Last Updated on by
One of my favorite parts about living in Alberta was visiting Banff National Park on the weekends. It’s an absolute paradise for hikers – there are over a hundred trails in Banff. Taking you through glacier lakes and stunning mountain peaks with the chance to see some of Canada’s best wildlife, hiking in Banff is a dream. If you’re looking for the best hikes in Banff National Park, you’re in the right place.
I hiked as many of the trails as I could while exploring the Canadian Rockies, but I didn’t get a chance to complete them all. So I’ve some fellow travel bloggers to share what they think the best hikes in Banff are too. Here are 12 amazing hiking trails in Banff for all levels, save this for your trip to Banff!
Can’t read this right now? Pin it for later!
Map of Banff Hike Trailheads
Best Easy Hikes in Banff
Johnston Canyon Hike
1.2 to 5.8 km one-way depending how far you go, up to 608 m elevation gain
Recommended by Jennifer of The Evolista
Picturesque Johnston Canyon is the most popular year-round hike in Banff National Park for good reason. Summer is flush with beautiful overflowing waterfalls and turquoise plunge pools. Winter is filled with snow-covered paths that lead to frozen waterfalls and mesmerizing ice climbers.
The hike takes you to 3 viewpoints, Lower Falls (1.2 km), Upper Falls (2.5 km) and the Ink Pots (5.8km). The beginning part of the trail to the Lower Falls is an easy, slight incline partially on metal catwalks overlooking the canyon and Johnston Creek below. There’s a bridge to view the falls and a narrow cave that will get you closer (and wet in summer).
The rest of the hike is a little steeper, though not difficult. Halfway to the Upper Falls, is a stunning not so secret “secret cave.” At the Upper falls there is a lower platform, where you can watch the ice climbers in the winter and an upper platform that will give you a birdseye view of the falls in summer.
Continue along the path to get to the Ink Pots. They’re really pretty in summer and harder to visit in winter because the snow is deeper and you may need snowshoes.
How to get there: The parking lot for the trailhead is on Bow Valley Pkwy, about a 30-minute drive from Lake Louise or Banff. Parking fills up quickly in summer, so arrive early. In winter, you need ice cleats or crampons because it’s slippery.
Moraine Lake Lakeshore
1.6 km loop, minimal elevation gain
If you’ve ever opened Instagram, you’ve no doubt seen a picture of this hike come up. Moraine lake trail is one of the best hikes in Banff, and also one of the easiest at just a 1.6 km distance. It’s a well-maintained trail around the lake that allows you to see different viewpoints and reflections of the mountains in the lake.
How to get there: Following the same road which goes to Lake Louise, you’ll turn off onto Moraine Lake Rd. (you’ll see signs for Moraine Lake). There is a parking lot there but it’s VERY crowded, so you’ll want to arrive early in the morning, ideally before 7:30 am.
Tunnel Mountain Trail
4.5 KM out and back, 266m elevation gain
Recommended by Amanda of My Backpacker Life
Hiking the Tunnel Mountain trail in Banff is perfect for anyone looking for an adventure in this beautiful town. You don’t even need a car to reach the trailhead of this hike, it’s only a 15-minute walk from the city center.
Tunnel Mountain is the smallest summit in Banff, but that doesn’t mean the hike is easy – it’s around 2,3 kilometers of switchbacks, one way, with an elevation of almost 300 meters. It also doesn’t mean the views won’t be that good, it’s the other way around – for being quite a short hike, it’s very rewarding!
Be alert on your way up and down the mountain – we met an elk, right on the trail! Remember to bring bear spray when hiking in this part of Canada, and make noises while walking.
You’ll get glimpses of the beautiful views on your way up to the summit, but the best view is without doubt from the top of the mountain. From here, you’ll get a stunning view of Banff and the surrounding mountains – this rather short hike is definitely worth the effort.
How to get there: Trailhead is just a 15 minute (1 km walk) from downtown Banff on Tunnel Mountain Rd. If driving, there is a parking area on St. Julien Road.
Lake Louise Area
4 km, minimal elevation gain
If you’re looking for an easy hike that will give you spectacular views of world-famous Lake Louise, then take a stroll around the Lake Louise lakeshore area. This is the perfect way to get away from the crowds at the front of the lake and enjoy the beauty on your own.
How to get there: Park at the Upper Lake Louise parking area, 4 km from the village of Lake Louise.
2 km out and back, 100m elevation gain
If you want to see the stunning Fairview Chateau, then this easy hike is a perfect choice. Taking less than an hour round-trip, it provides a unique viewpoint of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise as well as the lake.
