33 AMAZING Banff Hikes & Trails To Enjoy in 2024

Looking for the best Banff hikes? We share our favorite hikes in Banff and all the details in this guide to experience the best in the park. On these hikes in Banff, you’ll find high alpine passes lined with wildflowers, jagged peaks topped by glaciers, and a healthy dose of turquoise blue lakes.

I tried to keep a good mix of Banff hiking trails that anyone of reasonable fitness can complete. There are plenty of more challenging hikes, scrambles, climbs, and mountaineering objectives in Banff National Park that offer jaw-dropping views, but they aren’t hikes accessible to all and require more experience in the mountains.

The goal of this list of the best Banff hikes is a mix where the amount of work involved vs. reward keeps everyone happy! Of course, Banff is a huge park, and there are many more hikes and tons of exploring opportunities. Any of these hikes will supply plenty of fantastic wilderness landscapes.

Keep an eye out at the bottom for our favorite scrambles in Banff, too! The following list of Banff hiking trails is in no particular order, and we’ve included all of our own photos so you can determine which hike to put on your shortlist!

When is the Best Time to Go Hiking in Banff?

Hiking Around Mount Assiniboine
Hiking Around Mount Assiniboine

The best time to go hiking in Banff is during the summer months of July and August. This is when most of the snow on high-elevation hikes has disappeared, especially in August. If you have anything big on your Banff hiking list with a chance for snow lingering around at the peak, wait until late July and August. That being said, the hiking season in Banff *officially* starts in early to mid-May (for us, anyway), as this is when the ski season ends and our brains immediately switch to hiking.

In May, you’ll be able to get out on lower-elevation hikes like the Prairie View Trail in Kananaskis without the risk of snow. As the summer progresses, your choice of hikes will expand, and you can work up to the higher elevation hikes. By early June, a hike up the Lake Agnes Tea House, or maybe even further to Mount Saint Piran, is a great option. Great hiking in Banff typically lasts through September (larch season!) and the first few weeks of October, depending on the year. By the end of October/early November, there will certainly be snow at higher elevations, and it’s time to switch to winter mode again.

This is not to say that you cannot hike in Banff in the winter, as there are plenty of fun trails. You’ll just have to consider winter conditions and temperatures. See some of our favorite Banff winter hiking trails here.

Our Favorite Banff Hikes!

1.) Mount Bourgeau & Harvey Pass

Mount Bourgeau & Harvey Pass
From the summit, looking back at Mount Assiniboine
  • Length: 21.7 km
  • Duration: 5 – 10 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1,731 meters

I will start this list with one of the best hikes in Banff. Mount Bourgeau is a 2,931-metre (9,616 ft) tall mountain in the heart of Banff National Park that promises some extraordinary views. It’s easily accessible from the town of Banff as it’s only a 10-15 minute drive to the parking area from town. This makes it a great hike for those staying on Banff Ave. While the terrain is not challenging, the sheer length and elevation gain require strong legs and stamina.

To reach Bourgeau Peak, you climb over 1,700 meters or 5,600 feet and nearly 22 km. It’s one of the easiest peaks to summit in the Rockies, requiring no scrambling or climbing to reach the top. So if you want to come to Banff to summit a mountain – Bourgeau may be what you are looking for. On the way to the peak, you cross the lovely Bourgeau Lake, witness stunning views from Harvey Pass, and the whole park opens up from the summit. It’s an expansive view that never disappoints.

Banff Hikes Mount Bourgeau

You have a few options for the hike, as you can choose to go just to Bourgeau Lake or Harvey Pass, each cutting a large chunk of the hike out. This makes it a great hike in Banff for all skill levels as it can be adjusted.

We completed the trip up to the summit around six hours with over a half-hour at the summit. Unless you’re trail-running, don’t expect to complete it much sooner as the average time is around eight hours. This is a full-day hike, so come prepared with lunch, water, and snacks.

Read the Full Hike Report - Guide to Hiking Bourgeau Lake and Summit 

2.) Tunnel Mountain

Tunnel Mountain hike in winter
Tunnel Mountain in December
Views over Banff from Tunnel mountain
  • Length: 4.5 km.
  • Duration: 1 hour+
  • Elevation Gain: 266 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best Time To Go: Year-Round
  • Parking: Three official parking lots (we like this one) or walk from Banff Town Center.

Tunnel Mountain gets the nod for our number two because it’s right in the heart of Banff. There aren’t many hikes accessible from the town center, but Tunnel Mountain is a short walk from Banff Ave. Locals love it for its accessibility and because you can easily hike it year-round. Although it may be one of the smallest mountains in Banff National Park, it still offers tremendous views of the surrounding valleys.

Tunnel Mountain in the summer
Tunnel Mountain in September

The hike moves slowly up the mountain through several switchbacks and offers various viewpoints over the Bow River and Mount Rundle. It’s great for sunrise or sunset and rarely disappoints.

If we’re ever in need of a workday hike where we just need something short and sweet for fresh air, Tunnel Mountain is our go-to. Tunnel Mountain is an easy hike for families or those with mobility issues but is also popular for trail runners looking for a quick jog up a mountain.

Read the Full Hike Report - Guide to Hiking Tunnel Mountain

3.) Sunshine Meadows

Sunshine Meadows Hike
  • Length: 8 km
  • Duration: 2 – 5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 309 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking: Sunshine Village

This is an excellent Banff hike with tremendous views and none of the work because the real leg work is done by the Sunshine Village Gondola. From the village, hikers have a plethora of options from the convenient base. Situated in an alpine meadow, the trails are flanked by a sea of wildflowers.

The classic hike to Rock Isle Lake follows the shoreline of two lakes, crosses an alpine larch forest, and has an amazing viewpoint that provides views out to Kootenay National Park. To walk through these alpine meadows feels like something out of a fairytale; it is sublime.

