Are you looking to get outside and explore all the Edmonton has to offer? In this post we feature some of the most popular hiking clubs in Edmonton, ideal for adventurers of all ages and stages. These hiking clubs run trips throughout the Rockies, and many of them also do other great activities.

You may think hiking is just for the warm summer months, but an increasing number of clubs are starting to do more winter trips, either with micro-spikes, snowshoes or skis.

Edmonton offers a wide variety of exceptional hiking clubs. Whether you enjoy a tight-knit group with just a few hundred members or a larger club that offers a huge selection of activities besides just outdoor exploration. Get ready to get out there and explore the exceptional natural beauty – Jasper, Canmore, Banff, the Kananaskis and much more!

What kind of benefits does joining a hiking club entail? So, hopefully this article can inspire you to send that e-mail, make an account on Meetup, or RVSP to that event. Here’s our short list on why you should join a group:

  • Hiking in numbers is much safer. If something goes wrong, there’s more people there to help.
  • Groups can be a lot of fun! There’s quite a few groups who plan social nights outside of adventures, or some groups will plan on having a hike followed by a potluck dinner. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded people who share a love for the outdoors!
  • For new hikers, a group is perfect to try new things. You might never have been snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing. An outdoors group helps you take that first step, often having intro-trips or easy trips at the start of the season to acclimatize new members.
  • Groups keep you motivated. If your long-term goal is to get out and active once a week (just as an example), the trick is to build the routine. A club can motivate you to start and keep you going week after week!

Hiking Clubs keep you motivated, safe, and are a fun way to get to know new people. Edmonton’s popular hiking clubs are the perfect way to reap the benefits if exploring in groups!

Here are three popular clubs in Edmonton. Consider joining one and spending more time outdoors this winter!

Edmonton – Alpine Club of Canada’s (ACC) Edmonton Chapter

Based in: Edmonton
Founded: 1906
Activities per month in Winter: 23
Members: 1,240
Event Coordinators: ~40
Membership Fee: $55
Webite: https://accedmonton.ca/

The official sections of the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) are a kind of gold standard for people looking to get up into the mountains. The ACC offers lots of different trips throughout the year, mostly more challenging trips, however they do offer basic hiking and snowshoeing adventures as well.

Their winter lineup has lots of ice climbing and skiing. They have social nights like many clubs but the trips they do have typically include more member involvement. Being part of the ACC means they plan their trips around the various ACC Huts in the mountains. For example, a ski trip might involve skiing into a mountain hut, staying there while exploring around the hut, then skiing back to the trailhead a day later.

As Craig Hartmetz, the chair of the executive board of the Edmonton ACC, puts it, “We’re the go-to organization for people who want to get in the mountains in a self-propelled way.” The ACC’s long-standing base of alpine huts really makes it unique. Craig joined when he was just twelve. While on family day hikes, he would look up at the mountains and the areas off the sections of the trail and he always knew he wanted to go and explore them. “My dad knew about the Alpine Club because he had done something with them through the Boy Scouts when he was a kid, so he signed us up for an intro course at the Edmonton section and I started there”.

Where do the activities take place?

“Usually our activities are whatever is in striking distance of Edmonton” says Craig. They have a ski trip planned to Elk Lake Cabin for example. “We have a bunch of urban activities in the week, and on the weekend our trips are generally out to the eastern slope of The Rockies”

How do you sign up?

“All our membership goes through the Canmore office,” says Craig. People can sign up online too, and it typically is the easiest option. Being a large, nation-wide club means their website is very easy to use and has some features you wouldn’t find elsewhere, such as people don’t have to choose just one section when they sign up. So, let’s say for example that someone spends time commuting between two cities – they can get a membership that lets them go to Edmonton and Calgary events.

What if you’re a newcomer?

