of the region. But, there is no rest for the weary, with another three hours of climbing over lose scree trails to the summit, endlessly uphill the entire way. For those of you that can deal with the seemingly endless scramble and altitude climb, you will be rewarded with absolutely stunning views of the Bow Valley, the distant Mount Assiniboine (one of the tallest peaks in Alberta at around 12,500 feet) and the town of Banff below. And, did I mention looking down the 5,000 foot drop-off over the far side of the summit!!??

When you get back down (fully spent after your full day of hiking), I highly recommend driving over to the Vermillion Lakes near Banff, to get a postcard-worthy shot of Mount Rundle, reflecting in all of its glory over the still waters. Quite a thrill to look back up to the summit and say, "hey, we were just all the way up there!"