Scrambling in Banff National Park
Views from Sunshine to Assiniboine backpacking trail in Banff National Park

backpacking trails in Banff National Park

Region in Alberta, Canada
Banff trail map

Banff National Park is the ultimate bucket-list backpacking destination, offering some of the finest multi-day treks in the Canadian Rockies. This spectacular national park is crammed with fantastic backcountry trails and well-equipped campgrounds that provide everything you need for a memorable mountain adventure. There’s no better place to get away from it all and out into the wild.

Banff National Park is a stunning natural wilderness in the heart of some of the most spectacular scenery in Canada. You’ll find classic Rocky Mountain landscapes, with soaring, snow-clad peaks, craggy ridges, expansive wildflower meadows and lush forest. Wherever you go, you can be sure of jaw-dropping views and wild nature.

Backpacking in Banff National Park is an excellent way to get up close to some of Canada’s magnificent wildlife. The park is home to grizzly bears, black bears, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and whistling marmots. Exploring these wilderness trails is an excellent way to get away from the daily grind and reconnect with nature. This is the perfect place to introduce younger kids to the joys of backpacking, or to take a trip with friends and loved ones. If you’re a first-timer, a backpacking trip will help you relax, unwind, and breathe fresh mountain air, and Banff National Park is the ideal place to start.

There’s never been a better time to start exploring this magnificent, wild country! To inspire your wanderlust, we’ve put together a list of the best backpacking trails in Banff National Park, with plenty of top tips on how to make your backpacking trip a success.

Types of Backpacking Trails In Banff National Park

There are so many types of backpacking trails in Banff National Park you’ll be spoiled for choice! If you’re a novice backpacker, you’ll find Banff is well equipped with moderate, well-marked trails and excellent campgrounds, so it’s a good opportunity to develop your backpacking skills. In addition, many of the trails listed here can be customized to make them slightly easier, so if you’re worried about your fitness or stamina, it’s usually possible to slow the pace and switch in an extra night of camping to make the trail less strenuous. On the other hand, Banff is a dream destination for adventurous hikers. You’ll find some demanding trails over spectacular, diverse terrain, and plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs and get out into the wild backcountry. This beautiful place has something for everyone!

Easy Backpacking Trails In Banff National Park

Lake Minnewanka Backpacking Trip: The Lake Minnewanka backpacking trail is a relatively easy route and a good option for novice hikers as it’s possible to customize the route according to your fitness. You’ll pass along the serene shores of Lake Minnewanka, navigate the Stewart Canyon, and head up to Aylmer Lookout, where you’ll enjoy some remarkable Rocky Mountain views. This is a classic trip and one of the best easy backpacking trails in Banff National Park.

Family Backpacking Trails In Banff National Park

Glacier Lake Backpacking Trail: Looking for an easy backpacking trail, suitable for the whole family? The trip out to Glacier Lake can be tackled early in the season and is a good option if you’re seeking family backpacking trails in Banff National Park. The trail is gently undulating, so it’s not too much of a challenge, but you’ll soon be plunged into some spectacular backcountry next to one of the largest lakes in Banff.

Challenging Backpacking Trails In Banff National Park

Devon Lakes Backpacking Trail: Looking for a challenging trek in the heart of the Banff wilderness? The trail to the remote Devon Lakes is one of the best challenging backpacking trails in Banff National Park, passing high above the tree line for some truly incredible views. The lakes themselves are stunning, and can be reached in a day hike from the Fish Lake Campground.

Best Backpacking Trails In Banff National Park

Sunshine to Assiniboine Backpacking Trail: The jaw-dropping route from Sunshine to Assiniboine Provincial Park is a bucket-list backpacking trip, and one that will provide plenty of thrills over the 3-5 days it takes to complete the trail. You’ll traverse Citadel Pass before dropping down to Assiniboine Provincial Park, which you can use as a base to explore some of the most exquisite scenery in Banff.

Baker Lake and the Skoki Region Backpacking Trail: The region around Lake Louise boasts a wide range of fantastic backpacking trails, and this route is no exception. You’ll hike to the lovely Baker Lake, which can be used as a base from which to explore the Skoki Lakes, Fossil Mountain or Merlin Lake. It’s also possible to extend the trip to include Skoki Lodge, a charming traditional wooden lodge in a spectacularly beautiful setting.

Gibbon, Whistling and Healy Pass Backpacking Trail: This incredible trek will take you through some classic Rocky Mountain scenery, and is one of the best backpacking trails in Banff National Park. The route passes through wildflower meadows, with views over imposing mountains, serene lakes and high glaciers. Take your time and enjoy the majestic landscapes unfolding before your eyes.

Egypt Lake Backpacking Trail: To get to Egypt Lake you’ll need to traverse the stunning Healy Pass, a hike that is sure to take your breath away. The scenery on this classic Banff backpacking trail just keeps getting better and better, with lush wildflower meadows, and lovely views at Egypt Lake. One you’ve arrived at the lake, it’s possible to take in some of the best hikes in Banff, including Whistling Pass, as a day hike from the campground.

