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19 Best Hikes in Banff National Park (2023 Guide)

There is a lot of pressure to pick out the best hikes in Banff National Park for your visit to Alberta.

With dozens of family loop trails, popular day hikes, and challenging technical hikes to choose from, knowing which one is right for you can be tricky!

And let’s be honest, if you get it wrong, then you could spend half your day getting ready, finding parking, and ascending a mountainside to realize it wasn’t what you thought you signed up for.

Lucky for you though, I’ve hiked several of Banff’s most popular trails as well as many lesser-known ones, and I’m here to give you the scoop on 19 different hikes that you could do in Banff.

After I teach you the best time to go hiking in Banff and where to stay (including my favorite campground) – and even what to pack – you’ll be soaking in the alpine views in no time!

🥾 Experience the best hikes in Banff National Park with this hop-on hop-off bus tour!

19 Best Hikes in Banff National Park 

Tunnel Mountain in Banff National Park. This easy hike offers amazing views like this one of green pine trees, an emerald lake, and a jutting mountain against the blue sky.

1. Tunnel Mountain

If you’re looking for one of the best easy hikes in Banff with amazing views, Tunnel Mountain is the perfect option.

Located just a short, 1-kilometer walk from downtown Banff, this 2.8-mile out-and-back trail ascends 875 feet to the summit of Tunnel Mountain, giving hikers stunning views of the town below and the surrounding range.

You can hike Tunnel Mountain at any time of the year since the trail is always open, but I recommend going during late spring or early fall when the crowds have dispersed and the temperatures are more pleasant.

I’ve heard it’s absolutely beautiful after the snow starts to fall, too.

To get there, you can park your car at either the lower or upper parking areas located directly at the trailhead, or there is a bus that runs from Banff’s city center if you don’t have a vehicle of your own.

Or, if you’re staying right in town and want to get a head start on your day’s hike, you can walk the 1 kilometer directly to the trailhead!

Distance: 4.3km (2.8 miles)

Elevation: 300m (948 feet)

Difficulty: Easy

Type of Trail: Out and Back

Duration: 2-3 hours

Best Time of Year: Late spring, early fall

Cavernous wall of the Johnston Canyon Trail, best reached by a hike in Banff National Park.

2. Johnston Canyon Trail

On the hunt for a moderately challenging hike that is studded with waterfalls all along its route?

Then Johnston Canyon Trail is one of your must-do hikes in Banff!

This 3.2-mile trail winds its way up 859 feet to two stunning waterfalls – Lower and Upper Falls.

But the Upper Falls definitely wins most tourists over with its breathtaking 40-meter drop.

Be sure to continue the hike to the very end if you want to be rewarded with a quick dip in its refreshing pool!

The hike starts at the main trailhead, located just off Route 1A about a 32-minute drive from Banff.

There are two parking lots at this trailhead, but the one located at the entrance often fills up quickly since it has rather limited spots.

If you find yourself arriving later in the morning and the lot is full, just turn back as if you were returning to Banff and there will be another lot on your right a few hundred feet down the road.

While the route is typically open year-round (the end of the trail leading to the Upper Falls often closes in the winter due to snow and poor trail conditions), June is the best time to visit.

You may have to endure bumping elbows with dozens of other people on the trail, but it will be worth it to see the many waterfalls along the way rushing with glacier and snow run-off from the previous winter season.

Distance: 5.1km (3.2 miles)

Elevation: 262m (859 feet)

Difficulty: Moderate

Type of Trail: (i.e. loop, out and back)

Duration: 2 hours

Best Time of Year: June

Morain Lake - the crystal blue lake in Banff National Park - to the left with snow capped Rocky Mountains behind it. The trail is a boardwalk along the shore of the lake.

3. Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail

The Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail is undoubtedly one of the best hikes in Banff National Park, which surprised me due to the fact that it’s a relatively easy hike.

Taking just under 2 hours to complete on average, most people actually choose to take their time and focus on photography along the extremely scenic route.

With just over 900 feet of elevation gain over the course of this 3.2-mile out-and-back trail, the Moraine Lake shoreline is fantastic for families, solo hikers, and even those looking for a good running trail (though in the summer months this will be quite difficult with the influx of tourists on the trail).

While you may read elsewhere that the peak summer months offer prime weather, I actually found September to be the optimal time to visit. I was able to capture gorgeous photos of the park at sunset without any tourists in them.

I believe May and June would offer a similar experience, but the weather will be much milder in September.

