Adventurous day hike in Alberta – Vision Quest

If you’re looking for a short hike with amazing views then Vision Quest out by Nordegg is one we would highly recommend. It’s a fairly short hike as the full trip is just over 6km but the uphill makes it an absolute battle the whole way up!

There aren’t many flat parts on this hike which can make it quite difficult but you’ll be rewarded with the most breathtaking views at the top. Luckily, the whole way up you are never really in any dense bush or forest so whenever you take a break, you will be able to enjoy the views of Abraham Lake the entire way to the top.

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After about 30-45 minutes of hiking (depending on your level of fitness), you will be able to see what looks like the summit. This actually isn’t the summit but what is called “the false summit”.

You won’t be able to see the real summit till you’re almost at the fake summit but once you get to that part of the hike the real summit isn’t far at all.

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Right near the false summit, you will see a red ribbon on a tree. From there you just keep continuing up along the ridgeline until you find the summit register (little metal box) which is essentially the “false summit”. 

Vision Quest is an adventurous day hike in Alberta

Many people choose to stop at the false summit (including Jo), but if you are an experienced hiker/scrambler (like Dom) you can continue up the buckle which will give you a fantastic panoramic view over Abraham Lake. We do not recommend going up unless you truly are an experienced hiker and feel confident in your abilities!

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Even if you don’t make it to the real summit the views from the ridgeline are amazing and totally worth all the pain it takes to get there. Abraham Lake is just so unique, and seeing it from above is an amazing experience! All of our pictures from this blog post are from the fake summit.

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If you’re looking for hikes in the Kananaskis area you might want to try outChester Lake Trail or Wasootch Ridge!

Practical information about Vision Quest

Distance: 6.3 km return / 3.9 miles return
Elevation: 851 m / 2792 ft. elevation gain
Type: Out and back
Length: 4-6 hours return
Difficulty: Hard (!) 
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Here’s a map of the beginning of the trail

Here’s a picture of the beginning of the trail

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As we mentioned before, Vision Quest is not an easy hike. Even though it is only a 6 km hike return, it is a highly inclined hike to the summit. Back down is likewise very steep, which can be very hard on your knees. So be prepared to get your butt kicked and be exhtausted by the time you finish. And for a few days after.

The route up is pretty straight forward as you’ll see the fake summit early on in the hike and there aren’t many misleading paths. There are a few pink ribbons along the path so just look out for those and you’ll be fine.

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On the way down just make sure to stay left with Abraham Lake in sight and you will easily find your way back down. Remember to check the weather forecast before heading out. It makes your trip so much easier and safer when you’re prepared.

How to get there

From Calgary

There are two options from Calgary but we definitely recommend the first one as it is a much more beautiful drive. Choose one of the following options:

Option 1) Take Highway 1 west from Calgary all the way to Lake Louise, from there you will turn off right to Highway 93 (Icefield Parkway) and you will continue until you get to Saskatchewan River Crossing and turn right again onto David Thompson Highway.

Eventually, you will start seeing Lake Abraham on your left-hand side which will mean the turn off to the left for Vision Quest is not too far away.

Option 2) Take Highway 2 north towards Red Deer and follow the rest of the trip from there (see below).
Both trips take approximately 3:30.

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From Red Deer

Take Highway 11 west from Red Deer until you pass Nordegg and start to see Abraham Lake. From there you will continue until you see the waste station where you will turn right for Vision Quest.
The drive takes approximately 2:30.

From Edmonton

Take Highway 2 south from Edmonton down towards Red Deer. From there you will turn off right on Highway 11 west and continue the same way as you do from Red Deer.

Another option is to take Highway 12 west, turn south on Highway 22, and from there turn right on Highway 11 west.
The drive takes approximately 3:20.

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Before you go

The first thing you should do before you go is to check if the trail is open and if there are any warnings on it. We actually spoke with someone who saw cougar tracks on Vision Quest last year. So it’s definitely worth checking the trail updates beforehand. You definitely don’t want to run into a cougar if you can avoid it!