4.) Healy Pass

Healy Pass during larch season
  • Length: 20.9 km
  • Duration: 5-7 hrs
  • Elevation Gain: 890 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: July (wildflower season) September-October (larch season)
  • Parking: Sunshine Village

Healy Pass is a tremendous Banff day hike that will surely be loved by all who set out on the journey. It peaks twice a year – first in the early Banff summer when the valley is flooded with millions of wildflowers and again in Banff in the fall when the thousands of larch trees turn gold. Once hikers reach the pass, they are rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding peaks and Egypt Lake further down.

Parks Canada does a great job of maintaining the trail, and it remains one of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park. The trail begins at the Sunshine Village parking lot, and the trailhead is located behind the main building.

Healy Pass during larch season

At its start, the trail gradually climbs through a shaded lush forest. After 8km, the forest gives way to a gorgeous alpine meadow and the wide expanse of wildflowers — it’s likely the best place to witness them in the park. Past the meadow is the apex of the trail Healy Pass, which provides amazing views out to the surrounding peaks. In the distance, you can see one of the most picturesque peaks in the Rockies, Mount Assiniboine.

If there is one negative, it’s the long approach to this hike. As you walk through the forest for nearly 7 km, it can feel a bit like a slog. The forest can also be very muddy in wet weather, so wear high-ankle boots. However, as the trail opens up, you’ll quickly put that 7 km behind you. This is easily one of the best hikes in Banff!

Read the Full Hike Report - Guide to Hiking Healy Pass in Banff

5.) Egypt Lake

Egypt Lake
Egypt Lake is one of my favorite Banff hikes
  • Length: +6km from Healy Pass
  • Duration: 7-14 hrs
  • Elevation Gain: 1340 meters
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Best Time To Go: July (wildflower season), September-October (larch season)
  • Parking: Sunshine Village

I’m noting Egypt Lake as a great Banff hike next because it is an extension of Healy Pass. To visit Egypt Lake in one day is a long one, but it can be possible if you are a fast hiker. However, Egypt Lake has a campground, so most people stay overnight and possibly scramble up Pharaoh Peak the next day. You’ll need to plan this and reserve your campsite in advance.

egypt lake cabin

The trail down to Egypt Lake starts from the top of Healy Pass. You’ll actually descend about 400 meters to get to the lake, which sounds simple after the climb to Healy Pass, but remember you have to climb it back out, creating a long day.

Regardless, the whole circuit can be done in a long day, especially if you are a fast hiker or trail runner (who often include Pharaoh Peak in the same day). We hiked to Egypt Lake and back in a day, and it took us around 7.5 hours from the Sunshine Village parking lot, but I would highly suggest camping so that you don’t have to be so rushed and can really enjoy the scenery.

6.) Parker Ridge

Parker Ridge
Parker Ridge is easily one of the best Banff hikes and views for the effort
  • Length: 1.5 km
  • Duration: 2-4 hrs
  • Elevation Gain: 269 meters

This past summer, after completing Parker Ridge, it shot right up to one of my favorite hikes in Banff. It doesn’t get much better than Parker Ridge Trail for amazing views with relatively easy effort. We completed this hike in late June while driving the Icefields Parkway, and it absolutely blew me away. I usually hike a lot longer and harder for views that are half as good, so this is easily one of the best Banff hikes you can do.

The only issue is it’s about a two-hour drive from Banff town, so I would recommend this Banff hike when you are already making your way up the Icefields Parkway or on your way to Jasper. It’s short and sweet and can easily be incorporated into an Icefields Parkway road trip itinerary.

To begin this hike, park at the trailhead found on Alltrails – it’s a popular hike so expect plenty of cars and people on weekends. If driving from Banff to Jasper, you won’t miss the cars parked on your left before reaching the Columbia Icefields Center.

It’s a pretty straightforward and well-trodden trail the entire way up. The Parker Ridge hike is a gradual incline the entire 269 meters up. There is nothing hard or technical about this Banff hike, and no scrambling is involved making it a great hike for newer hikers. It’s great for the entire family and those with mobility issues or whoever just wants a nice easy day out! We saw older people, young children, and dogs on this hike.

When you reach the ridge, you will be blown away by the views over the impressive Saskatchewan Glacier and the beautiful bright blue lake- seriously, it doesn’t get much better! This trail holds a lot of snow, so either bring gaiters or be prepared to get your feet a little wet if hiking outside of July and August. This Banff hike took us under two hours round trip with many photo stops.

Read the Full Hike Report - Guide to Hiking Parker Ridge

7.) Sentinel Pass/Larch Valley

Minnestimma Lake
Sentinel Pass views in the larch season
  • Length: 10.9
  • Duration: 3 – 6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 792 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking: Moraine Lake

This is the quintessential Canadian Rockies hike. Sentinel Pass is fairly challenging, hugely popular, and offers some of Canada’s most stunning natural scenery. The pass is well known in the park and attracts hundreds of photographers and hikers during the larch season in late September. During this period, the valley trees turn to a bright golden color, and the mountains are topped with the first signs of the new season’s snow.

Larch Valley with the Ten Peaks in the background
Larch Valley with the Ten Peaks in the background

It’s a soul-stirring scene that can easily be considered one of the best day hikes in the world. The pass ends with access to Mount Temple, but that is a much more daunting task that should be reserved for those who are adequately prepared — it’s a very serious mountain, and experience scrambling in the Rockies is ideal.

On the Paradise Valley Trail between Banff and Jasper
On the Paradise Valley Trail

Most people stop at the top of Sentinel Pass and turn around back to Moraine Lake. However, if you are looking for an extra-long day out, you can drop off the back side of Sentinel Pass and into Paradise Valley. The Paradise Valley trail connects you to Lake Louise on one epic point-to-point Moraine Lake hike, but be forewarned it’s 20km and a very long day out. To do this you’ll have wanted to plan your day in advance and utilize the Parks Canada shuttles.

