Alberta | Banff | Hike | Rockies

21 Best Banff Hikes Ranked (for 2020)

Looking for the best Banff hikes? We rank our favorite hikes around the park and share all of the details in this guide to experience the best in the park. You’ll find on these hikes in Banff 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 trails that are capable for anyone of reasonable fitness. There are plenty of more challenging Banff 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, there are so many more hikes in Banff and tons of exploring. Anyone of these Banff hikes is certain to supply plenty of fantastic wilderness landscapes. Plus any hiker who gets the opportunity to hike around Banff National Park should consider themself very fortunate.



The Best Banff Hikes


1.) Mount Bourgeau & Harvey Pass


Bourgeau

Mount Bourgeau is a 2,931-metre (9,616 ft) tall mountain in the heart of Banff National Park promises some extraordinary views. It’s easily accessible from the town of Banff and Canmore as it’s only a 10-15 minute drive to the parking area. This makes it a great hike for those staying in Banff town. While the terrain is not challenging the sheer length and elevation gain requires strong legs.

To reach the peak you climb over 1,700 meters or 5,600 feet and nearly 22km in a day. That being said it’s one of the easiest peaks in the Rockies as it requires no scrambling or climbing. However, on the way to the peak you cross the lovely Bourgeau Lake, witness stunning views from Harvey Pass, and then 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 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 were able to complete the trip in around six hours with over a half-hour at the summit. Unless you’re trail-running don’t expect to complete it any sooner as the average time is around eight hours. This is a full day hike so come prepared.

  • Length: 21.7 km
  • Duration: 5 – 10 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1,731 meters
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking: Bourgeau Lake Trailhead
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Lunch, Layers, hiking poles, High Ankle Hiking Boots

2.) Tunnel Mountain


Tunnel-Mountain-Hike-Mount-Rundle-View

Tunnel Mountain gets the nod for our number two because it’s right in the heart of Banff. It’s beloved by locals for its accessibility and you can hike it year-round. It may be one of the smallest mountains in Banff National Park, but it still offers tremendous views of the surrounding valleys.

The hike moves slowly up the mountain through a number of switchbacks and offers various viewpoints out into the Bow and Spray Valleys. It’s great for sunrise or sunset and it 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 Banff hike.

  • Length: 4.5 km.
  • Duration: 1 hour+
  • Elevation Gain: 266 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best Time To Go: Year-Round (If winter wait after a snowfall for a snowshoer to break trail.)
  • Parking: Three official parking lots or Banff Town Center.
  • Gear Needed: Layers, Water, Hiking Poles, Possibly Microspikes in Winter.

3.) Sunshine Meadows


Sunshine Village

This is a great 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 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.

  • Length: 8 km
  • Duration: 2 – 5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 309 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking: Sunshine Village
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Lunch, Layers, hiking poles, High Ankle Hiking Boots

4.) Healy Pass


This is a tremendous hike that is sure to be loved by all who set out on the journey — easily one of the best hikes in Banff. It peaks twice a year first in the early summer when the valley flooded with millions of wildflowers and again in fall when the larch trees turn gold. Once hikers reach the pass they are afforded stunning views of the surrounding peaks and Egypt Lake.

Parks Canada maintains 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.

At its start, the trail makes a gradual climb 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 that provides amazing views out to the surrounding peaks. In the distance, you can see one of the most picturesque peaks in Banff, Mount Assiniboine.

If there is one negative it’s the long approach to this hike. As you walk through the forest for nearly 8km it can feel a bit like a slog. In wet weather, the forest can also be very muddy so be sure to wear high ankle boots.

  • Length: 20.9 km
  • Duration: 5-7 hrs
  • Elevation Gain: 705 meters
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Best Time To Go: July (wildflower season) September-October (larch season)
  • Parking: Sunshine Village
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Lunch, Layers, hiking poles, High Ankle Hiking Boots

5.) Parker Ridge


For amazing views with relatively easy effort it doesn’t get much better than Parker Ridge Trail. We recently completed this hike in late June 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.

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. It’s a pretty clear and well-trodden trail the entire way up. The Parker Ridge hike is a gradual incline the entire 269 meters up. However, there is nothing hard or technical about this Banff hike, and no scrambling involved making it a great hike for newer hikers. It’s great for the entire family! 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. This hike took us two hours round trip with photo stops, but we are relatively fast hikers.

  • Length: 1.5 km
  • Duration: 2-4 hrs
  • Elevation Gain: 269 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best Time To Go: June-September
  • Parking: Parker Ridge Trailhead
  • Gear Needed: Bear Spray, Trail Runners, Wateer

6.) Sentinel Pass /Larch Valley


Sentinel-Pass-Hike-In-Banff
Jay Dyson

This is the quintessential Canadian Rockies hike. It’s fairly challenging, hugely popular, and offers some of the most stunning natural scenery in Canada. The hike follows a similar route at the Eiffel Lakes hike but departs at the fork and up into the Larch Valley.

The pass is most well known and attracts hundreds of photographers and hikers during the larch season in late September. It’s 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.