We would also recommend you to tell someone about your plans, just in case something were to happen. Make sure they know you’re doing Vision Quest, how long it will take, and what other plans you might have. Better safe than sorry! Especially since there may be no reception while you’re out on the hike.

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You can check the recent comments about Vision Quest trail out here. If people see wildlife on the path they will likely put an update in the comment section. In case the trail is closed, you can find other hikes nearby right here.

What to bring

Vision Quest is a tough hike so try to bring enough of what you need and limit what you don’t need. Jo brought two sweaters and it was totally unnecessary since it was 25 degrees Celsius and the trail is very open (which means NO SHADE) and only has a small section through trees.

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So bring:

  • Lots of water! We brought 1.5 liters each and that definitely wasn’t enough.
  • Food.
  • Sunscreen if it’s sunny out! 
  • Bear spray. And make sure you know how to use it!
  • Warm clothes if it’s cold! Remember that the weather can change quickly.
  • A music player (to keep bears and other wildlife away).
  • Walking sticks might also be a good idea (they could save your knees).
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Other useful info

  • You can go camping on the hike. There are two campsites which are already set up about 1/3rd of the way up the hike.
  • It’s also possible to go camping near Abraham Lake.

We hope you enjoy this hike as much as we did! Enjoy and stay safe out there!

Where was the last hike you went on? Let us know in the comment section below!

Have fun!

Dom & Jo

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39 thoughts on “Adventurous day hike in Alberta – Vision Quest

  1. Wow! These photos are unreal. You make me want to book a flight back there. Thank you so much for all of this information. I wish I did more hiking when I went, but since I was with my family who doesn’t like to hike, I need to go back and do what you guys are doing! So amazing!

    1. Thank you, Taylor! You totally should 🙂 if you enjoy hiking and you come back within the next year or so, Dom and I will take you to our favorite hikes and show you some breathtaking views!
      – Jo

    1. That’s so exciting for you, Amaya! By that time we’ll have A LOT more posts with hikes, tips, and tricks for visiting both Alberta and BC so make sure to follow along. Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂
      – Jo & Dom

    1. That’s awesome! 🙂 If you ever want to go on a hike with a group of people feel free to message us!
      – Dom

  2. Those views! OMG
    This looks like a super tough trail. The thought of a false summit without knowing in advance would be one heck of a let down on such a challenging hike.

    1. Haha yes! Thankfully we read about the fake summit first. The hike was super hard so Jo decided to stop at the fake summit while Dom conquered the mountain! Worth the pain though 😉
      – Jo & Dom

    1. Hey Marcos,
      We’ve been moving more to guides to prepare people for the hikes they’re about to go on! I hope it helps you and many more!
      – Dom

    1. Canada is definitely an amazing place to tour. It’s so vast you can see so many different landscapes and especially if you like the outdoors then it’s a must!
      – Jo

    1. Hey Hacky,

      There’s always room for more people on the mountain! Feel free to join us next time! 😉
      – Dom

  3. The scenery is just so captivating, regardless of my fitness level I would rely like to go on that hike. Like you said even if I don’t make it all the way I will still get a piece of the beauty.

    1. If you have all day it should definitely be doable! You might have sore legs and knees the day after but the view is so worth it! 🙂 And yes, even after 30 minutes we had breathtaking views!
      – Jo

    1. Hi Jenn! Yes, it’s probably better to do once they’re a little older. I did read that someone took her young kids on it and that they were fine but personally I would probably wait till they were in their teens / maybe a few years before that 🙂 Happy hiking!
      – Jo

    1. Toronto looks like such a cool city! It would be perfect if Toronto had the mountain views too though 🙂 But you can always just fly out west if you need to!
      – Jo

    1. Fair enough! There are loads of other ways to enjoy beautiful views like this 🙂 for example the Gondola in Lake Louise!
      – Jo

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