“What we’re trying to do is develop a community of like-minded people,” said Craig. “So, a challenge with that is in order to participate on club trips to the mountains or go on a climbing trip, people need a certain level of skill to participate.” Because of this they created intro programs in which beginners are encouraged to join before coming on their trips. They regularly have bootcamps and beginner courses that introduce people to summer mountaineering, winter ski touring and ice climbing. “It’s the biggest way that people get into the club,” says Craig.

“We help set up equipment rentals, we have some classroom sessions in town to go over what we’re doing, and then we take people out to the mountains on the weekend and we help figure them out. By putting it all in one place and making it really accessible we find we get a lot of people who are really interested and then we get a lot of people who are kicking around afterwards.”

All this time and energy devoted to newcomers works out well for everyone. “A lot of people have gone through a transformation as to what they’re able to do in the mountains.” If you are really timid about starting, Craig mentioned that their urban events are a great way to start getting active.

What if you’re experienced and want to be a Coordinator?

If you want to organize a hike Craig says their criteria isn’t too strict. “You’re just going out like you would with a group of friends,” he added. Usually someone has been to at least a handful of events before they decided to organize a hike. “In contrast,” said Craig, “we offer a lot of programming that has some instructional components to it and when someone is instructing our members how to ice climb or ski tour then we ask a lot more of them.”

So why should you pick the Edmonton ACC?

“If you’ve ever wanted to try something wild in the mountains then the alpine club is totally your thing,” shared Craig. “If you were ever like I was—day hiking in the mountains, thinking ‘man I want to go to the top of that peak’ then the ACC is totally your thing. If you ever wanted to push your abilities one way or another in the mountains, we’re your thing.”

Edmonton – Grant MacEwan Mountain Club (GMMC)

Based in: Edmonton
Founded: 1979
Activities per month in Winter: 12-16
Members: ~500
Event Coordinators: Many
Membership Fee: $40/year
Webite: https://sites.google.com/gmmc.ca/home/

Up at Rogan's gully with GMMC
Up at Rogan's gully with GMMC

The GMMC is not affiliated with the University in Edmonton. That’s their number one FAQ. They just both happen to be named after the same guy “the Honourable J.W. Grant MacEwan, a former Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, in recognition of his deep regard for the wilderness of Alberta” as it says on their website. We were fortunate enough to talk with both the President, Thor Johannesson, and the Vice President, Paul Regehr.

We asked them how they describe GMMC. Thor summed it up by saying they “are a community of members passionate about the adventure offered by the mountains, and passionate about sharing this experience with others.” They like climbing, hiking, mountaineering, scrambling, backpacking, mountain biking, skiing and snowshoeing. Thor made sure to add that they are, “a safety-focused, inclusive group of people, that support our members with opportunities to save money at local retailers, access club gear, and grow as outdoors people via learning opportunities and leadership incentives.”

Where do the activities take place?

“It varies quite a bit,” said Paul, Vice-President of GMMC, “Jasper, Banff, Kananaskis. We end up doing a fair bit around the Canmore area. It isn’t much harder to go from one place to another.” GMMC plans a lot of great overnight trips throughout the year, which explains their ability to get trips all across the province.

How do you sign up?

Visit their website www.gmmc.ca, follow the link to their ‘new’ website which contains all the necessary information on how to become a member. They also hold monthly meetings as well if you want to get more info.

What if you’re a newcomer?

The GMMC does a lot to not only build up the skills of its members, but also the bond of its community. To start, Paul said they’ve held some, “theory nights in Edmonton, where new people can come in and basically learn how to pack your pack a bit lighter, what stoves to get, how to tie some knots.” The theory nights have made people a lot less intimidated to get out, especially on backpacking trips.

If there’s one piece of gear a member should consider before anything else, “boots would probably be the one big thing to have,” says Paul, “but for a lot of other more technical trips, we can supply gear if a newcomer wants to try it out. We do try as much as we can to make it easier for new people to try something.”