How to get there: Trailhead is by the boathouse on Lake Louise. Park at the Upper Lake Louise parking area.
The Best Moderate Banff Hikes
Lake Agnes Trail
7.6 km out and back, 433 m elevation gain
Recommended by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler
Lake Agnes Trail is a moderate 4.7-mile out-and-back trail in Alberta, Canada, featuring waterfalls and a mountaintop alpine lake.
The beginning part of this hike is mainly an uphill climb through switchbacks and a dense forest, with intermittent glimpses of the famous milky blue waters of the neighboring lake below.
At the trail’s summit sits the titular lake, as well as the Lake Agnes Tea House, an adorable log cabin serving up delicious soups, sandwiches, and a wide variety of teas that was originally built in 1901 by the Canadian Pacific Railway for weary hikers.
The Tea House’s staff hike up fresh ingredients for the café two to four times a week- this is incredibly impressive considering that, while the length of the trail is fairly short, the elevation gain can be significant, rising 1,312 feet over the course of just a little over two miles!
Some things to keep in mind- the teahouse is cash only, open from early June through October, and can get quite busy around lunchtime and the early afternoon.
After you reward yourself with a warm cup of tea, you can explore around Lake Agnes- on a clear day, you can admire Mount Niblock and Mount Whyte towering above you. With its unique vantage points of Lake Louise and delicious rewards awaiting you at the summit, this trail is a must-hike during your time in Banff.
How to get there: Park at Upper Lake Louise parking area. The well-marked trailhead can be found at the front of Lake Louise near the Fairmont Chateau Hotel along the lakeshore pathway.
Plain of Six Glaciers
10.6 km out and back, 385 m elevation gain
Recommended by Andy of Avrex Travel
The Plain of Six Glaciers is a signature hike in Banff National Park.
The hike difficulty is moderate, climbing 385 meters to the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse. It is 10.6 kilometers roundtrip, taking about 4 hours to complete.
Starting behind the famous Chateau Lake Louise, this is where your quiet climb starts. You’ll often see mountain goats on the steep valley sides as you climb past the tree line. After navigating a final switchback, you’ll reach the teahouse.
The rustic teahouse is a great place for a well-deserved lunch as you relax and enjoy the beautiful mountain views.
After lunch, you can extend your hike by hiking 1.5 km to the Abbot Pass Viewpoint. While it adds an hour to your trip, you’re rewarded with awesome views of Victoria Glacier.
Plan to hike early in the day, as parking can get busy. Ensure you dress in layers as it can be sunny at the start and yet snowy on the Plain.
Hike the Plain of Six Glaciers. You’ll always remember this stunning area!
How to get there: Park at Upper Lake Louise parking area. The trail starts behind the famous Chateau Lake Louise among the throngs of tourists taking the iconic photo of the Rockies reflected in the mirror of beautiful Lake Louise. Walk the flat Lakeshore Trail to the end of this stunning turquoise lake. The crowds don’t tend to go beyond here.
13.5 km out and back, 585 m elevation gain
Recommended by Thea of Zen Travellers
Many people think of leaves changing color when they hear the words “fall foliage” but in Banff National Park it is the spectacular golden alpine larches that truly shine in the fall.
Already famous for its dramatic mountain scenery, turquoise lakes, and diverse wildlife, seeing the larches change color in Banff is a bucket-list item for many. Found only at high rocky mountain elevations, Banff’s coniferous alpine larches turn bright golden yellow before losing their needles for the winter.
While the crowds tend to stick to a few main spots to take in the golden view creating what locals call “larch madness”, there are many amazing hiking trails to see golden larches, such as Taylor Lake where you can spend time amid the famous trees in peace.
Hiking to Taylor Lake is relatively easy and should take 3-4 hours. The trail is 13.5km and climbs almost 600m. It is well worth the effort as it ends with beautiful views of the clear waters of Taylor Lake and Mount Bell towering from its south shore.
It’s beautiful any time of the year but is especially magical in the fall when the area is full of golden larches. For those who can’t get enough of larches and lakes, a side trip to O’Brien Lake is only 2.1km away and will not disappoint
While it may not be as famous as some other trails in the Rocky Mountains, a hike to Taylor Lake is a great way to see Banff’s splendor away from the crowds.
How to get there: The trailhead is northwest of the Banff townsite at about halfway between Castle Junction and Lake Louise, on the south side of the Trans-Canada highway.
Grassi Lakes Trail
4.3 out and back, 203 m elevation
Okay, so Grassi lakes trail actually starts in Canmore but I adore this hike so I wanted to include it. It’s easily accessible even if you’re staying in Banff, as the town of Canmore is nearby and well worth a day trip.