If you’re coming from the town of Banff, you’ll have about an hour’s drive northwest to Moraine Lake Road where there is a parking lot right at the end just before the Moraine Lake Lodge.

Parks Canada also runs a Moraine Lake shuttle bus that you can easily book your spot on from Banff if you don’t have a car or don’t want to deal with the hassle of parking near some of the best trails in Banff.

Distance: 5.1km (3.2 mile)

Elevation: 275m (900ft)

Difficulty: Easy

Type of Trail: Out and back

Duration: 2 hours

Best Time of Year: September

Hiking in Banff Emily Embarks

4. Chephren Lake Hiking Trail

A bit further from the city, the Chephren Lake Hiking Trail is about an hour and 22 minutes drive from the center of Banff along the Icefields Parkway.

Well known by the locals for its remote location, visitors will have to drive to the Waterfowl Lakes Campground which provides a small parking area for hikers to reach Chephren Lake.

Once you reach the parking area, you’ll simply cross the Mistaya River via a beautiful wooden bridge where you’ll meet the starting line for your 5-mile out-and-back hike.

The trail only rises about 797 feet in elevation and takes an average of about 2.25 hours, making it one of the best moderately challenging hikes in the Banff area.

Unlike most of Banff National Park’s best hikes, the Chephren Lake Trail can be visited all throughout the summer season since far fewer tourists know about the remote trailhead.

Distance: 8km (5miles)

Elevation: 243m (797 feet)

Difficulty: Moderate

Type of Trail: Out and back

Duration: 2 hours 15 mins

Best Time of Year: Summer

Glacier between two Rocky Mountains in Banff National Park.

5. Plain of Six Glaciers

About a 50-minute drive from Banff’s city center, the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail is easily one of the most scenic hikes in Banff National Park.

Pictures seriously don’t do this area justice with its stunning glaciers, craggy mountainsides, and steep cliffs all in view.

The Six Glaciers distance is around 9.1 miles and offers an out-and-back design making it easy to stay on the trail.

On average, hikers take about 4.5 hours to cover the steep 1929 feet of elevation gain, so it’s the perfect route to extend into a day hike if you were hoping to practice your photography skills or simply take your time.

The Six Glacier hike is most popular in the summer months due to the build-up of snow and ice come spring and fall, but it really can be done at almost any time of the year.

To get there, simply park in the Lake Louis parking area for $12.25 per day and start your hike to Mirror Lake.

From there, you’ll see a sign that says “Plain of the Six Glaciers – 4 miles” with an arrow pointing to the left where you’ll see a small percentage of hikers continuing their journey.

Distance: 14.6km (9.1 miles)

Elevation: 588m (1929ft)

Difficulty: Moderate

Type of Trail: Out and back

Duration: 4.5 hours

Best Time of Year: Summer

Healy Pass hike with a boardwalk over a small river beside a green meadow. In the distance ,you can see the Rocky Mountains in Banff National Park.

6. Healy Pass

With an elevation gain of around 2919 feet, many intermediate hikers veer away from the Healy Pass trail when in reality it’s actually one of the best hikes near Banff.

Known for its stunning views of the Banff National Park wilderness, this challenging 11.4-mile out-and-back trail is best visited in the summer months when many of the lakes and streams are thawed out and the wildflowers are blooming.

Just be sure to plan for a full-day hike, as many who attempt this trail end up requiring 6.5 hours at a minimum to complete the round-trip route.

To get to the Healy Pass trailhead, simply park in the Sunshine Village Parking Lot where the trail will be labeled.

There is also a free shuttle between Banff and Sunshine that is offered daily by the Banff Sunshine Village. Take a peek at the shuttle’s running schedule so you can plan your route to and from the city.

Distance: 18.3km (11.4 miles)

Elevation: 890m (2919ft)

Difficulty: Hard

Type of Trail: Out and back

Duration: 6.5 hours

Best Time of Year: Summer

Waterfall at Cascade Mountain in Banff National Park. Thin stream of water pouring over a cliff face amongst pine trees.

7. Cascade Mountain Trail

Just a 14-minute drive north of the city, the Cascade Mountain Trail is easily one of the best hikes in Banff National Park that doesn’t require a long commute.

Be sure to hit the trailhead early, as this long and steep hike is best enjoyed before the crowds come out for a day in the mountains.

You can find its start at the Mount Norquay parking lot which provides parking for both Cascade Mountain and the Cascade Amphitheatre. Simply walk past the day lodge area and you’ll see the trailhead signs for both Cascade Mountain and the Cascade Amphitheatre.

