Review of FIFTH EDITION (published July 2006)... I originally ordered this book through Amazon, but after not shipping for more than a month I decided to order it directly from the Authors. I was pleasantly surprised to have my email answered within a few hours, and to receive a phone call from Kathy Copeland shortly afterwards. As I was awaiting for the book to arrive, I had several email exchanges with Kathy, in which she freely gave hiking suggestions for Glacier NP, and answered specific questions. Before even seeing the book, it became obvious to me that the authors have great satisfaction in experiencing great hikes, and perhaps greater satisfaction in helping others have the same experience (something I can really relate to, and the very qualities you want in the author of a hiking book). With that quality of service, I had great anticipated the arrival of their book. I was not disappointed.
While the writing style is unique (interesting, humorous, whatever), make no mistake about it-- the book is "COMMON SENSE" to the core, both in content and in it's organization. And it follows the "golden rule"-- the authors provide exactly the kind of information that they (and most hikers) would want if they were to purchase a hiking book. The emphasis in rating hikes is primarily placed upon the WOW-factor of the hike (i.e. how much does this hike STIMULATE me scenically, be it through sweeping vistas, lush meadows, iridescent lakes,... whatever). Distances and elevations are specified in both English (miles/ft) and metric (km/m)... for those of you in the US who have never spent hours converting figures in a hiking book published in Canada, believe me, this is something to be VERY thankful for!
The beginning of the book includes a "Trip Locations" section-- overview maps of the various national parks, dotted with trail numbers, and on the same/opposite page they list names of the hikes and their rating (Premier, Outstanding, Worthwhile, Don't do). So the hikes are arranged visually by park location.
Shortly afterward, a "Dayhikes at a Glance" section arranges the hikes by rating (Premier's listed first, then Outstanding,...etc.), first for the dayhikes, then the backpacking trips. These tables also show distance and elevation gains. This is precisely the kind of information you need to plan a trip. An index of the very best "Wildflower Hikes" is a nice touch.
The introduction section(s) also cover all the standards you typically would expect (i.e. preparation, weather, bears, trail ethics,...etc.).
The back of the book includes a "Trip Maps" section-- these are not topo maps (which are generally useless tiny black/white photocopies in hiking books anyway), but appear to take the form of sketches, though apparently done using computer software. The maps do not illustrate 3-dimensional relief (i.e. valleys, ridges, mountains), but everything is clearly named: the path of the trail(s) shown in red, the lakes/rivers in blue, mountain peaks as black triangles, and parking/trailheads as black circles. The scale is also shown. The inclusion of distances and elevations (which is included in the individual hike overviews) would have made the maps perfect for a hiking book, but they fall short in this area (improvement project for the next edition?)
The individual hikes are very logically arranged. First, all of the day-hikes are listed in one section, followed by another section listing the backpacking (extended) hikes. VERY helpful if you mostly day-hike (as e do), or mostly backpacks. Within each of these sections, the authors list the Premier hikes first (ordered geographically as you move northwest through the Canadian Rockies), followed by all the Outstanding hikes,....etc. VERY helpful in identifying what hikes should be at the top of the itinerary. The description of each hike first includes the authors "Opinion", followed by all of the "Facts". Again, VERY helpful, because when facts/opinions are combined (as with most hiking books), you have to wade through all the factual info to get the opinions (i.e. determine if the hike is worth doing). Likewise, when you want to get the facts, you sometimes have to wade through opinions. Keeping them separate was a smart decision.
Each hike begins with a table which lists: Location, Round Trip Distance(s), Elevation Gain(s), Key Elevations, Hiking Time, Difficulty, and Maps (pg on which map is found, and specific topo map which can be purchased).
Nearly all hikes include a sizable color picture(s) of the most scenic portion(s) of the hike-- exactly what you would want to see. The opinionated descriptions describe exactly what makes this hike appealing, the degree to which it has appeal, and if unappealing, then suggested alternatives in the vicinity. VERY well done.
Suggested improvements? I think the authors place a heavy emphasis upon solitude, but for a significant number of people, this is not nearly as important as the scenic splendor. Yet, some hikes may have slipped a notch in the rating scale because of their heavy use. It would be helpful if hikes of this nature were denoted with a special symbol of some sort, both in the overview tables and in the table which introduces the individual hikes. To their credit, the authors frequently mention (in the Opinion section) which hikes see heavy usage, but a prominent visual cue indicating that the hike was demoted a rating level (for lack of solitude) would make an excellently arranged book even better.
I also own Grame Pole's book "Classic Hikes in the Canadian Rockies" (1999 edition). While this is one of my better hiking books (I own about a dozen), the Copeland's book is better in a variety of ways. If you want multiple opinions, buy both. If you want just one, then "Don't waste your..." money on anything other than Copeland's book: "Don't waste your time in the Canadian Rockies".