Read the Full Hike Report - How to Hike Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass

8.) Helen Lake (+ Cirque Peak Scramble)

Overlooking Helen Lake
Overlooking Helen Lake
  • Length: 16.7 km
  • Duration: 4 – 6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 754 meters

Helen Lake is a beautiful lake along the Icefields Parkway and one of the best hiking trails in Banff. It’s far less popular than nearby Moraine Lake or Lake Louise. While the water is not glacier-fed bright blue, it’s just as beautiful. And unlike Moraine or Lake Louise, Helen Lake is actually relatively quiet.

To get to Helen Lake, you must hike in on a moderate trail for 6km (one way). The trail is well-maintained and absolutely stunning, with views of mountains and blooming wildflowers everywhere! Bring lunch here and enjoy the views once you reach Helen Lake.

Due to the stunning alpine meadow views out to Mount Hector, the hike can draw a small crowd, so be prepared for limited parking. From Helen Lake, you can head up to the Dolomite Pass, which provides views of Lake Katherine. If you’re interested in adding more, the climb up to Cirque Peak is great for a first-time scramble in the Rockies.

Read the Full Hike Report - How to Hike to Helen Lake (add on Cirque Peak)

9.) Lake Agnes + Beehive Circuit (Little and Big Beehive)

Lake Agnes at sunset
Lake Agnes
Little Beehive views
Little Beehive
  • Length: 10.3 km
  • Duration: 2 – 4 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 647 meters

The Lake Agnes Tea House trek is a popular thing to do in Banff for visitors to Lake Louise. This is an easy to moderate hike above Lake Louise that is suitable for all visitors to Banff. When you reach the top of the 7.6 kilometers (round trip) heavily trafficked out and back trail, you’ll find a historic teahouse and stunning Lake Agnes.

This is one of the easiest Banff hikes that can be done in under two hours. However, be warned it is a busy one – easily one of the busiest in the park! To escape the crowds (and get better views), keep climbing to the Little Beehive and then to the Big Beehive.

Because of their ease and access, these can be some of the best hikes in Banff in early October, before it really starts to snow and the trail to the tea house closes for the season. Though there are not many fall colors around Lake Agnes.

If you’re seeking more challenges, check out Mount Saint Piran or Devils Thumb scramble, which are both extensions of Lake Agnes. The next step for an experienced scrambler/climber would be to summit Mount Niblock or Mount Whyte (difficult scramble!).

Tea house Trek - How to Hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House
Little and Big Beehive - How to Hike the Beehive Circuit

10.) Mount St. Piran

Mount St. Piran
  • Trailhead: Lake Louise
  • Distance: 12.2 km
  • Elevation: 918 meters
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Best Time To Hike: June-October
  • Time: 3-6 hours

If you’ve already hiked up the Little Beehive and have time and want a more extensive Banff hike, consider continuing up Mount St. Piran. It’s classified as an easy scramble, but little hands-on scrambling is actually involved. Although it is steep, the views over Lake Louiare are 100% worth it.

The route up to Mount St. Piran falls between a scramble and a hike. It’s a good early season objective once the snow melts off the avalanche slopes, as there is no exposure to be found on the route.

Mount St. Piran

Since the route begins at Lake Louise, one of the hardest parts of the day is to secure parking in the morning. We recommend arriving before 7am, and either pay the $36.75 fee to park at the lake, or utilize the Lake Louise shuttle, which is a Parks Canada shuttle that runs from the Lake Louise Ski Resort. Tickets on the Lake Louise shuttle must be reserved in advance.

There are multiple ways up Mount St. Piran, but the most straightforward is via the Little Beehive trail.

Read the Full Hike Report - How to Hike Up Mount Saint Piran

11.) Cory Pass – Mt Edith Circuit

Cory Pass - Mt Edith Circuit
  • Length: 13km
  • Duration: 4 -7 hrs
  • Elevation Gain: 1,168

This is one of the more physically demanding hikes on this list of Banff hikes, but it is very rewarding. You’ll need decently strong legs to climb to Cory Pass, as it’s a bit of a grind-up with a quick elevation ascent. Once in the pass, the mountains encompass you, leaving you humbled by the scale.

There is an option to scramble to the top of Mt. Edith before walking around the mountain and back down. Altogether, this hike offers some promising views and a demanding hike just outside of Banff’s town.

12.) Wilcox Pass

 Wilcox Pass
  • Length: 9.3 km
  • Duration: 3-5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 522 meters

Wilcox Pass offers mesmerizing glacial views over the Columbia Icefields and towering mountains and is one of the best hikes to do if you’re driving the Icefields Parkway. The hike gains a pass across from Mount Athabasca and Andromeda, two of the tallest mountains in the Canadian Rockies, and provides amazing views.

Since it sits on the border between Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, it is best done if you are either staying near the Columbia Icefield or driving between Jasper and Banff as it’s quite a drive from either town.

Hikers can also expect a nice smattering of wildflowers or the chance to spot mountain goats and bighorn sheep. Plus, utterly mind-blowing views of the Athabasca Glacier and some of the park’s largest peaks.

13.) Plain of Six Glaciers

Plain of Six Glaciers
  • Length: 13.8 km
  • Duration: 3 – 5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 587 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: June – October
  • Parking: Lake Louise Day Parking Lot

This incredible hike starts out strong with a walk along Lake Louise and finishes in an open plain of glaciers. To sweeten the deal, the historic Plain of Six Glaciers teahouse is there to reward hikers with a cup of tea or a fresh-baked goodie while hiking. It’s a stunner of a hike with a whole bunch of reward vs effort.

