Hikes Around Banff

Region in Banff National Park, Alberta

Hiking in Banff National Park is arguably the best way to see the Rockies, with some of the best and most accessible mountain scenery you’ll find in Canada. This vast, beautiful national park is home to towering peaks, iridescent turquoise lakes, lush forests and vast wildflower meadows. What more could you ask for?

Banff is probably best known as a winter sports hotspot, and is one of the best places in the Rockies for skiing. However, when the snows finally clear in June, the lush beauty of this region is unveiled, revealing a wild natural landscape covered in magnificent hiking trails. You’ll find a real variety of terrain, from peaceful lakeside hikes to jaw-dropping ridge walks and everything in between. If you’re looking for a way to really immerse yourself in the rugged beauty of the Rockies, come to Banff and get out on the trail.

The Canadian Rockies are shaped by water, and one of the best features of hiking around Banff is the abundance of waterfalls, lakes and rivers. Many of our favorite hikes pass by thundering cascades or serene alpine lakes, often surrounded by lush vegetation or delicate wildflowers. Hiking here is a photographer’s dream, and you’re likely to spot all kinds of animals and birds from the trail.

If that’s enough to tempt you, start organizing your Banff hiking adventure today. This wonderful region is just waiting to be explored, so what’s holding you back? It’s time to grab your boots and head for the hills!

The 16 Greatest Hikes in Banff

With its abundance of easy trails and helpful ski lifts, Banff is one of the most family-friendly places for hiking in the Rockies. The popularity of the winter ski resorts in the region means that it’s perfectly equipped for welcoming visitors, with excellent infrastructure and plenty of options if you’re looking for an easier hike. Skip a long, grueling climb, and take the gondola to some of the best viewpoints, where you can enjoy a pleasant hike without exerting too much energy! This region is ideal if you’re an inexperienced hiker, or traveling with very young children.

Having said that, Banff is still in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, and as such, you’re never far from a challenging route! If you’re an experienced traveler looking for a more strenuous or long hike, there are many lesser-known trails near Banff that will give you the workout you’re hoping for. What’s more, these fabulous routes will take you to some truly spectacular, wild parts of the park, where you can expect to see a wonderful variety of animals and birds, and enjoy breathtaking views.

  • Lake Minnewanka Lakeside Hike: This Lake Minnewanka hike can be customized based on your fitness level and available time, and is a wonderful easy walk over flat terrain. It’s also a good option for a low level hike in spring or autumn, when other trails are covered in snow. Look out for deer along the trail!
  • Banff Bow River to Bow Falls to Banff Springs Hike: If you’re looking for an easy hike in Banff, suitable for young children or those with mobility issues, this short route is ideal. You’ll enjoy beautiful views of Bow Falls and Bow River, and there are plenty of places to stop for a picnic or an ice cream along the way.
  • Twin Cairns and Monarch Viewpoint Hike: This is an excellent option if you’re looking for a family-friendly hike in Banff. Take the gondola up to Sunshine Village and the Standish Chair Lift up to the viewing deck. You’ll enjoy a magnificent vista as you pass along the trail through wide-open meadows and past shimmering lakes.
  • Johnston Canyon Hike: This wonderful family hike is very popular, and with good reason! The trail passes the Lower Canyon Falls with great views of the gushing water, through lush forests all the way up the Johnston Canyon. The Upper Falls at the top are a truly dramatic sight. With plenty to see along the way, kids will love this hike – just make sure to start early to avoid the crowds.
  • Healy Pass Hike: This stunning hike up to Healy Pass is one of the best day hikes in Banff! The best time to visit is in autumn, when the larch forests show off their finest colors as the leaves turn. With wildflower meadows, lush forests, and incredible mountain views, this route has everything you need for a wonderful day out in the Rockies.
  • Edith and Cory Pass Hike: If you’re looking for an enjoyable day hike, filled with variety, this circular route through the Edith and Cory Passes is an excellent option. The trail winds through many different types of terrain, from arid mountain ridges to lush forest, and offers fabulous views all the way around. Some scrambling is required, making this a fun but challenging hike.
  • Citadel Pass Hike: The hike up to Citadel Pass is a bucket list adventure, and one of our favorite challenging hikes in Banff. The hike begins at Sunshine Village and passes beautiful lakes and the magnificent Quartz Ridge. You won’t need to wait until you reach the pass to experience some incredible views – the vista is stunning all the way up.
  • Aylmer Lookout via Lake Minnewanka Hike: This is a long and somewhat challenging hike and an excellent option for early or late in the season, when the higher elevation trails are covered in snow. Although there are some steep sections, it’s a surprisingly manageable hike and the views are truly magnificent.
  • Bourgeau Lake/Harvey Lake/Harvey Pass Hike: This gorgeous hike is one of the best ways to experience the majesty of the Canadian Rockies. The trail passes through lovely forested scenery, past two wonderful lakes, until you finally reach Harvey Pass. This is a relatively challenging, long hike, but it comes with plenty of rewards!
  • Sunshine Meadows Hike: This route from Sunshine Meadows is an epic hike and one of the best ways to experience the wonderful landscapes around Banff. The trail takes you past three beautiful lakes: Rock Isle Lake, Grizzly Lake and Larix Lake. If you’re looking for a bigger challenge, hike up to Rock Isle Lake instead of taking the chairlift.
  • Boom Lake Hike: Looking for a pleasant hike for a hot day? This shaded route passes through a beautiful forest, all the way to Boom Lake, where you’ll have a lovely view over Boom Mountain and Chickadee Peak. This is one of our favorite easy hikes in Banff.
  • Johnston Canyon and Ink Pots Hike: In peak season this pretty route is always busy, and it’s not hard to see why! The trail winds its way through the canyon, past two sets of waterfalls, before arriving at the Ink Pots, mineral springs that bubble up in a picturesque meadow. This is a really enjoyable hike; just make sure to come early to avoid the crowds!
  • Cascade Amphitheatre Hike: The Cascade Amphitheatre is a stunning natural space in the shadow of Cascade Mountain, and forms the ultimate destination on this beautiful hike. The trail passes through beautiful woodland for much of the way, but the open views at the end will give you plenty to look forward to!
  • Tunnel Mountain Hike: Looking for a quick way to escape the crowded streets of Banff? Head up a forested trail that switchbacks gently up Tunnel Mountain. This is an ideal hike for children and families, and the perfect way to get a breath of fresh air between meals and shopping trips!
  • Stoney Squaw Hike: This circular hike will take you up to a fabulous viewpoint near Banff, offering wonderful views over the nearby mountains and valleys. If you’re traveling with younger children, it can be done as an easy out-and-back route, but older kids are sure to enjoy the alternative descent through the forest. It’s also possible to do this trail year-round, provided you have appropriate footwear (micro spikes) in snowy or icy conditions.
  • Johnson Lake Hike: Looking for an easy hike near Banff? This picturesque route around Johnson Lake is a wonderful option for those with young families, or travelers with mobility issues. The trail is well maintained and accessible, and there are plenty of beautiful spots to stop and take in the scenery by the water!