Moraine-Lake-Larch-Valley-Hike-Sentinel-Pass
Paul Zizka

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 Temple Mountain, but that is a much more daunting task that should be reserved for those who are adequately prepared — it’s a very serious mountain.

  • Length: 10.9
  • Duration: 3 – 6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 792 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking:
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Lunch, Layers, hiking poles, High Ankle Hiking Boots

7.) Helen Lake (Cirque Peak)

Banff Hikes Helen Lake Cirque Peak

Helen Lake is a beautiful lake along the Icefields Parkway. 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 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.

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

  • Length: 16.7 km
  • Duration: 4 – 6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 754 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking: Helen Lake Parking Lot
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Lunch, Layers, hiking poles, High Ankle Hiking Boots

8.) Lake Agnes / Big Beehive / Little Beehive

The Lake Agnes Teahouse 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 teahouse and stunning Lake Agnes.

This is an easy hike that can be done in under two hours and is an iconic thing to do in Banff. However, be warned it is a busy one! To escape the crowds (and get better views) keep climbing to the Big Beehive. If you’re seeking more challenge check out Mt. St. Piran or Devils Thumb. The next step for an experienced scrambler/climber would be to summit Mount Niblock or Mount Whyte (difficult!).

  • Length: 10.3 km
  • Duration: 2 – 4 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 647 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: June – October
  • Parking: Lake Louise Parking Lot or Overflow
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Lunch, Layers, hiking poles, High Ankle Hiking Boots

9.) Cory Pass – Mt Edith Circuit

Banff Hikes Cory Pass
Paul Zizka

This is one of the more physically demanding hikes on this list Banff hikes, but it 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 and leave 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. All together this hike offers some promising views and a demanding hike that is just outside of the town of Banff.

  • Length: 13km
  • Duration: 4 -7 hrs
  • Elevation Gain: 1,168
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Best Time To Go: June – October
  • Parking: Cory Pass Loop Trailhead
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Lunch, Layers, hiking poles, High Ankle Hiking Boots

10.) Wilcox Pass


Banff Hikes Mount Athabasca

Wilcox Pass offers mesmerizing glacial views and towering mountains. The hike flank either side of Mount Athabasca and Andromeda two of the tallest mountains in the Canadian Rockies.

Hikers can also expect a nice smattering of wildflowers or the chance to spot mountain goats and bighorn sheep.


11.) Plain of Six Glaciers


Plain of Six Glaciers

This is an incredible hike that 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. It’s a stunner of a hike with a whole bunch of reward vs effort.

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 all 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.

  • Length: 13.8 km
  • Duration: 3 – 5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 587 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: June – October
  • Parking: Lake Louise Day Parking Lot, Overflow
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Lunch, Layers, hiking poles, High Ankle Hiking Boots

12.) Bow Glacier Falls


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

However, the views from along the Bow Lake are spectacular and at its finish hikers witness the birth of a vital river in Alberta from the Wapta Icefield high above. It’s a great hike for those driving the Icefields Parkway as it only requires a few hours and gives a chance to stretch the legs.

  • Length: 8.7 km
  • Duration: 2 – 3 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 266 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking: Num-Ti-Jah Lodge
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Lunch, Layers, hiking poles, High Ankle Hiking Boots

13. ) Johnston Canyon / Ink Pots


Johnston Canyon Landscape
johnston canyon - banff

The Johnston Canyon walk is the best thing you can do in Banff in the winter or summer for free. In the winter it’s truly magical and has fewer tourists (but still busy). Have you ever stood on a frozen waterfall before? Neither had we until the Johnston Canyon hike. Due to the elevation of the region and the sub-zero temperatures of winter the waterfalls of Johnston Canyon freeze in time. It’s a pretty surreal experience and completely accessible for all.

As a tip, 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.

The summer is a completely different experience and nice to watch the waterfalls in motion. It is one of the easiest hikes you can do around Banff, with a well-maintained trail that is suitable for all ages. If you want to make a bit more of a day out of the hike make sure to continue on to the Ink Pots. An added journey that is well worth the effort as it separates from more of the crowds and offers amazing views out to the surrounding mountain ranges.

  • Length: 11.7 km
  • Duration: 2 -5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 608 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: Year-Round
  • Parking: Jonhston Canyon Parking Lot
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Lunch, Layers, hiking poles, High Ankle Hiking Boots

14.) Consolation Lakes Trail


This is a family favorite as it 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 Lakeshore Trail as it the terrain is more difficult with greater elevation gain and a short section that crosses over a boulder field.

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


15.) Rockbound Lake

Rockbound Lake Banff Hike

Rockbound Lake is one of our favorite hikes in Banff because it’s easy to find some peace and quiet if you climb up past the lake. The views also continue to open up and provide some 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 that is flanked by steep cliffs and looks 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.