Plain of Six Glaciers
Plain of Six Glaciers

At one point, this massive valley was the convergence of six glaciers that have all since retreated due to warming temperatures. All that is left now is the monstrous debris field that will leave hikers in awe of their earth-shaping capability. It’s also possible to combine this hike with the Lake Agnes / Big Beehive hike for an incredible day in the mountains.

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike: All You Need To Know

14.) Bow Glacier Falls

Start at Bow Lake
Start at Bow Lake
bow glacier falls
Bow Glacier Falls
  • Length: 8.7 km
  • Duration: 2 – 3 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 266 meters

Hike to Bow Glacier Falls for some outstanding views and a gorgeous Banff waterfall. It’s a pretty relaxed hike that spends the majority of time along the shoreline of Bow Lake.

The views from hiking around Bow Lake are spectacular. However once you climb the stairs and see Bow Glacier Falls, hikers witness the birth of a vital river in Alberta and a powerful waterfall from the Wapta Icefield high above. It’s a great hike if you’re already driving the Icefields Parkway as it only requires a few hours of time and gives a chance to stretch the legs if you’ve been driving a lot.

15. ) Johnston Canyon / Ink Pots

johnston canyon in winter
Winter at Johnston Canyon
  • Length: 11.7 km
  • Duration: 2 -5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 608 meters

Johnston Canyon can be hiked all year, and is one of the most famous hikes in the entire park. Although it’s a year round hike, I particularly love Johnston Canyon walk in the winter. It’s truly magical and has fewer tourists than in the summer (but still busy). Have you ever stood on a frozen waterfall before? Neither had we until the Johnston Canyon hike.

Due to the region’s elevation and the sub-zero temperatures of winter, the waterfalls of Johnston Canyon freeze around December and usually remain frozen until April. It’s a pretty surreal experience and completely accessible for all.

As a tip for Banff winter hikes, we suggest picking up some ice cleats in town if you visit Banff in the winter. Although the trail is well managed, it can get icy and it’s better to slip everywhere on the trail – ours were very handy! Once you reach the end of the trail and the most impressive frozen fall you’ll probably find some ice climbers. If you’re feeling adventurous, book an ice climbing tour yourself.

johnston canyon - banff
Johnston Canyon in the summer

It’s a completely different experience in the summer, and it’s nice to watch the waterfalls in motion. It is one of the easiest hikes around Banff, with a well-maintained trail suitable for all ages. However, it’s hectic in July and August and even parking can be difficult, so get here early or in the evening for fewer crowds.

If you want to make a bit more of a day out of the hike, make sure to continue on to the Ink Pots.

A Guide To: Hiking Johnston Canyon

16.) Consolation Lakes Trail

Consolation Lakes Trail
  • Length: 5.8 km
  • Duration: 1 – 2 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 255 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best Time To Go: Late May – October
  • Parking: Moraine Lake Parking Lot

This is a family favorite near Moraine Lake that can be paired with the Moraine Lake Rockpile, and it’s pretty easy with a little elevation gain. It’s a nice step up from the Moraine Lake Lakeshore Trail as the terrain is more difficult with greater elevation gain and a short section that crosses over a boulder field. Bonus that very few people make the hike to Consolation Lakes, giving hikers a chance to break away from the crowds.

Along the Moraine Lake hike, you get views of the scree slopes from the Tower of Babel. The hike passes through the old-growth forest before arriving at an alpine field and wetlands with the Consolation Lakes at its end. You get tremendous views of the backside of the Ten Peaks, Mount Babel, and Mount Fay, topped by glaciers from the lakes.

17.) Rockbound Lake

Rockbound Lake Banff Hike
  • Length: 17.5 km
  • Duration: 4 – 7 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 911 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult
  • Best Time To Go: June – October
  • Parking: Castle Junction

Rockbound Lake is one of our favorite hikes in Banff because if you climb up past the lake, you can easily find some peace and quiet. The views also continue to open up and provide jaw-dropping views of the Bow Valley.

The trail spends a lot of time in the forest, but once you ascend a series of steep switchbacks, you arrive at Tower Lake, and the views really open up. Further past another series of switchbacks, you arrive at Rockbound Lake, flanked by steep cliffs, and look out to extraordinary views.

For a truly epic day, you can summit Castle Mountain by continuing past the lake or Helena Peak. That being said, it’s a demanding day at 27km and 1,540 meters of elevation gain. It also happens to be one of my favorite day trips in the Rockies and an easy scramble.

18.) Moraine Lakeshore/ Rockpile

Moraine Lake
  • Length: 2.9kms
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Elevation Gain: 162 metes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best Time To Go: May – October (Road closure in winter season)
  • Parking: Moraine Lake

The Rockpile Trail at Moraine Lake brings you to the aptly named “Twenty Dollar View” because it is the scene used on the former Canadian twenty dollar bill and shot by almost every photographer. We like to consider it one of the best views in the world. Moraine Lake’s deep blue is backed by the famed Ten Peaks, which are ten towering snow-capped peaks. However, the Rockpile and the lakeshore trail aren’t much of a hike.

It’s a short walk up to the top of the Rockpile, a natural dam. The trail switchbacks along the backside of the rocky moraine and takes just five to ten minutes to reach the top and have an amazing few. Several stone and log steps make it accessible to most able-bodied people. Keep an eye out for pikas and chipmunks frequently darting in and out of the rocks.

While the Lakeshore Trail begins from the canoe docks, it’s a flat Banff walking trail that works its way along the lake’s shoreline and back. It’s a wonderful trail that moves in and out of the forest with great lake views and mountains, and is best for anyone not looking to gain elevation on their walk.

You’ll be shocked at how few visitors to Moraine Lake go just a little further and hike along one of the easiest Banff trails in the area, meaning you will find a little solitude at points on this trail. At the end of the hike is a boardwalk near the waters flowing down from Wenkchemna Pass.