When Is The Best Time To Hike In Banff?

Like many other Rocky Mountain destinations, the best time to hike in Banff is between late June and mid-September. During these peak summer months, the high-elevation trails will be open and accessible, the meadows will be filled with beautiful wildflowers, and the mountains and forests will be lush and green!

However, it’s also peak season for visitors, meaning you’re likely to be sharing the trail with many other hikers, or competing for accommodation and camping space. As a result, we’d recommend coming to Banff in one of the spring or autumn ‘shoulder seasons’. Although some of the trails may be covered in snow, you’re likely to have the region all to yourself. In particular, September can be a glorious time to visit, when the larch forests explode in a riot of autumn color, going out in a blaze of glory.

There are some hiking opportunities in Banff in the winter, although at this point the winter sports season takes over, and you’re more likely to be skiing and snowshoeing than hiking! Some trails are accessible all year round, but make sure to seek advice before you set off, and come well equipped for winter hiking conditions.

Other Outdoor Activities In Banff

If you’re looking for ideas for an adventure holiday in the Canadian Rockies, look no further! In addition to hiking, there are plenty of other outdoor activities in Banff, with lots of options for visitors of all ages. Banff is best known for its amazing backpacking opportunities. It is also a wonderful place for road biking and mountain biking with many designated trails in truly spectacular landscapes. You’ll also find possibilities for fishing on the rivers and watersports on the lakes, rock climbing, scrambling, canoeing and kayaking, whitewater rafting and even horseback riding! Of course, Banff is legendary for its winter sports, with downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing all on offer in the winter months.

How To Plan A Trip To Banff

If you’re thinking of making Banff your next hiking destination, we’ve got all the information you need! We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to planning a trip to Banff, with extra advice if you’re planning to spend a winter weekend in Banff. You’ll find recommendations on where to stay, things to see and do, and of course, all the best hikes. We’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to – it’s time to get out on the trail!

Frequently-Asked-Questions About Banff

Is hiking in Banff safe?

Banff National Park is a beautiful place to visit, and hundreds of thousands of people enjoy a trip here every year! It’s also particularly rich in beautiful hiking trails and unusual wildlife, and as in any national park or natural reserve, it’s important to take a few precautions in order to be safe. When hiking, make sure you come well equipped, take advice from local park rangers, and don’t attempt hikes that are beyond your abilities. Similarly, make sure you know what to do if you encounter bears or other wildlife on the trail. The good news is that dangerous encounters between humans and wildlife are rare, and hiking in Banff is usually considered very safe.

What do I need to hike in Banff?