The trail starts off going through the forest, taking you to a stunning viewpoint of a turquoise lake. This part of the trail is relatively easy, but you can continue on to a more challenging wooded path that takes you by a waterfall. At the end, there are beautiful views of the town of Canmore and Bow Valley.
How to get here: Drive south of Canmore on highway 742 (Smith-Dorrien-Spray Lakes Road). Follow signs for the Canmore Nordic Centre and you’ll see a sign for Grassi Lakes. The trailhead is on the right and there’s a dirt road parking lot nearby.
East End of Rundle (EEOR)
5.6 KM out and back, 877m elevation gain
Recommended by Emily of The Mandagies
The East End of Rundle Hike (commonly referred to as EEOR) is a hike just south of Banff, packed with intense climbs and epic views of the Bow Valley.
The trail is relatively short (at 3.6-miles out and back) compared to other hikes in Banff, but the elevation gain of 2,854 feet makes it much more difficult than you’d expect.
One of the most iconic views on this trail is a ledge that overlooks Ha Ling Peak and Whiteman’s Reservoir across the valley. This overlook is about halfway up the trail, and a very common turnaround point for many visitors. However, if you choose to hike the entire way, you are rewarded with panoramic views of the Bow Valley, and incredible opportunities for photos.
How to get there: To get to the trailhead, drive 15 minutes east from Canmore to Ha Ling Peak Trailhead, which is a shared trail parking lot. This parking lot is a simple pull-off on the dirt road. You can recognize the trailhead entrance by a group of rocks spelling out the letters “EEOR” to start your journey.
The Best Difficult Hikes in Banff
10.3 km loop, 647 m elevation gain
Recommended by Zach and Julie of Ruhls of the Road
Lake Louise is among the most beautiful natural attractions in the world. The milky blue glacial water provides an amazing contrast to the Banff National Park forest, and is the perfect location for some incredible photography.
If you want to get the absolute best view of Lake Louise from above, then you have to hike the Big Beehive trail. The trail is 6.4 miles round-trip, and involves an elevation gain of over 2,000 feet, so the hike is a bit of a challenge. However, the reward at the top is almost beyond words.
Lake Louise sites 2,000 feet beneath you, an enormous milky blue pool. Beyond the lake is an ocean of green forest, flowing right to the edge of the mountains in the distance. There may not be a better viewpoint in all of Banff.
Along the hike, you’ll pass Lake Agnes and the tea house located on its shores. This is another wonderful place to stop and spend some time, enjoying a break as well as some delicious tea.
You’ll have the time of your life seeing the sites while hiking Big Beehive in Banff National Park. Enjoy!
How to get there: The trail starts at the Lake Louis parking lot, where you’ll have to arrive very early in the morning to get a parking spot. If the lot is full, you’ll have to head to the Lake Louis Overflow Lot and get a shuttle from there.
Sentinel Pass via Larch Valley Trail, Banff
11.6 km out and back, 792 elevation gain
Recommended by Matt of Wheatless Wanderlust
Starting from the now world-famous blue green waters of Moraine Lake, where you’ll undoubtedly want to spend time taking all sorts of pictures, this incredible 10.5 mile out-and-back hike takes you up through Larch Valley to the top of Sentinel Pass. It’s a must-do for every outdoor lover’s Canadian Rockies itinerary, but make no mistake – it’s a difficult hike.
At the start, the trail heads steadily uphill, climbing through the trees with a series of switchbacks, before you emerge into a valley and the trail levels out. At least for now. After the 3.5 mile hike to this point, you’ll be admiring the views of the alpine lake in front of you and the mountains behind you when you see it.
An exposed trail snaking its way up the mountainside to a saddle well above where you’re standing. That can’t be it? Can it? And for a second, you’ll consider turning back. But if you decide to finish the last climb to the top of Sentinel Pass, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views on both sides of the saddle.
Back the way you came, you’ll have the alpine lake backed by the Valley of the Ten Peaks. On the other side of the pass is Paradise Valley – take a second to admire the rocky spires and soak up the views before descending back down the way you came.
How to get there: Take transit to Moraine Lake or park at Moraine Lake parking lot, the trailhead begins just beyond the Moraine Lake Lodge.
Cory Pass Hike, Banff
13km loop, 815 elevation gain
Recommended by Alex of Alex on the Map
My husband and I went to Banff a few years ago. We’re big hikers and were training for the Everest Base Camp trek at the time, so we chose one of the more difficult hikes in the park: Cory’s Pass. It’s a one-day hike that includes some scrambling, and it’s pretty rough for those who are unprepared.