A Guide to: Visiting Moraine Lake

19.) C Level Cirque

Banff Hikes C-Level-Cirque
  • Length: 9.2 km
  • Duration: 2 – 4 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 755 meters

A short but rewarding hike near Banff is C Level Cirque. C Level Cirque starts near Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake at the Upper Bankhead Parking Lot. It’s a steady incline to the amphitheater, which should only take about 45 minutes to one hour.

You can stop here, but the views over Lake Minnewanka start when you climb higher. Follow the trail around the amphitheater and up for about 45 more minutes until you reach the rock wall. Turn around and you’ll find the most stunning view of Lake Minnewanka.

We love to do this hike when we’re short on time, as it can be done in under three hours and is close to town. It’s the perfect way to end a workday in the summer. It’s also great for families and older visitors to Banff as it’s not too long, but still provides something to do and has stellar views. This 9 km out-and-back trail can get very busy on weekends in the summer, so you can try and visit on a weekday.

20.) Banff Bow River Trail

  • Length: 3.7 km
  • Duration: 1 – 2 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 78 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking: Banff Town

This classic Banff trail within the town highlights the pristine wilderness and natural beauty surrounding Banff’s town. The Bow River Trail is mainly paved following the Bow River. It’s the perfect to do in the morning with coffee, after dinner, or if it’s raining in the park. It’s great for beginners or those with mobility issues — you could even push a stroller or wheelchair along the paved paths.

bow falls
Bow Falls

It starts from the center of town and loops through the Cascade of Time Gardens, and then follows the river to Bow Falls before ending at the Banff Springs Hotel — at least that’s our version! But there are many trails you can take depending on how long you want to walk.

The Bow River is gorgeous, and it’s a good walk any time of the year. The river is also a prime habitat for elk when they birth their young in the early summer as they like to hang around town — less snow and more grass.

21.) Chephren Lake

Taking a dip in Chephren Lake
  • Length: 7.7 km
  • Duration: 1-3 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 241 meters

Chephren Lake is one of the best easy hikes in Banff that not many people tackle or know about. Chephren Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Banff and sits above the Waterfowl Lakes along the Icefields Parkway, offering some stunning views of the surrounding glaciated peaks. Lakes here are also that famous glacier blue without the crowds of Peyto, Louise, or Moraine Lake.

The trail weaves through the woods and ascends a couple hundred meters before opening up to the stunning glacier lake under Mount Chephren. It’s an easy and mellow objective the whole family can do, but bring good shoes; the trail can be extremely muddy!

22.) Lake Minnewanka Lakeside

Lake Minnewanka Lakeside
Lake Minnewanka Lakeside
Lake Minnewanka
  • Length: 16.3 km
  • Duration: 1 – 4 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 523 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking: Lake Minnewanka

Take a hike along one of Banff’s largest lakes. It’s one of our favorite places to spend some time. This hike is great for at least three seasons as it stays low in elevation along the lakeside of Lake Minnewanka.

The great part about this trail is that it can be as challenging or as easy as you’d like since it follows along the lake. Naturally, the further along the lake you hike, the quieter it becomes.

23.) Sulphur Mountain

 Sulphur Mountain
Sulphur Mountain on New Year’s Eve
  • Length: 10.1 km
  • Duration: 2 – 4 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 744 meters

Sulphur Mountain is easily one of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park. It’s a beautiful hike that offers visitors astonishing views over the Bow Valley and Spray Valley. The trail leaves from the Banff Gondola or Hot Springs parking lots and follows a series of switchbacks up Sulphur Mountain until reaching the top of the Gondola Station. Follow the boardwalk along the ridge to Samson Peak and see stunning views out across the valley and Banff.

Due to its proximity to Banff town and the fact that you can take the Banff Gondola up to the peak instead of sweating it out on the trail, the top of Sulphur Mountain and the boardwalk become very busy, especially in the summer. It’s not the best hike if you’re looking for peace and quiet in nature, but it is a great free alternative to paying for the Banff Gondola.

A Guide to: Hiking Sulphur Mountain

24.) Taylor Lake

Taylor Lake early October
  • Distance: 13.7km
  • Elevation: 907 meters
  • Time: 3 to 6 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best Time to Go: Accessible year round
  • Trailhead: Taylor Lake Parking Area

Taylor Lake sits at the base of Mt Bell and offers some spectacular views. It’s a serene place and a fantastic day out in the mountains for active visitors who come to Banff. It’s a pretty boring hike until you reach the lake itself, but once you get there, you’ll be surrounded by amazing views; it’s wonderful during the larch season when the whole area turns yellow.

Taylor Lake Banff in Larch Season

Continue on the trail and enjoy the nearby Panorama Meadows, as the widely spaced trees and elevation provide some great views of the valley below.

Taylor Lake in the winter
Skinning up to Taylor Lake in March

During the weekend you may find it hard to get parking as space is limited. As mentioned, the other downside to this hike is that the vast majority takes place in the forest so there isn’t much for views until the end. It’s a great payoff though! Taylor Lake is a great year-round hike. The above photos were taken in March and October!

25.) Arnica Lake

Arnica Lake-Banff
Arnica Lake in the larch season
  • Distance: 10+km
  • Elevation: 750 meters
  • Time: 3 to 6 hours

We recently checked off Arnica Lake as we knew it was a great larch hike in Alberta, and boy did it impress. This family-friendly hike starts off strong with great views of Vista Lake from the trailhead. Enjoy the views from above; you’ll be heading down to Vista Lake on the way to Arnica Lake.

Once you pass Vista Lake, there are minimal views until you get to Arnica Lake. This Banff trail is quite rooty and a fairly steep one, but it’s 750 meters spread out over 5 km, so there are plenty of chances to take it slow and relax among the trees. Once you get to Arnica Lake, you’ll be amazed by the views. If you visit in late September, when the larches have turned golden, you are in for a real treat.