The Cascade Mountain Trail is a 12.5-mile out-and-back trail that ascends over 5925 feet in elevation, making it one of the more challenging hikes in Banff.

In fact, you’ll want to set aside around 10 hours from start to finish for this trail and be prepared for a difficult ascent.

However, with stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and the city of Banff below (similar to how Chamonix looks from Mont Blanc in the Alps), it’s well worth the effort.

Whether you’re an experienced hiker or looking to take on a new challenge, the Cascade Mountain Trail is an absolute must-do when visiting Banff.

Distance: 20.1km (12.5 miles)

Elevation: 1,806m (5925 ft)

Difficulty: Hard

Type of Trail: Out and back

Duration: 10 hours

Best Time of Year: Summer

Two women hiking on a trail beneath Cascade Amphitheatre in Banff National Park. The mountain stretches around them, curved like a theatre.
Photo from Flickr

8. Cascade Amphitheatre

If you’re really up for a challenge, consider combining Cascade Mountain with the Cascade Amphitheatre!

With both trailheads beginning from the Mount Norquay parking lot, this can be a grueling combination for the most intense of hiking enthusiasts.

Lace up your boots for an additional 8.6-mile out-and-back trail and be prepared for it to take about another 5-6 hours if you’re moving at a relatively slow, steady pace since it is rather challenging with just over 3,000 feet of elevation gain.

However, be warned that an ascent like this isn’t to be taken lightly.

Those who attempt this challenge are often at the trailhead well before the crack of dawn, and are prepared to jog or even run a portion of the trail.

Of course, the Cascade Amphitheatre can be done and enjoyed entirely on its own and makes for one of the best day hikes in Banff.

Just be prepared if you decide to visit in the summer as crowds are notorious here due to its close proximity to the center of town.

The best time to hike the trail is in the late spring or early fall, but no matter when you visit – but be sure to get to the trailhead early for ample parking!

Distance: 13.8km (8.6 miles)

Elevation: 924m (3,000ft)

Difficulty: Hard

Type of Trail: Out and back

Duration: 5-6 hours

Best Time of Year: Summer

View of the glacier from Consolation Lakes Trail in Banff National Park.  The mountain has glaciers formed around its peak that start about half way up the rockface.
Photo from Wikimedia

9. Consolation Lakes Trail

With the same parking area as Moraine Lake, there’s no reason not to include this fantastic half-day hike in your trip to Banff National Park.

Rated as easy with an average completion time of around 2.5 hours, the Consolation Lakes trail is great for families and anyone looking for some time out in nature without the struggle of many of the other trails in Banff.

At about 4.7 miles round-trip, this out-and-back trail only gains around 1,079 feet of elevation and rewards its visitors with two tranquil glacial lakes.

While there are a few tricky spots along this trail that might require some mild scrambling or careful crossing of streams, it’s still rated as easy for its minimal elevation gain and overall ease of navigation.

Owing to this region of Banff’s unparalleled popularity come summertime, finding parking can be a bit of a nightmare. Be prepared to get up very early and score a spot, or even consider sitting outside your car all throughout the evening hours.

Pro Tip: the park never closes, so you can park in the lot overnight but you are not allowed to sleep in your car. I saw people having cookouts well past midnight trying to stay awake in order to score a spot for their morning trek around Moraine Lake and the Consolation Lakes! If you want to avoid this hassle, consider visiting in the spring or fall months.

Distance: 7.6km (4.7 miles)

Elevation: 329m (1079ft)

Difficulty: Easy

Type of Trail: Out and back

Duration: 2.5 hours

Best Time of Year: May and September

Water rushing off the glacier in Bow Glacier Falls in Banff National Park. This hike takes you through glacier run offs like this and up towards the large glacier.

10. Bow Glacier Falls Trail

Bow Glacier Falls happens to be one of my personal favorite hikes in all of Banff owing to its moderately challenging route and quick turnaround time.

Taking 2.5 hours on average and gaining only 977 feet in elevation, it’s the best half-day hike in Banff with some of the biggest scenic rewards.

Those who attempt this 5.5-mile out-and-back route are rewarded with a beautiful 410-foot waterfall that you can sit under, sweeping views of the surrounding mountains, and plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in nature.

This moderately challenging trail is best tackled during the spring or fall months, when there are fewer crowds and the weather is more pleasant.

But I completed it in August and found it not to be too overcrowded.

Pro Tip: it may seem like there are tons of hikers making their way toward the falls, but the trailhead breaks off into two paths – one to the waterfall, and one that requires an additional 3 hours of hiking to reach the Bow Glacier viewpoint. Many hikers also turn back before the first ascent into the wilderness as the first mile of the trail is relatively flat and along the beautiful Bow Lake.