When hiking in Banff it’s important to come prepared and dressed for the trail! You shouldn’t need any specialist equipment, but you will need to wear lightweight, durable, waterproof clothing and bring plenty of layers, as the weather out on the trail can be very changeable. A good pair of hiking boots is an essential piece of kit! You’ll also want to pack bear spray, insect repellent, food, water, sunscreen, a flashlight, and at least one first-aid kit per group.

Do you have to pay to go to Banff?

Banff National Park falls under the Canadian National Parks authority, and all visitors must purchase a park pass for each day that they will spend in the park.

Can you see Northern Lights from Banff?

It is possible to see the Northern Lights from some parts of the Banff National Park between September and April (although more likely after February). Seeing the Northern Lights in areas like Lake Minnewanka or Peyto Lake can be an incredible experience, with the dazzling colors of the sky reflected in the waters of the lakes.

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View Hikes Around Banff on Map

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Best Hikes in Around Banff

Open details for Lake Minnewanka Lakeside

Lake Minnewanka Lakeside

Easy
17.1 km
360 m
4-5.5h

A walk around Lake Minnewanka is a special treat for those in Banff. This trail winds along a beautiful mountain-fringed lake and can be as short or as long as you want. It’s especially wonderful in spring and autumn when most other hikes are snowbound.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.8
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Open details for Edith and Cory Pass Circuit

Edith and Cory Pass Circuit

Hard
14.3 km
1,075 m
5.5-7.5h

This incredible hike through Edith and Cory Passes is the most varied hike close to Banff. This circuit takes in a number of different micro ecosystems – from a steep and dry ridge, to an arid pass, back through a lush forest. Be aware of some modest scrambling sections (both up and down) on the approach to Cory Pass.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.6
Technical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Advanced (Diamond)
Suitable for advanced experience level looking for a solid adventure.
Open details for Johnston Canyon Hike

Johnston Canyon Hike

Moderate
5.8 km
125 m
1.5-2h

Johnston Canyon Hike is a great, albeit busy, family hike near Banff. The trail winds through the canyon to the Upper Falls. It can also be extended to the Ink Pots, which boast pretty mountain views. In peak season start before 9am to avoid crowds on the trail.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.1
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Open details for Sunshine Meadows Hike

Sunshine Meadows Hike

Easy
7.6 km
175 m
2-2.5h

The Sunshine Meadows hike is the easiest way to get into the alpine in the Canadian Rockies. The trail starts at the base of Sunshine Ski hill, where you can take the Gondola to the Sunshine Ski village and hike from there. Rock Isle Lake is truly stunning!

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.9
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Open details for Johnston Canyon and Ink Pots

Johnston Canyon and Ink Pots

Moderate
10.7 km
550 m
3.5-5h

The hike to Johnston Canyon and the Ink Pots is a great, albeit busy, hike near Banff. The trail winds through the canyon to the Upper Falls. From there continue on to the Ink Pots and the pretty mountain views. In peak season don't try this route between 9am and 5pm due to crowds.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.1
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Open details for Aylmer Lookout via Lake Minnewanka

Aylmer Lookout via Lake Minnewanka

Very Hard
24.5 km
1,085 m
7.5-10.5h

For one of the most beautiful views near Banff, the hike to Aylmer Lookout is a must-see. It’s especially great for shoulder season, when there is still too much snow up high. The trail includes great views of Lake Minnewanka and the surrounding Fairholme range.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.9
Technical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Advanced (Diamond)
Suitable for advanced experience level looking for a solid adventure.
Open details for Johnson Lake

Johnson Lake

Very Easy
3.0 km
30 m
0.5-1h

This hike around Johnson Lake is a great choice for beginners or those with limited physical abilities and it is especially family-friendly. We also think it’s a great way to start or end the day and makes a great after-dinner walk in summer.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.7
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Open details for Upper Stoney Trail

Upper Stoney Trail

Easy
4.5 km
190 m
1.5-2h

The Upper Stoney Trail takes you to one of our favourite viewpoints near Banff. The first half is a fun family hike, though the 2nd half of the hike isn’t as great for little kids. This is a good hike when other parts of Banff are very busy in summer.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.5
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Open details for Tunnel Mountain

Tunnel Mountain

Easy
4.3 km
300 m
1.5-2h

The Tunnel Mountain hike gives you a short respite away from the crowded streets of Banff. The viewpoint from the top of the trail is beautiful, making you feel like you’re immersed in nature, despite the hordes shopping on Banff Ave just a kilometer away.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.6
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Open details for Cascade Amphitheatre

Cascade Amphitheatre

Moderate
12.9 km
675 m
4-6h

The hike to the Cascade Amphitheatre is a popular hike near Banff. While the views once you get to Cascade Amphitheatre are great, the journey through the forest to get there can feel a bit long.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.8
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.

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