Hikes Around Banff
Banff hikes are arguably the best way to experience the Rockies, with some of the best and most accessible mountain scenery you’ll find in Canada. Hiking in Banff National Park will expose you to towering peaks, iridescent turquoise lakes, lush forests and vast wildflower meadows. What more could you ask for?! Discover your next adventure in the Rocky Mountains on one of these incredible Banff hikes.
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, Banff hikes are a great way to get out on the trail and exploring the outdoors.
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 a list of the best Banff hikes for your next 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 the best viewpoints, where you can enjoy some pleasant Banff hikes 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 longer hike, there are many lesser-known Banff hikes 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 family-friendly Banff hikes. 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 trying out Banff hikes 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.
Download the 10Adventures App
Want to explore Banff National Park and the surrounding area without a guide? Download the 10Adventures trail app to easily navigate the trails offline and keep track of the stats of your hike. If you are looking to find the best Banff hikes on offer, the 10Adventures trail app is a great resource to have!
Best Hikes in Around Banff
Surprise Corner Hike
Surprise Corner is a viewpoint that can be reached by foot easily from downtown Banff! The trail connects the Bow River trail system to one of the most popular viewpoints in town. Surprise Corner is a stunning scenic stop while visiting Banff National Park.
Cascade Falls Hike
The Cascade Falls hike follows an easy trail from a roadside parking lot. Enjoy the short route winding to Cascade Falls, where you can admire the rushing waterfall from up close!
The Twin Lakes hike at the edge of Banff and Kootenay parks is an incredible trail that passes by four different lakes and gains elevation over the Bow Valley. This is an excellent trail for wildflower blooms and shows off its fall colours during larch season. It has many options to connect with other trails in the area to create a lengthy backpacking route.
The hike up Sulphur Mountain is a local’s favourite that is surprisingly skipped by visitors. The Banff Gondola is a distracting tourist destination that draws people in with its newly renovated summit building equipped with dining, viewing decks, and interpretive centre. Put your wallet away and head up the Sulphur Mountain trail to earn your summit views and save some cash.
Rockbound Lake Trail
Rockbound Lake trail is a less frequented trail along the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park. It is the perfect route for hikers looking for something a little more demanding without any technical scrambling. Avoid the crowds from Johnston Canyon by heading to Rockbound Lake—you won’t be disappointed. Watch out for Marmots!
Arnica Lake Hike
Do yourself a favour and save this hike for wildflower season—as its name suggests—you won’t be disappointed. Pass by Vista Lake before ascending the steep climb towards Arnica Lake. As you gain elevation quickly, you’ll be gifted with views all around from castle junction. Babbling creeks and various trees make up this elevated trail to Arnica Lake, backed by a soaring, jacked rock wall.
Marsh Loop Trail
When visiting the Cave and Basin area, consider taking the public access Marsh Loop trail for incredible views of the valley. Many photographers visit this trail for wildlife viewing. Popular for birdwatchers, the Marsh Loop is a quick and easy trail in Banff National Park that the whole family can enjoy. Connect with Sundance Trail to Sundance Canyon or Cave and Basin Historic Site for a full day adventure!
Cascade Ponds Trail
Cascade Ponds is commonly known as a day-use area where visitors can claim tables and firepits with space for activities, games, and swimming. A less-frequented trail loops around the area, providing an excellent way for the whole family to explore the area. Cascade Ponds hike is a great addition to a day at the rest area.
Stewart Canyon is a simple trail perfect for families looking to explore the Lake Minnewanka area without crowding around the boat docks. It winds through the forest leading to an unsuspecting canyon that will take your breath away.
Silverton Falls Trail
The Silverton Falls hike is more of a short walk than a hike, however, it is worth it. If you are looking for something along the Bow Valley Parkway to explore but you are short on time, this is an excellent choice. You won’t need much on this hike as it will take you less than an hour to complete.
Looking to get outside, but not in the mood for a long, intense hike? The Silverton Falls Hike along the Bow Valley Parkway is where to go! It takes less than an hour to complete, so you won't have to worry about packing a lot of snacks and water.
The Fenland Trail is a simple, flat walk that explores the marshlands from the town of Banff. It is accessible from downtown and is equipped with many interpretive signs along the way. Take in some knowledge of the area and learn about the wildlife as you look for signs of marsh animals around Echo Creek. Families love this short, easy hike!
Spray River Loop
The Spray Loop is surprisingly scenic for a trail that remains in the valley bottom. You will cross the Spray River and be able to admire incredible mountain views intermittently throughout the loop. Escape the crowds on the Spray Loop as you aren’t likely to encounter many others.
Aylmer Pass hike makes for a long day at almost 30.0 km, but half of that is done on the flat Minnewanka lakeshore. The lakeshore trail itself is incredible, with views of the turquoise waters below the trail. There is an option to stay at the backcountry campsite at Aylmer Junction to spread this hike out over a few days. Reach new heights above Lake Minnewanka at Aylmer Pass.
Moose Meadows Trail
The Moose Meadows hiking trail is an alternate route to Johnston’s Canyon. It is roughly 1.0 km down the road and feels like an entirely different area. This is a popular trailhead for backpackers and day hikers trying to avoid the masses at Johnston Canyon. Take your time and enjoy the quiet trail through the woods.
Healy Creek Trail
Hiking along Healy Creek Trail is an enjoyable route wide enough for a stroller or chariot. This hike can be easily cut in half and completed as a point-to-point trail if you’re looking for a quick hike. Watch out for cyclists, as this is a multi-use trail!
Smith Lake Trail
Smith Lake is an often-forgotten lake that is nestled in the forest at Castle Junction. It is a stunning green-blue colour and a great place for fishing. Nearby Copper Lake is only a 0.6 km side trail that is a must-see on this route. If you are looking for a quick walk in the woods, this is a wonderful option.
The hike to Tower Lake is great for those who don’t have the time or energy to trek all the way to Rockbound Lake. It is also a wonderful turn around point for folks who change their minds. It is a beautiful alpine lake that sits below the impressive Eisenhower Tower—a popular climbing objective.
Rundle Riverside Trail
The straightforward Rundle Riverside trail is an easy to follow trail that connects Banff to Canmore. It is a great option for those who find the Goat Creek trail to be overpopulated. This quiet trail is tailor-made for those seeking solitude on easy terrain. It is also a fantastic route for trail runners and families with children that can go the distance.
Essential Tools for Any Adventure
This page may include affiliate links. We may get a small commission for the purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you.
We only recommend tools we personally think are great.