To get to Bow Glacier Falls Trail, you will need to park in the lot at the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. You may see everyone parking along the entrance road to the gift shop, but keep driving as many people get nervous about missing a spot and there are usually plenty at the end right next to the trailhead.

Distance: 8.9km (5.5 miles)

Elevation: 298m (977ft)

Difficulty: Moderate

Type of Trail: Out and back

Duration: 2.5 hours

Best Time of Year: Spring or fall

Entrance to Two Jack Lake Trail, full of pine trees and in front of the Rocky Mountains in Banff National Park.

11. Two Jack Lake Trail

Two Jack Lake is among the really good hikes in Banff National Park for families and those looking for a short visit in nature.

This easily accessible trail is only 2.9 miles long and gains just 994 feet in elevation, making it an ideal choice for hikers of all skill levels.

It only takes about 2 hours to complete this easy out-and-back trail on average, but you could certainly do it quicker if you were moving at a steady pace.

The best time to visit Two Jack Lake is during the late spring or summer months, when the weather is warm and the lake is beautifully clear from the sunlight.

The trail itself is well-marked and relatively flat, making it easy to navigate even for beginner hikers.

Along the way, you will be treated to stunning views of Mount Costigan and the peaceful Minnewanka Lake which provides a great spot for a picnic if you please.

Two Jack Lake has an upper and a lower parking area, but be warned that they do fill up quickly.

Follow the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Dr. until you reach the lake and you’ll find a couple of different small parking areas along the road should the parking lots at the end be filled.

Pro Tip: try to visit on a day when there is little to no wind. This creates a stunning glass-like effect on Minnewanka Lake and you’ll get a lovely reflection of the mountains in the background!

Distance: 4.7km (2.9 miles)

Elevation: 303m (994 ft)

Difficulty: Easy

Type of Trail: Out and back

Duration: 2 hours

Best Time of Year: Late spring and summer

Lake Agnes Teahouse full of people in the summer. The log cabin teahouse is nestled in the pine trees in Banff National Park.

12. Lake Agnes Teahouse Trail

Ah, Lake Agnes. My favorite lake in all of Banff National Park!

But, there is a slight catch.

This stunning, multi-colored lake (caused by the color of the algae in the water contrasting with the sky) can only be explored via the Lake Agnes Teahouse Trail – a moderately challenging 4.6-mile out-and-back that gains 1427 feet in elevation.

I first hiked to Lake Agnes during the month of August, but I would agree with others that it is likely best tackled during the spring or fall months when there are fewer crowds – as capturing even a few photos without people took patience and no lack of creativity.

The trail itself begins at the base of Lake Louise (the Chateau Lake Louise Hotel will be on your right on the way to the trailhead) so luckily you can use the same parking area as the Plain of Six Glaciers trail.

This moderately-challenging trail usually takes people just under 3 hours to complete, but I would recommend planning to spend upwards of 4 or even 5 hours on this hike so you have time for lunch at the Lake Agnes Teahouse.

They sell everything from hot and cold beverages to nachos and sandwiches, but be prepared to spend some time in line… particularly during the summer season.

Distance: 7.4km (4.6 miles)

Elevation: 435m (1427 ft)

Difficulty: Moderate

Type of Trail: Out and back

Duration: 3 hours (4-5 with a stop)

Best Time of Year: Summer

Icey view of Mount Rundle in wintr in Banff National Park. The glaciers have spread further down the mountain in the cold weather.

13. Mount Rundle Trail

When it comes to challenging hiking trails in Banff National Park, Mount Rundle is a top contender. Taking just under 9 hours to complete on average, this out-and-back 9.4-mile trail gains over 5700 feet in elevation.

Offering some of the most striking views of the Canadian Rockies in Banff, advanced hikers will be right at home with its steep incline and strenuous sky ridgeline that tugs at your fear of heights.

Known for its rugged beauty, the best time to tackle Mount Rundle is during the early morning hours when there are fewer crowds and the sun has just risen.

The trail itself is well-marked and relatively easy to navigate, but due to how steep and rocky it can be at times it is best suited for more experienced hikers.

Be sure to pack plenty of snacks, water, and layers as the weather at the summit can be unpredictable.

To get there, drive about 3 minutes from the city of Banff or simply walk for 20 minutes to reach the Bow Falls parking area where you’ll reach the trailhead.