But, their best introductory event would have to be their annual summer kick-off called “The Owl, Prowl, and Howl”. “Each year we reserve the Owl Group campground, located just outside of Canmore AB,” explained Thor, “and we have 40-50 members get together for a variety of summer activities. During the day members break off into smaller groups to go hiking, climbing, or scrambling, and then reconvene in the evening to share stories around the campfire. This event is a great way for someone new to the club to meet a bunch of our members at once.”

Ice Climbing with GMMC
Ice Climbing with GMMC

What if you’re experienced and want to be a trip leader?

“To be a trip leader you need to have some competency in the type of trip you’re doing,” said Paul. “Typically, a more experienced trip leader will help mentor the newer leaders.” As a trip leader, you’ll organize the carpooling and accommodations, but you are not a guide: “We don’t expect our trip leaders to be professional guides or anything like that,” added Paul. Guidelines for trip leaders are on the website, if you have more questions.

So why should you pick the GMMC?

“If you are looking to learn and grow as an adventurer, then we are the club for you,” said Thor. One look at their calendar would prove that. They have large capacity ice climbing trips (18-20 people), a New Year’s trip where they’ve rented out the entire Athabasca Hostel, and their annual involvement in the Birkebeiner Ski Festival.

Paul added “I think the biggest thing is we are much more about building a community of people. It’s not just people meeting at the trail head and doing it.” And, this idea isn’t just talk. The second thing you’d notice about their calendar is that the GMMC hosts lots of social nights on top of their outdoor activities, giving chances for people to interact outside of the trails.

Edmonton – The Edmonton Outdoor Club (EOC)

Based in: Edmonton
Founded: 2006
Activities per month in Winter: 16
Members: 2500
Event Coordinators: 11
Membership Fee: $0
Website: http://www.edmontonoutdoorclub.com/

The EOC (Edmonton Outdoor Club) is one of Edmonton’s largest adventure clubs. We were able to chat with Mark Gibbons, the current president of the EOC.

Mark shared the interesting journey he took to join the club. “I didn’t even know I was looking for an outdoor community at the time,” said Mark during our interview. In February of 2007 Mark was looking for an activity to get him outdoors and he wanted to try out cross-country skiing. “One of the first things that popped up on google at the time was the club and a beginner’s cross-country ski event they were holding that week,” he said. Mark has since found that this is commonly how people get involved: looking for a specific event on google and then enjoying the atmosphere and coming out to more and more events.

Mark defines the club as, “a community-minded volunteer organization. We differentiate ourselves by having that community/club atmosphere. We’re a good venue for people to get outdoors”. It’s a diverse group at EOC. “We get people from all walks of life to come out,” Mark shared. “Whether it’s lifetime Edmontonians, students who are new to Edmonton or people from other countries who just moved here and want to enjoy the incredible Canadian outdoors, we have great diversity in our club”.

Where do the activities take place?

EOC is unique because they do a fair amount of mountain activities, but they also take advantage of the city, keeping the drive to events short. Mark himself hosts a popular weekly hike around the river valley. “I take great pride – growing up in Edmonton – that Edmonton’s river valley is the largest connected urban park in North America. A lot of people don’t necessarily know that,” said Mark, “we definitely take advantage of that.”

How do you sign up?

“It’s free to sign up online,” starts Mark. “We do have a fairly easy sign-up process. What makes us different is that we have an online waiver assigned to each event”. Signing up to an event is easy and you even get a reminder e-mail a couple of days before the event as well.

What if you’re a newcomer?

There are lots of events for newcomers. As Mark explains, “our forte is hiking, and we often do get people who are new to hiking in general. Some of our hiking events in the past have been beginner backpacking.” It might seem daunting at first, but Mark has seen these courses work many time before. “We have people who’ve never been on a hike before, then graduate overtime to carrying backpacks on hikes and using poles.”

If you want to join up this winter Mark recommends buying some microspikes or icegrips. “A good brand from MEC or even Home Hardware,” he adds. “Headlamps are good too…it’s getting darker sooner and sometimes we finish off in the dark”.