  • Length: 17.5 km
  • Duration: 4 – 7 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 911 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult
  • Best Time To Go: June – October
  • Parking: Castle Junction
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Lunch, Layers, hiking poles, High Ankle Hiking Boots

16.) Moraine Lakeshore/ Rockpile

Moraine-Lake-Cameron

The Rockpile trail brings you to the aptly named “Twenty Dollar View” because it is the scene used on the former 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, 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 switchback along the backside of the rocky moraine. There are a number of stone and log steps that make it accessible to most able-bodied people. Keep an eye out for pikas and chipmunks that are frequently seen darting in and out of the rocks.

While the Lakeshore Trail begins from the Canoe docks, it’s a flat trail that works its way along the shoreline of the lake and back. It’s a wonderful trail that moves in and out of the forest with great views of the lake and mountains.

You’ll be shocked at how few visitors to Moraine Lake go just a little further hike along one the easiest trails in the area. At the end of the hike is a boardwalk near the waters flowing down from Wenkchemna pass.

  • Length: 2.9kms
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Elevation Gain: 162 metes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best Time To Go: May – October (Road closure in winter season)
  • Parking:
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Lunch, Layers, hiking poles, High Ankle Hiking Boots

17.) C Level Cirque

Banff Hikes C-Level-Cirque

A short, but rewarding hike near Banff is C Level Cirque. C Level Cirque starts near Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake, it’s a steady incline to the amphitheater which should only take about 45 minutes.

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.

We love to do this hike when we’re short on time as you can get it done in under three hours and close to town. The perfect way to end a workday in the summer. It’s great for families and older visitors to Banff. This is a 9 km out and back trail which can get very busy on weekends in the summer.

  • Length: 9.2 km
  • Duration: 2 – 4 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 755 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult
  • Best Time To Go: May – October
  • Parking: Upper Bankhead Parking Lot
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Lunch, Layers, hiking poles, High Ankle Hiking Boots

18.) Banff Bow River Hike

Cascade-Gardens-Banff

This is a classic walk/hike within the town that highlights the pristine wilderness and natural beauty that surrounds the town of Banff. It’s 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 who are not as able-bodied — you could even push a stroller or wheelchair along the paved paths.

It starts from the center of town loops through the Cascade of Time Garden and then follows the river to Bow Falls before ending at the Banff Springs Hotel — at least that’s our version! 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.

  • Length: 3.7 km
  • Duration: 1 – 2 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 78 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking: Banff Town
  • Gear Needed: Walking Shoes, Water

19.) Chephren Lake

Icefields Parkway
Waterfowl Lake

Chephren Lake sits above the Waterfowl Lakes along the Icefields Parkways and offers some stunning views of the glaciated surrounding peaks. Lakes here are also that famous glacier blue without the crowds of Peyto, Louise, or Moraine. The trail weaves through the woods and ascends a couple of hundred meters before opening up the stunning glacier lake.

  • Length: 7.7 km
  • Duration: 1-3 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 241 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: July – October
  • Parking: Waterfowl Lakes
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Lunch, Layers, hiking poles, High Ankle Hiking Boots

20.) Lake Minnewanka Lakeside

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 as challenging or as easy as you’d like since it follows along the lake. Naturally, the further along the lake you hike the more quiet it becomes.

  • Length: 16.3 km
  • Duration: 1 – 4 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 523 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking: Lake Minnewanka
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Lunch, Layers, hiking poles, High Ankle Hiking Boots

21.) Sulphur Mountain

Town of Banff Overlook Canmore vs Banff

Sulphur Mountain is easily one of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park. It’s a beautiful hike up that provides visitors with 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 Gondola Station. Follow the boardwalk along the ridge to the peak and stunning views out across the valley and Banff.

In the winter it’s free to take the Gondola back down so it’s a great way to get some exercise without having to walk back out. Due to it’s 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 means that Sulphur mountain becomes very busy, particularly the peak.

  • Length: 10.1 km
  • Duration: 2 – 4 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 744 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking: Banff Gondola / Hot Springs
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Lunch, Layers, hiking poles, High Ankle Hiking Boots

Kananaskis Country


This list was just Banff hikes, but there is so much more in the area such as Yoho National Park and the Provincial Park Kananaskis Country. Both 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 hikes in Kananaskis Country here.


Advice on Banff Hikes


If this is your first time hiking in the Rockies take a conservative approach. 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.

For long hikes, set a turn around time at the departure. Any time we set out for an objective I determine a time at which we need to turn around in order to arrive at the parking lot or campsite by dark. I would recommend not hiking in the dark as it’s easy to get lost and it’s not fun in bear country.

On that note, always carry bear spray if you plan to hike in the park. We carry ours in the neighborhood and bears have been known to stroll through town and busy parking lots. Always practice wildlife awareness when you’re on a trail, and please give animals space.

In regards to times keep in mind your mountain fitness — different than the gym. The low end of the times in this post is a constant fast pace uphill with little to no breaks and a brisk pace downhill. Most hikers should plan for a middle of the road time with the estimated duration.

It’s also super important to know that there are limitations and to come prepared. These are very serious mountains and it easy to get in well over your head with life-threatening consequences. That being said, all of these hikes should pose no risk if you stick to the trail.

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