Distance: 15.1km (9.4 miles)

Elevation: 1,738m (5700ft)

Difficulty: Hard

Type of Trail: Out and back

Duration: 9 hours

Best Time of Year: Summer

A beautiful view of a blue lake with the Rocky Mountains in the background and pine tres alongside the dirt road.

14. Stanley Glacier Trail

If you’re looking for a challenging hike with stunning views, look no further than the Stanley Glacier Trail.

This 6.8-mile out-and-back trail gains just under 2000 feet in elevation and offers incredible panoramic views of Banff National Park’s rugged mountains and pristine alpine lakes.

To get there, follow the Trans-Canada Highway west for about 35 minutes from Banff until you reach Castle Junction where you’ll head south for a couple of miles. The trail parking lot will be on your left with signs pointing to the trailhead.

You’ll want to set aside about 4 hours for this round-trip hike, but even longer if you decide to visit in late September or early October when the foliage is at its peak.

Distance: 10.9km (6.8 mile)

Elevation: 604m (2000ft)

Difficulty: Hard

Type of Trail: Out and back

Duration: 4 hours

Best Time of Year: Fall

Top of the peak of Sulphur Mountain Trail with views to the tips of the Rocky Mountains in the background.

15. Sulphur Mountain Trail

Ironically enough, the Sulphur Mountain trailhead is located just a couple hundred feet from the Banff Upper Hot Springs parking lot.

Perfect for a day hike, this challenging 6.8-mile trail gains nearly 2500 feet in elevation as you make your way to the summit of Sulphur Mountain.

With sweeping panoramic views of craggy mountain peaks, the Sulphur Mountain trail is one that should not be missed.

The best time to hike this trail is during the early morning hours when there are fewer crowds, particularly when the gondola is running, so be sure to set your alarm and pack plenty of snacks and water.

The trail itself can be a bit tricky at times, but it’s well-marked with signs that point you in the right direction. Plan on spending about 4.5 hours on this hike.

Don’t forget to pack your camera to capture the stunning views from the summit.

End your day hike with a quick dip in the hot springs before making your way back to Banff!

Distance: 10.9km (6.8 miles)

Elevation: 756m (2500ft)

Difficulty: Hard

Type of Trail: Out and back

Duration: 4.5 hours

Best Time of Year: Summer

Entrance to Little Beehive Trail with people hiking past the direction sign.

16. Little Beehive

Similar to the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail, Little Beehive can also be accessed via the Lake Louise parking lot. Simply follow the trail to the Lake Agnes Teahouse, then continue your path to the right once you reach the Teahouse an additional 0.4 miles (0.6 kilometers).

In total, the out-and-back Little Beehive trail takes about 3.5 hours round-trip. It covers a distance of about 5.6 miles and goes up around 1755 feet in elevation.

It’s moderately challenging so you’ll want to be sure you have sunscreen, good hiking boots, food, and plenty of water, but don’t let this scare you.

You’ll see many families with young kids, solo travelers, as well as older couples tackling this hike in the summer months.

This is when it can get quite hot and crowded however, so if you have the opportunity to visit in the spring or fall, or at the very least early in the morning, it would be in your best interest to do so.

Distance: 0.6km (0.4 miles)

Elevation: 534m (1755ft)

Difficulty: Moderate

Type of Trail: Out and back

Duration: 3.5 hours

Best Time of Year: Spring or fall

People milling about an emerald lake beside sgns for hiking directions in Banff National Park.

17. Big Beehive

Opposite Little Beehive, you can reach Big Beehive by following the trail to the Lake Agnes Teahouse and then continuing to the left about a quarter of a mile (or 0.4 kilometers).

Offering beautiful views of Lake Louise from above, the Big Beehive is perfect for hikers who are looking for a challenging but rewarding day hike.

At 6.8 miles round-trip, this out-and-back trail gains about 2545 feet in elevation and is best tackled during the spring or fall when the weather is milder and you won’t be blasted with extreme sunshine.

However, it is insanely beautiful in the summer months if that is the only time you have to visit Banff.

Both Little and Big Beehive trails are some of the top hikes in Banff National Park, so be sure to plan your hiking route around Lake Louise if you’re short on time.

Big Beehive only takes about 4.5 hours to complete on its own, but you could easily make a full day hike out of Lake Louise, Plain of Six Glaciers, Little and Big Beehive, and the Lake Agnes Teahouse!

Distance: 10.9km (6.8 miles)

Elevation: 776m (2545ft)

Difficulty: Hard

Type of Trail: Out and back

Duration: 4.5 hours

Best Time of Year: Spring or fall

Lake Louise in Banff National Park. Emerald lake with the Rocky Mountains in the background. Easy to visit on a hike!