The total hike is 8.1 miles, and the first half is almost all uphill. Total, it took us about five hours to complete and it can be hiked as a loop either clockwise or counterclockwise. There are a few reasons I would recommend this hike, but the views are reason enough. Once you reach the top of the pass, you have incredible photo opportunities for miles.
Definitely remember to bring some water and bear spray–this is prime bear territory and better to be safe than sorry! A good pair of hiking boots is also a good idea since you will encounter some shale and it helps to have some extra traction.
How to get there: The trailhead is located right on the edge of the park, a 10-minute drive from the town of Banff off the Bow Valley Parkway. It’s not that popular of a hike, so you should be able to find plenty of parking in the morning.
Best Time to go Hiking in Banff National Park
Banff National Park is open year-round, but because this is Canada and it tends to get cold and snowy AF, this may limit what trails you can access. That said, many trails are still open during the wintertime, and I can confirm that walking around Banff during the winter is a pretty magical experience with all the snow-capped mountains.
You can also go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing during this season which is a great way to access the trails. Winter comes quickly around the mountains, so by November Banff will likely be in a blanket of snow.
Summertime, from June to September, is the ideal time to come and hike as this is when all the trails and vibrant blue lakes are accessible. Of course, summer is when everyone visits, which means you are going to be sharing the trails with crowds, and that can be annoying. If you come during the summer, you’ll have to get to the parking lots early to get a spot for hiking.
Shoulder season (spring and fall) is a good option for visiting Banff because there are way fewer crowds and lower accommodation prices. During the fall, you can also see the leaves change color, which is a magical experience in Canada.
Where to Stay while Hiking in Banff National Park
If you’re a lover of the great outdoors and visiting Banff during the summertime, then I recommend camping! Parks Canada operates 13 campsites in Banff National Park. Reserve in advance as they can book up during peak season.
If you prefer the comfort of a roof over your head (no judgment), there are plenty of amazing accommodations options in Banff.
Budget: Banff International Hostel – If you are on a budget or just want an easy way to meet some hiking buddies, then Banff International Hostel is a great option. It’s located right in downtown Banff next to a bus stop, which can help you get to the trailheads.
Mid-range: Moose Hotel & Suites – This is a great place to stay in the town of Banff. I spent a weekend here and loved the log style structure as well as the outdoor hot tub, which is PERFECT for soaking your muscles after a day of hiking in Banff.
Luxury: Fairmont Banff Springs – because who doesn’t want to stay in a castle? If you can afford it, staying at the Fairmont Banff Springs will make your trip to Banff unforgettable. At the very least, go admire it!
Gear for Hiking in Banff
If you’re going to spend a few days hiking in Banff, then it’s best to be prepared for the elements! This is Canada after all. Here are some items to take with you while hiking in Banff.
- Refillable Water Bottle – water is free in Canada, and it’s delicious. I love Hydro Flask because they keep your beverage cool (or warm) for 24 hours. Fill up before you go!
- Sunscreen, Sunhat, and Sunglasses
- Snacks. Hiking burns a lot of energy, and the last thing you want is to end up hangry on the trail. I love cliff bars.
- First aid kit – Accidents happen! Be prepared.
- Bear Spray – While no one hopes to run into a bear while hiking in Banff, it’s better to be safe than sorry. You can buy this in the town of Banff as well.
- Insect repellant – the mosquitoes are ruthless in the summer.
- Headlamp – In case your hike ends up running late into the evening, you’ll be grateful to have this.
- Day pack – to put all this stuff in.
- Trekking poles – optional, but can be helpful on some of the Banff hiking trails.
- Hiking boots/shoes – Some of the Banff hiking trails can get muddy, especially in the spring after the snow melts. I lived in my Merrells while hiking in Banff.
- Hiking Socks – No one likes blisters. I love smart wool.
- Crampons – You may need these in the winter, depending on what hike you are tackling.
- Rain Jacket or Poncho – Because Canadian Weather is unpredictable.
- Light sweater or jacket – again, Canada. If it’s winter, you’ll need a very warm coat.
- What to wear on you: For females, I recommend hiking pants, a sports bra, and a breathable quick-dry t-shirt. Depending on the time of year, you may also want to bring merino wool base layers.
- A camera to capture your beautiful memories. While hiking, I take my Sony A7ii along with a 24-240mm lens and tripod for capturing the stars and northern lights. Read more: What Photography Gear do I use?
If you’re visiting Banff National Park, be sure to check out at least one of these amazing hikes. Whether you’re looking for an easy hour walk or an all-day adventure, there’s a hike in Banff for you.
Exploring more of Canada? Check out these posts!