I love this Banff hike because you have plenty of options to keep going and explore more. If you have a little more in, you continue to Twin Lakes, where you can camp at Twin Lakes Campground or turn around for one long day hike. For a truly epic circuit, you can hike up to Gibbon Pass, which is said to be one of the most beautiful hikes in all the Rockies!

This whole circuit makes for a great backcountry trip where you can hike 15 km to Shadow Lake and stay at the Shadow Lake Campground, or continue on to Ball Pass campground, then to Scarab and Mummy Lakes to end at the Sunshine Parking lot. So many great options in this area for 2, 3, 4, or a 5-day backcountry trip!

26.) Skoki Valley

Skoki Valley
  • Distance: Depends on route, but plan on at least a 20 km day
  • Elevation: 965 meters
  • Duration: 4 to 8 hours
  • Difficulty: Hard because of the length
  • Best Time to Hike: Larch season
  • Trailhead: Skoki Lodge Parking

Although the Skoki area is right next to Lake Louise Ski Resort and literally across the TransCanada from Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, it is far less frequented or even heard about than the other two areas. But if you go on this adventure to hike back to Skoki Lakes and the peaks in the area, you will be amazed by the scenery.

Start at the Skoki Lodge car park area near Lake Louise Ski Resort. The hike starts pretty boring, as it trails along a ski-out road until you reach the Larch side of Lake Louise. Once you reach the chairlift, the worst is behind you, and you have a few more km of hiking through the forest until the area really opens up into something spectacular.

Skoki Valley in larch season

I’m not noting one hike here, as there are tons of Banff hiking trails and mountains to climb once you get back into the Skoki Valley, including Mount Richardson and Brachiopod Mountain. We recommend studying a trail map before your outing to see what appeals to you.

However, I found the most amazing views to be around Skoki Lakes – which are Myosotis Lake and Zigadenus Lake. But you can also hike to Baker Lake, Redoubt Lake, have lunch at Ptarmigan Lake and backcountry camp back here. You’ll have to study a map and do some legwork yourself to plan out an itinerary for this area, but I’m 100% you’ll be blown away with whatever you choose.

This is easily one of the best larch hikes in Banff, and I would highly recommend saving this area until the trees turn yellow in late September.

Want to join a guided hike? Discover Banff Tours operates guided hikes every day in the summer to the Plain of Six Glaciers, Stanley Glacier, Consolation Lakes, and Larch Valley.

Amazing Banff Scrambles

If you are a good hiker and want to try something more challenging, try your hand at scrambling. Scrambling is a walk up steep terrain involving the use of one’s hands. Three points of contact with your body is typically needed to classify a hike as a scramble. I love scrambling as it’s more challenging than hiking, and it’s typically required to access some of the big peaks in the Rockies.

It’s a prevalent sport in Banff, but it should not be confused with hiking. Some scrambles are dangerous and you should have proper experience with harder Banff hikes and maybe even some beginner scrambling. Some scramble are not straightforward and do not have a defined trail, meaning route finding and a sense of adventure is needed. August is the best time to scramble as most of the snow has melted off the mountain peaks. 

When I rate the difficulty of these scrambles, I am refering to how difficult the scramble is in terms of scrambling terms. This means – is there exposure on the scramble, and how experienced should you be. The difficulty scale here is not the same as the difficulty on a Banff hike.

27.) Devil’s Thumb

Devils-Thumb-lake louise
The view from Devil’s Thumb (can you see Cameron?)
  • Length: 11.9 km
  • Duration: 3 – 6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1,012 meters
  • Helmet Recommended? Yes
  • Difficulty: Easy Scramble
  • Best Time To Go: June – Early October
  • Parking: Lake Louise

While physically, it’s not much more challenging than the Big Beehive, The Devil’s Thumb is classified as a scramble, albeit a straightforward one, and a great place to start for the adventurous to test their skills. From the Big Beehive hike (mentioned above), this departs from the trail on the way to the overlook and heads along the ridge and then up a gully to the top of Devil’s Thumb. It’s an excellent choice for the adventurous looking for something more out of their Lake Louise hikes.

The gully up to the top of Devil’s Thumb can be busy, steep, and contain loose rock; for this reason, we recommend wearing a helmet. You never know if an inexperienced hiker above you will launch a rock down the gully – hikers have been hurt here from this! It’s also why we would recommend an early morning approach or late afternoon in the shoulder season when it’s quieter.

A Guide to: Scrambling Up Devil's Thumb

28.) The Onion

The Onion
One of my favorite views in Banff!
  • Length: 20 km
  • Duration: 5 – 9 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 850 meters
  • Helmet Recommended? No
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate Scrambling
  • Best Time To Go: July to September
  • Parking: Num-ti-Jah Lodge

There is no shortage of Banff hikes and scrambles along the Icefields Parkway that offer views of craggy peaks topped by glaciers, and the Onion Scramble is no exception. The Onion was one of my favorite days out this past summer, as the views are insane. It’s also a hike with little intel and not mentioned in many scrambling books or on Alltrails. **Update: This hike used to have no reviews just a few short years ago, but now seems to have gotten more popular. Still far from the crowds at Johnston Canyon, but worth noting.

The scramble up to this unofficial peak is right next to the Wapta Icefield, the source of the Bow River. Expect to see glaciers, waterfalls, lakes, tarns, and unique rock formations. It’s easily the most varied and awesome scramble on this list—and not technical!