18. Lake Annette via Paradise Valley Trail

Some of the best hiking trails in Banff may be a bit less obvious than you may think. Lake Annette is a gorgeous alpine lake that often gets overlooked by the nearby Lake Louise.

Best accessed via the Paradise Valley Trail, this 7.1-mile out-and-back trail is moderately challenging, gaining about 1286 feet in elevation as you make your way through winding forest paths and lush meadows.

With beautiful views of craggy mountain peaks and plentiful wildflowers, this hike truly is breathtaking.

The best time of year to visit is in the late spring or early fall, when temperatures are milder and crowds are thinner, but the summer also offers beautiful warm weather.

To get to Lake Annette via Paradise Valley Trail, make your way down Lake Louise Drive until you meet up with Lake Moraine Road. You’ll find a parking area about 1.5 miles down where you’ll see signs for the trailhead.

The trail itself is moderately challenging and takes about 3.5 hours to complete, with some rocky sections and slight inclines.

So be sure to wear good hiking boots and bring plenty of snacks, water, and sunscreen to keep you fueled and protected as you make your way up to Lake Annette.

Distance: 11.4km (7.1 mile)

Elevation: 392m (1286ft)

Difficulty: Moderate

Type of Trail: Out and back

Duration: 3.5 hours

Best Time of Year: Late spring or early fall

Three people paddling a canoe on Lake Louise in Banff National Park.

19. Fairview Mountain

Lake Louise isn’t just insanely gorgeous, but it’s also the perfect starting point for numerous Banff hiking trails.

Once you park your car, head toward the canoe rental cabin on the left side of the lake where you’ll see signs that say the word “Saddleback” just on the other side of the bathrooms.

From here, you’ll follow the Paradise Valley Trail until you reach the junction of Fairview Mountain trail where you’ll continue your ascent to the top of Fairview Mountain, as opposed to Lake Annette.

With a height of 9003 feet, this mountain offers unbeatable birds-eye views of Lake Annecy and the nearby Saddle Mountain.

The trail can be challenging and rocky in places, but the incredible views are well worth it!

It takes about 5.5 hours to reach the top of Fairview Mountain and covers a distance of 5.7 miles with an elevation gain of 3316 feet.

Due to some rocky conditions, this out-and-back trail isn’t recommended in the winter or after heavy rain.

For your safety, consider hiking this trail in the summer months even though the crowds will be larger than in the off-season.

Distance: 9.2km (5.7 mile)

Elevation: 1,011m (9003ft)

Difficulty: Hard

Type of Trail: Out and back

Duration: 5.5 hours

Best Time of Year: Summer

When is the best time to go hiking in Banff National Park?

There is no best time of year to go hiking in Banff National Park, as each season offers its own unique set of challenges and rewards.

Some popular times include spring, when the wildflowers are in full bloom, and summer, when the hiking trails are bustling with activity and all of the local businesses have their summer hours going in the city of Banff (though this is typically when I try to avoid the trails since elbow-to-elbow hiking isn’t always enjoyable).

However, fall is highly perceived for its vibrant and festive foliage.

While winter is when you can enjoy stunning views of the snowy landscapes under crisp, clear skies.

No matter what time of year you choose to visit the Canadian Rockies, the best hikes in Banff National Park will be waiting for you!

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Tips for Hiking in Banff National Park 

Before you head out on your hiking adventure in Banff, there are some safety tips you should be aware of.

Many of these I learned at the Banff visitor’s center when I was looking for a trail map, so I highly suggest stopping by before you take to the hills!

  • Always be prepared before heading out on a hike by packing proper gear and supplies, including food, water, a first-aid kit, a detailed map, a compass, and sunglasses/sunscreen.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and any changing trail conditions at all times while hiking
  • Stay on the designated trails at all times – off-trail hiking can damage fragile ecosystems and make it relatively easy to get lost.
  • When encountering wildlife while hiking, always give them plenty of space and never attempt to touch or feed them. Know how to respond when you come into contact with bears, moose, wolves, elk, and other potential wildlife you may see on the trails. Intermountain Healthcare is a great resource for this.
  • Hike with a partner whenever possible and let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Using a tracking aid such as your phone’s location or an Apple Air Tag is also very helpful for this.
  • Wear sturdy hiking shoes with good traction – flip-flops or sandals are not recommended for hiking at any time, even if you’ll be near one of the popular lakes.
  • Pace yourself when hiking uphill and remember to take breaks as needed. Dehydration is far more likely to occur if you’re moving at a fast pace under severe heat and sunshine.
  • Make sure to drink plenty of water regularly throughout the hike to stay hydrated. Alternating with an electrolyte-based beverage is also a good idea if you are sweating a lot.
  • Some hikes in Banff may or may not require you to hike in groups of 4 or more due to increases in wildlife activity. If you’re traveling solo or with a single buddy, then you may want to make friends at the trailhead.
  • Stop into the Banff National Park visitor center before your hike to get all the information you need about the trails you’re planning to hike.
  • Be respectful of other hikers on the trails and practice “Leave No Trace” principles.
SUV beside a blue and orange tent at a campsite in Banff National Park.