When Is The Best Time To Go Backpacking In Banff National Park?

The backpacking season in Banff National Park is very short, and like other Rocky Mountain destinations, extends from July to mid-September. Many of the high elevation trails are covered in snow until early July, and by mid-September the temperatures are dropping, meaning you’ll be cold if you’re camping out in the backcountry. Otherwise, September is a lovely time to visit, when the larch forests are showing off their autumn colors, and the trails and campgrounds should be relatively quiet.

July and August are the most popular times to go backpacking in Banff National Park, and if you’re planning a trip in the peak of summer, you’ll need to book ahead to secure your place in the campgrounds and on the shuttle buses. It’s also important to check restrictions, as some trails may be closed in July to protect the grizzly bear population. If you’re camping in July you may also be plagued with mosquitos in some areas, so make sure to come prepared with plenty of repellent!

Other Outdoor Activities In Banff National Park

The Canadian Rockies are a paradise for adventure sports, and in addition to backpacking, you’ll find a plethora of other outdoor activities in Banff National Park. Hiking is the main draw here, with countless trails suitable for all ages and fitness levels, from family-friendly lakeside strolls to dramatic ridge walks. The craggy peaks of the Rockies are a good place to try your hand at a little scrambling, an exhilarating way to experience the mountains. In recent years, road biking has also become increasingly popular, and many people see this as one of the best ways to see as much as possible of Banff’s diverse scenery if you’re short on time. In winter, Banff National Park is transformed into one of the best winter sports regions in the Rockies, with opportunities for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, in addition to the standard skiing and snowboarding runs.

How To Plan A Trip To Banff National Park

Thinking of planning a trip to Banff? To make sure your trek goes without a hitch, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to backpacking in Banff National Park. We’ve listed the best backcountry campgrounds, made recommendations for all of our favorite backpacking trails, and put together all the important information you’ll need to know before you set out. We’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to – all you need to do is start dreaming of your next adventure!

Frequently-Asked-Questions About Backpacking in Banff National Park

Do you need a permit to hike in Banff?
You won’t need a permit to hike most trails in Banff National Park, but if you’re planning on spending the night in the backcountry, you’ll need to buy a permit in advance. Bookings can be made online on the Parks Canada website, and a backcountry camping permit costs $10.02 per person, per night. Groups are limited to 10 people, and you may only stay three consecutive nights in the same campground.

Can you camp anywhere in Banff National Park?
Banff National Park is a protected area, and as such, backcountry camping is only permitted with a permit, and in designated campgrounds. There are over 50 backcountry campgrounds in Banff National Park, and all the details can be found on the Parks Canada website.

Do you need bear spray in Banff?
Banff supports a healthy grizzly bear population, and although encounters with humans are rare, it’s important to take precautions when you’re camping in the backcountry. Campgrounds should offer secure storage to prevent bears from accessing food, often in the form of a bear cache or a bear pole. Make sure to seek advice from park rangers before you visit, and come prepared in case you do encounter wildlife.

Are campfires allowed in Banff National Park?
Some backcountry campgrounds do allow fires in designated fire pits. They must never be left unattended and kept reasonably small. However, some campgrounds do not allow fires, and you must never light fires outside of the designated areas, so come prepared with a camping stove, just in case.

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The best backpacking trails in Banff National Park

Views from Sunshine to Assiniboine backpacking trail in Banff National Park

01. Sunshine to Assiniboine
Difficulty

33.6mi 5,102ft 3-5 days

Hiking from Sunshine Ski resort to Assiniboine Provincial Park is a bucket list trek. This… Read More

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Lake Minnewanka backpacking trail in Banff National Park

02. Lake Minnewanka
Difficulty

15.3mi 2,297ft 2-3 days

This is a Banff backpacking classic, a perfect trip to head out Friday after work… Read More

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8.8Overall Rating Technical Difficulty Physical Difficulty
Scenery from Egypt Lake backpacking trail in Banff National Park

03. Egypt Lake
Difficulty

15.5mi 3,819ft 2-4 days

The backpacking trip to Egypt Lake takes you through the beautiful Healy pass and then… Read More

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Baker Lake and the Skoki Region backpacking trail in Banff National Park

04. Baker Lake and the Skoki Region
Difficulty

20.6mi 4,757ft 3-4 days

Behind the Lake Louise ski hill is one of the best backpacking destinations in Banff… Read More

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9.8Overall Rating Technical Difficulty Physical Difficulty
Glacier Lake backpacking trail in Banff National Park has amazing panoramic views

05. Glacier Lake Backpacking Trail
Difficulty

10.6mi 689ft 2 days

A backpacking trip to Glacier Lake is a great early-season objective as well as being… Read More

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9.3Overall Rating Technical Difficulty Physical Difficulty
Sawback Backpacking Trail