A Guide to: Scrambling The Onion in Banff

29.) Mt. Jimmy Simpson

Mount Jimmy Simpson Scramble
Summit View / the best view of Bow Lake
  • Length: 16.2 km
  • Duration: 5 – 9 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1125 meters
  • Helmet Recommended? Wouldn’t hurt, but not necessary
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate scrambling, but route-finding skills required
  • Best Time To Go:  July – September.
  • Parking: Num Ti Jah Lodge

Right near The Onion Scramble at Bow Lake is Mount Jimmy Simpson. This was another one of my favorite scrambles of the entire summer, meaning I will be heading back to Bow Lake a lot more next summer.

The scramble up Jimmy Simpson is long and is best left to the more experienced as some route finding is involved. Nevertheless, if you are up for the adventure, you will be rewarded with some of the best views over the Icefields Parkway, Bow Lake, and even Peyto Lake that you can get.

Mount Jimmy Simpson Scramble

If Mount Jimmy Simpson is a little too long a day for you, you can always consider bushwacking up to Jimmy Simpson Jr., which involves much less elevation gain and distance.

A Guide to: Scrambling Jimmy Simpson Mountain

30.) Mount Little Hector

Mount Little Hector
At the summit of Little Hector, Looking at Mount Hector
  • Length: 9.2 km
  • Duration: 4-6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1264 meters
  • Helmet Needed: Would recommend if with a large party

Another fantastic scramble on the Icefields Parkway is Little Hector. However, make no mistake, Little Hector is not little at all and will require you to gain almost 1300 meters in less than 5km. That means it is steep, but it’s a fun scramble with amazing views at the top.

There is actually little actual scrambling involved, but the sections requiring at least three points of contact do require some experience as a fall would result in a likely break (but probably not death). That being said, there isn’t much exposure on the route, and looking back at Hector Lake and ahead at Mount Hector sure does take your breath away.

31.) Cascade Mountain

Cascade Mountain
At the summit of Cascade with Minnewanka behind
  • Length: 20.3km
  • Duration: 5 – 9 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1563 meters
  • Helmet Needed? No
  • Difficulty: Moderate. because of length and elevation gain. Easy Scrambling
  • Best Time To Go: Late July – September. If you can see snow near the false summit from town do not attempt Cascade. Once the snow has melted Cascade is good to go.
  • Parking: Mt. Norquay Day Lodge

Cascade Mountain towers over the town of Banff and has been on every postcard of Banff National Park for years. It’s beautiful to look at, but you don’t just have to stop there!

Did you know you can actually climb Cascade Mountain? It will require work and a long 20km day with a lot of elevation gain, but the rewards are fantastic views over Lake Minnewanka and the glory of saying you summited Cascade! It’s not the most exciting hike you can do in Banff, but it is easily accessible from the town if you don’t want to venture far. Plan a full day for Cascade Mountain and pack appropriately; this is a serious mountain and should not be taken lightly.

If it’s your first hike in the Canadian Rockies, I would not suggest Cascade. It’s long, has a lot of elevation gain, and has a few hands-on scrambling points throughout the hike. We met many people on Cascade who had never hiked before, and I don’t think that’s such a good idea for such a big mountain. However, if you’ve been hiking in the Rockies and are looking for a longer objective, Cascade is a good one.

Read More: How to Hike Cascade Mountain

32.) Tower of Babel

Tower of Babel at Moraine Lake
Tower of Babel in May
  • Distance: 2.9 km
  • Elevation: 518 meters
  • Time: 2.5 to 4 hours
  • Helmet Necessary? Recommended
  • Difficulty: Easy scrambling. Very Steep the whole way.
  • Best Time To Hike: June – Mid October
  • Trailhead: Begins at Moraine Lake Rockpile Trail

The Tower of Babel is a sub peak around Moraine Lake and perhaps the most well-known scramble around the Lake Moraine and Lake Louise area. It’s a quick objective with awesome views of Moraine Lake, Consolation Valley, and the Bow Valley. However, just because it’s a quick one does not mean it is easy – actually, it’s quite intimidating, as it’s literally almost straight up the entire way.

Last summer, we had the Tower of Babel on our objective list, but we could never complete it due to parking struggles at Lake Moraine. However, last summer, we were finally able to check this Banff scramble off after we biked to Moraine Lake and can say the views of Moraine are impressive, and looking ahead at Mount Temple and behind you at Mount Faye sure does leave you jaw-dropping.

Since parking is no longer allowed at Moraine Lake, we recommend taking the Moraine Lake Parks Canada shuttle or book the Moraine Lake Bus Company, which will get hikers to Moraine Lake before sunrise for an alpine start.

How to Scramble the Tower of Babel

33.) Observation Peak

Observation Peak
Peyto Lake from a different angle
  • Length: 8.2km
  • Duration: 5-8 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1,067m
  • Difficulty: Moderate scramble

Have you heard of the Instagram-famous Peyto Lake? In the summer, most visitors park in the nearby parking lot and walk up an easy 10-minute maintained path to see it. However, those looking for an alternative, more adventurous way to see Peyto Lake and the rest of the beautiful Banff National Park should consider the scramble up to Observation Peak.

Observation Peak Scramble
Lots of hands on scrambling

Observation Peak is a moderate scramble that can be done in half a day, but is not for those new to hiking and scrambling. It is one of our favorite scrambles in the Canadian Rockies and provides an excellent workout, stunning views, and little to no other visitors around. You get unparalleled views over Peyto Lake and the Icefields Parkway; however, some intimidating scramble sections require experience scrambling in the Rockies.

A Guide to: Scrambling Observation Peak on the Icefields Parkway

Our Recommendations

The classic hikes for first-timers are Johnston Canyon, Tunnel Mountain, and Lake Agnes Tea House.

If you want a short, easy hike with big view payoffs we recommend Parker Ridge Hike.

If you are hiking with kids, try Johnston Canyon, Tunnel Mountain, Parker Ridge, or Little Beehive.