What to Pack for Banff National Park 

When preparing for a hike in Banff National Park, it’s important to have the right gear and supplies to ensure your safety and comfort on the trail.

Here are some essential items you should include on your packing list:

  • Sturdy hiking boots with good traction and ankle support
  • Water bottles or hydration pack to stay hydrated during the hike, around 1 liter of water per hour of hiking is recommended
  • Snacks or a light lunch to keep you energized while on the trail – though you’ll want to plan on keeping this minimal since food is a natural bear attractant
  • First aid kit, including items like bandages, gauze, antiseptic wipes, and ointment
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes from the sun’s UV rays while hiking
  • Compass and map of the area to help you stay oriented on the trail
  • Light or extra layers for warmth and protection against potential wind and rain
  • Headlamp or flashlight for visibility in case your hike takes longer than anticipated
  • Cell phone, in case of emergency and to take photos along the way
  • Travel insurance policy

It’s also important to keep in mind that depending on where you are planning to stay, you may need a much longer packing list.

For example, if you are planning on camping, then a tent, camping chairs, and sleeping bags will be in order.

Or if you’re staying at a beautiful 4-star hotel in Banff with laundry services, you can probably get away with packing far fewer clothes than you originally had planned.

I always try to pack minimally when I go hiking in Banff National Park with only the essentials on hand.

This keeps my daypack light, and my hands free for pictures and rock climbing!

I recommend these hiking boots

Road signs for Lake Louise in Banff National Park.

How to Get to Banff National Park

There are a number of different ways to get to Banff National Park, depending on your location and preferred mode of transportation.

Most visitors choose to drive themselves from cities and towns all across the U.S. and Canada. It is relatively easy to reach no matter what direction you’re coming from owing to the relatively good upkeep of the major highways all across the continent, but this could take you anywhere from a few hours to several days of driving depending on where you’re coming from.

You also have the option of taking public transit such as buses or shuttles from the city of Banff. Free shuttles such as the one offered by the Banff Sunshine Village operate daily while some buses require a small fee from the center of Banff.

If you’re coming from a place where driving isn’t feasible, then you have the option of flying into the nearby Calgary International Airport which is just a little over an hour’s drive to the Lake Louise area.

Car rentals are a great option while you’re traveling around Banff National Park since many of the major sites and landmarks are scattered around the Banff area, and can easily be picked up at the Calgary Airport. This will save you a lot of time rather than waiting for buses or shuttles, particularly if you’re hoping to camp or stay somewhere that isn’t in the Banff city center.

No matter how you choose to access Banff National Park, be sure to plan ahead and allow plenty of time for potential delays or traffic during your trip.​

Looking to get around via car? Find the cheapest car rentals here!

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise with white flowers in front of the large white and green hotel.

Where to Stay in Banff National Park

If you’re anything like me and you love to camp, then I have just the place for you if you’re looking for a budget-friendly option in Banff.

Lake Louis Campground on Fairview Rd is the best place to set up your tent and enjoy the peaceful vibes of nature at just $35 per night.

Surrounded by a bear fence and pet-friendly, this campground caters to anyone, including families of any size. They offer large, groomed campsites with plenty of trees for privacy and have clean and plentiful facilities right on-site (including free showers!)

If you want to take a look at all of the campgrounds in the area, check out the Parks Canada website.

If camping isn’t exactly your style, that’s okay too.

The Lake Louise Inn offers comfortable accommodations at a reasonable price just a short drive from the shores of Lake Louise and close to many of Banff’s popular hiking trails. With plush bedding, a heated indoor pool and hot tub, and 2 onsite restaurants, you’ll be surrounded by luxurious amenities without the five-star price tag.

But, if you’re looking to spoil yourself after your long road trip to Alberta, be sure to book your stay early at the Fairmont Château Lake Louise as rooms can book up months in advance.