06. Sawback Backpacking Trail
Difficulty

44.3mi 6,962ft 3-6 days

The Sawback Trail is a popular multi-day trip in Banff National Park. It has endless… Read More

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Sunset Pass to Pinto Lake Backpacking Trail

07. Sunset Pass to Pinto Lake Backpacking Trail
Difficulty

18.3mi 5,443ft 2-3 days

The backpacking route over Sunset Pass to Pinto Lake is for the adventurous backpacker. If… Read More

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Giant Steps and Paradise Valley Backpacking Trail

08. Giant Steps and Paradise Valley Backpacking Trail
Difficulty

12.8mi 2,470ft 2 days

This is an excellent trail for an overnight and can be modified to be made… Read More

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Scenery from Devon Lake backpacking trail in Banff National Park

09. Devon Lakes
Difficulty

37.9mi 6,667ft 4 days

The Devon Lakes backpack is a journey to two remote alpine lakes in the heart… Read More

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Views from Gibbon, Whistling, and Healy Pass backpacking trail in Banff National Park

10. Gibbon, Whistling, and Healy Pass
Difficulty

25.3mi 6,611ft 4-5 days

A backpacking trip through Gibbon Pass, Whistling Pass, and Healy Pass traverses three flower-filled alpine… Read More

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9.5Overall Rating Technical Difficulty Physical Difficulty

Yes, there are more than 10

Banff National Park is so beautiful that we can not give you only 10 backpacking trails. So here is a list of bonus backpacking trails in Banff National Park that you should take a look at as well

Skoki Mountain Loop Backpacking Trail

11. Skoki Mountain Loop Backpacking Trail
Difficulty

23.4mi 5,889ft 3-4 days

The Skoki Mountain Loop is an excellent and variable backpacking trip for all. It can… Read More

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Hidden Lake Backpacking Trail Map

12. Hidden Lake Backpacking Trail
Difficulty

10.3mi 2,195ft 2 days

Hiking to the Hidden Lake Campground is a great way to ease your way into… Read More

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Bryant Creek Shelter Backpacking Map

13. Bryant Creek Shelter
Difficulty

16.6mi 2,441ft 2 days

The hike to the Bryant Creek Shelter is a simple and well-marked backpacking trail that… Read More

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Mystic Pass Backpacking Trail Map

14. Mystic Pass Backpacking Trail
Difficulty

22.1mi 4,869ft 3 days

If you are interested in the Sawback Trail but don’t have 5-7 days to complete… Read More

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Panoramic views from Taylor Lake and Panorama Meadows snowshoe trail in Banff National Park

15. Taylor Lake Backpacking Trail
Difficulty

8.5mi 2,976ft 2 days

Backpacking to Taylor Lake is a premier overnight trip in Banff National Park. This trail… Read More

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Devon Lakes Loop Map

16. Devon Lakes Loop Backpacking Trail
Difficulty

47.5mi 9,846ft 4 days

The Devon Lakes Trail is completed as a backpacking loop from Mosquito Creek through established… Read More

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Shadow Lake (Banff)

17. Shadow Lake
Difficulty

17.1mi 1,444ft 2 days

The backpacking route to Shadow Lake follows Redearth creek and can be modified in many… Read More

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Mystic Lake Backpacking Trail Map

18. Mystic Lake Backpacking Trail
Difficulty

21.5mi 4,800ft 2 days

This route is a great out-and-back that can be done as a single overnight or… Read More

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Wonder Pass Loop Backpacking Trail

19. Wonder Pass Loop Backpacking Trail
Difficulty

32.1mi 5,371ft 3-5 days

Backpacking the Wonder Pass Loop is an excellent way to see the Mount Assiniboine area.… Read More

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Elk Lake Backpacking Trail Map

20. Elk Lake Backpacking Trail
Difficulty

16.3mi 2,221ft 2 days

The Elk Lake Trail begins at a popular trailhead for Cascade Mountain Scramble and the… Read More

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Merlin Lake Backpacking Trail Map

21. Merlin Lake Backpacking Trail
Difficulty

20.9mi 5,148ft 2 days

The backpacking route to the Merlin Lake Trail follows the main Skoki route and covers… Read More

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Og Lake Backpacking Trail Map

22. Og Lake Backpacking Trail
Difficulty

28.2mi 6,529ft 2-4 days

The Og Lake backpacking trail is a great option for those who can’t make a… Read More

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Pharaoh Creek Backpacking Trail Map

23. Pharaoh Creek Backpacking Trail
Difficulty

19.3mi 4,964ft 2-3 days

The Pharaoh Creek backpacking trail follows the same route that many take to reach Egypt… Read More

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Egypt Lake to Twin Lakes Backpacking Trail Map

24. Egypt Lake to Twin Lakes Backpacking Trail
Difficulty

24.0mi 6,119ft 3-4 days

Choosing the Egypt Lake to Twin Lakes route is a great way to dive into… Read More

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