What if you’re experienced and want to be a Coordinator?

You might notice that, despite the large number of members, the EOC only has 11 coordinators. The process is only slightly more involved than most clubs, but the payoff is a great, tightknit group of coordinators.

“Overall, we do require a particular member to participate in at least three events,” began Mark, “and then we go through the process of co-coordinator training for 3 events with an existing coordinator”. New coordinators also have an extensive manual that covers leading groups, being safe, hosting events properly.

After all that, Mark will sit down and assess their skills and make a decision. “We call it giving them their star,” mentions Mark. On their online profile a coordinator will get a star besides their name, that way people signing up for an event can easily see who the coordinators are, and how many will be at a specific event.

So why should you pick the EOC?

We’re a non-profit outdoor club that has a lot of fun. We have a long trip history, so you’re going to go on events with people who have a lot of knowledge.” Mark also mentioned that “we’re different in the way that we have a more permanent group behind us…a tight group of volunteers.” There is a strong, close group of coordinators that you will recognize and become quickly familiar with. This is a distinctly different approach from some clubs who find success in having over a hundred organizers.

Edmonton – Edmonton Hikers Group (EHG)

Based in: Edmonton
Founded: 2010
Activities per month in Winter: ~25
Members: 2,700
Event Coordinators: 20
Membership Fee: $2 per event
Website: https://www.meetup.com/Edmonton-Hikers-Meetup-Group

The Edmonton Hikers Group (EHG) is another club that is run through meetup.com. We were fortunate enough to talk with the group’s founder Peter McClure over the phone. Peter’s group is strictly devoted to hiking, which is different from a majority of other clubs on the list.

They stick to hiking even in the winter months, and being based out of Edmonton allows them to have a number of events in the beautiful Edmonton River Valley. If they go outside the city in winter on an icewalk, they require people to have a good set of microspikes. They wisely pick well-trodden trails, allowing them to ignore costly snowshoes. “On a packed trail of snow [microspikes] work way better than snowshoes,” says Peter.

Where do the activities take place?

The majority of their events take place in Edmonton and the surrounding area. They wisely make good use out of the stunning Edmonton River Valley. However, they make plenty of trips out to Jasper and the rest of the Rockies too.

How do you sign up?

Like with all Meetup groups you can go to their website on meetup to sign up.

What if you’re a newcomer?

Peter’s advice to newcomers? “Get your backpack, a water bottle, your boots and head to the river valley!” Each of the events on their meetup page has a difficulty rating based on time, elevation, and distance, so if you’re new to the club it’s easy to find a suitable event for you. If you’re unsure, “start with the River Valley walks” says Peter, “because they’re absolutely safe.”

Another great event for relatively new hikers is the Sulpher Skyline Trail. For those who don’t know, the Sulpher Skyline Trail is a short but tough hike near Jasper with wonderful views. How could these 17 (or 19) switchbacks possibly be newcomer-friendly? That’s where Peter’s great group management skills come in.

What if you’re experienced and want to be a Coordinator?

They have to come and be involved before they can be a leader, and then, if they’ve expressed interest, an organizer will offer to help them organize event. After they’ve co-led a workshop, the group decides if they’re ready to be an organizer.

“We put a number of people through training with the Interprative Guides Association,” says Peter. Courses aren’t necessary for organizers, but the twoonie collected before each event is used for organizers to take courses. Plus, organizers all have insurance that is paid for by the club. Each organizer is armed with a full first aid kit and a rescue beacon.

So why should you pick the Edmonton Hikers Club?

Edmonton’s Hikers Club is focused on hiking. They don’t lean on social events to make up their event list and they don’t participate in other outdoor activities. It’s simple and to the point and Peter reinforces that, “the intent of The Edmonton Hikers Club is to create a body of like-minded people who can plan and participate in hikes together all year long. We start as a group, we finish as a group we don’t leave people behind.”