Situated right on the edge of Lake Louise, you’ll be blown away by the breathtaking sunrise and sunset over the water each morning and evening of your stay.

Meanwhile, you’ll be nearby some of the best hikes in Banff National Park. And you’ll be spoiled by an enormous heated indoor pool, a floor-to-ceiling wine library, an onsite restaurant that focuses on regional flavors and organic ingredients, as well as deluxe suites offering their own private hot tubs and balconies.

Mirror Lake in Banff National Park, with pine trees around the small green lake that perfectly reflects its surroundings.

FAQs

What is the hardest hike in Banff?

The hardest hike in Banff is the Mount Rundle Trail. Owing to its steep incline, this 9.4-mile trail crosses an unstable mountain ridgeline at its top all the way to the summit with steep drops on either side. A stumble here won’t offer much forgiveness for unfortunate hikers, so be sure to take this hike seriously if you’re planning on attempting it.

Is hiking better in Banff or Jasper?

Having been to both, I believe that hiking is better in Banff National Park than in Jasper. While both parks offer gorgeous alpine scenery and endless hiking trails, I found that the scenery in Banff outweighed that of Jasper, and there were far more trails for all experience levels in Banff.

Jasper is great for hiking, but when it comes to an overall contender for hikers of all levels, Banff is my first choice.

You can do both by driving from Jasper to Lake Louise to Banff on a longer itinerary.

Is Tunnel Mountain a hard hike?

No, Tunnel Mountain is not a hard hike. In fact, it’s actually relatively easy!

At just 2.8 miles round-trip with only 875 feet of elevation gain, this hike is perfect for families and people of all ages. Tunnel Mountain also offers beautiful views of the city of Banff, so it’s the perfect half-day hike for anyone looking for just a small taste of the Canadian Rockies.

How many trails are in Banff National Park?

There are over 200 trails in Banff National Park, so there is no shortage of amazing hikes to explore. Whether you are looking for a short and easy jaunt, or a longer and more challenging trek, you’ll be sure to find the perfect trail for your needs in this stunning national park.

Conclusion: Best Hikes in Banff National Park

Alberta is undoubtedly most popular for its incredible trail system weaving itself through the Canadian Rockies, with the Bow Glacier Falls Trail being one of the best hikes in Banff National Park.

With unlimited panoramic views, gorgeous alpine lakes, and hiking trails of all difficulty levels, it’s easier than ever to hit the trails this season.

Planning a trip to Banff? You’re in for a real treat!

After those long hikes, soothe your aching muscles at one of these amazing hotels with private hot tubs in Banff!

🥾 Experience the best hikes in Banff National Park with this hop-on hop-off bus tour!


Author Bio Photo Emily Embarks 1

Emily of Emily Embarks

Emily is the storyteller behind the Western European travel blog, Emily Embarks. Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Emily now travels full-time and is always in search of her next adventure.

Follow Emily on Instagram!


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Canada Travel Planning Guide

🚑 Should I buy Canada travel insurance?

100% YES! — Canada has “free” healthcare but it’s only for citizens! Foreigners visiting need travel insurance in case anything happens on their visit. I recommend World Nomads – starting at just $5 a day!

💧Can you drink the water in Canada?

Yes — In all major cities in Canada, you can drink the tap water. There are very few, rural areas that you can’t. However, you should never drink river or lake water anywhere in the country! I recommend a Brita Water Bottle for long hikes and backcountry camping to stay safe and hydrated.

🚙💨 Is it safe to rent a car in Canada?

Yes Renting a car is a necessity in most of Canada! If you want to go on road trips or adventures outside of the major cities, you’ll need to rent a car. (Read more)

📲 Will my phone work in Canada?

Maybe — Some American companies work in Canada, but many will not. If your phone doesn’t work in Canada, I recommend getting a Canadian SIM card so you can get around and stay in contact with loved ones. We don’t have a lot of free WIFI in Canada, so you’ll need your phone for maps.

🏩 What’s the best way to book my Canada accommodations?

My go-to for Canadian hotels is Booking.com. For hostels, I use Hostel World. If you want a home-y feeling, check out VRBO (which is cheaper and safer than Airbnb).

Or get free accommodations with Trusted Housesitters!

✈️ What’s the best site to buy Canada flights?

For finding cheap Canadian flights, I recommend Skyscanner.

🎫 Do I need a visa for Canada?

Likely Not — US, UK, and EU passport holders don’t need Canadian visas. However, some other countries do (check here!). And if you plan to stay for more than 4 weeks (an average tourist visa length), you will need to look into visas to live in Canada.