If it’s your first time on a scramble consider Devil’s Thumb, or drive a bit further to Paget Peak in Yoho.

Our personal top three favorite Banff hikes are Skoki Valley, Healy Pass, and Paradise Valley.

Our top three favorite scrambles are The Onion, Cirque Peak, and Mt Jimmy Simpson.

Then, There’s Always Kananaskis Hiking!

For hikes near Banff, consider Kananaskis Country!

This list was just Banff hikes, but there is so much more in the area, such as Yoho National Park and Kananaskis Country. Both offer spectacular hikes near Banff and are home to some of our all-time favorite hikes and scrambles in the region.

To learn more, we’ve got a post on our favorite easy hikes in Kananaskis Country here as well as our all-time favorite Kananaskis hikes ranging in difficulty.


Hiking Gear We Recommend

Salomon Speedcross 5

Salomon Speedcross 5

The vast majority of hikes and easy scrambles in the Rockies, you’ll find us in our trusty Salomon Speedcross.

Arc'teryx Cerium Hoody

Arc’teryx Cerium

Arc’teryx Cerium is our pick for the best down jacket. It’s incredibly light, and we bring it on almost every hike in the Rockies.

Peak Design Capture Clip

PD Capture Clip

This nifty clip from Peak Design secures a camera to my backpack strap for easy reach. No more digging in the backpack!

Hiking Poles

Hiking Poles

A pair of durable and lightweight hiking poles are a great asset on the hiking trail.  

Gregory Nano Backpack

Gregory Nano 20L

20L feels like the ideal size for quick hikes and scrambles. We love the Nano from Gregory with a hydration reservoir.

Garmin Inreach Mini

Garmin Inreach Mini

There is not much cell service in the Canadian Rockies. In case of emergencies, we carry an emergency beacon with GPS.

Advice On These Best Banff Hikes

  • If it’s your first time on these hikes around Banff, take a conservative approach – read our post for beginner hikers in the Canadian Rockies too. Pick an adequate hike for your fitness, plan for plenty of time, pack water and food, and don’t be afraid to turn around. If you want to learn more about what to wear hiking, we have a great post.
  • Always carry bear spray if you plan to hike in Banff. Always practice wildlife awareness when you’re on a trail, and please give animals space. We talk a lot about bear safety in the Rockies here.
  • Leash your dogs. Dogs must always be on a leash while hiking in Banff.
  • If you plan to tackle some of these hikes in Banff during winter, snowshoes, microspikes, and poles are a huge help. If you plan on hiking a lot in the winter, taking an Avalanche Safety Course is recommended.
  • There is no cell service for most of these hikes, a Garmin Inreach, or something similar could save your life!
  • For all of these hikes, you will need a Parks Canada Pass. The pass costs $11.00 for the day, or get a Discovery Pass, which gets you entrance to all Parks Canada destinations for the year and is only $151.25 for a family. You can purchase this at any park gate.

↓ Join the community ↓

The Banff Blog Facebook Group is your headquarters for Canadian Rockies travel advice and information, including hike and off-season travel information. You can also meet new adventure buddies.

the banff blog facebook group

About Cameron

Cameron is a resident of Canmore, Alberta. After traveling the world for six years, he settled down in the beautiful Bow Valley with Natasha. He has been featured as a travel expert with numerous publications worldwide and has spoken on several occasions about the power of travel. He has a passion for all things in the Canadian Rockies and loves to spend his time snowboarding, scrambling, camping, biking, and trail running. Conservation is a deep fundamental in his life, and he aims to inspire others to care about our natural world. You can learn more on the about us page.

If you have found the content on this site helpful to your trip planning please consider supporting The Banff Blog. You can say thanks directly by buying us a coffee. All support is much appreciated!

13 thoughts on “33 AMAZING Banff Hikes & Trails To Enjoy in 2024”

  1. Can’t wait for the summer when we can all hike again! Would love to try mount jimmy simpson, didn’t know about this one! It does seem a bit scary though. Mount Smutwood is about the hardest we’ve done…

  2. Two questions for yall Coming to Banff in the first week of June, should we bring heavy clothes for hiking, or will spring options be alright? And secondly, is Vermillion lakes a good place to propose?

    • We would suggest a down jacket, shell, good hiking shoes (we like Salomon), and decent hiking pants. A hat never hurts either – you can see some photos for reference here: https://thebanffblog.com/banff-in-june/.

      Vermilion is a great spot to propose and is where Cameron says he almost proposed! However be aware it can draw a crowd around sunset (this is ultimately why he didn’t).

  3. Hi!
    Amazing report, OMG!
    I’m going on May15th to spend 1 week at the region, and intend to do Rockpile, Sentinel Pass, C Level Cirque, Fairview Mountain and Agnes Tree House.
    Do you know if it is a nice season to go to these places?
    tks and congrats for the website!!! amazinnnnnngggg

    • It’s a bit early for Lake Agnes and Fairview, but this season has been warmer than usual so it may be okay! You’ll have to pay attention to the opening date of Moraine Lake as the road typically does not open until the end of May so you won’t be able to access Sentinel Pass or the Rockpile by driving up Moraine Lake Rd.

  4. Wow Thank you so much for this amazing listing of hikes. It is so helpful, the photos are beautiful (I really find useful when you add the time of the year, so we have a better idea of when to do the hike and what to expect. Especially when you are not familiar with the moutain climat). It helps me a lot to start planning the hikes I want to do from may-june.

    • Thanks for the suggestion! Most of these hikes are completed between July and early October! May/June is a great time to go hiking in Kananaskis Country or tackle lower elevation hikes.

  5. hi

    great blog info!!

    if i have to choose 1 long day hike for lake louise – which one you recomand? i see a few, some look like extantion to the agnes lake (devils, piran) – thanks, shalom, ISRAEL


Leave a Comment