32 Banff Hikes – Our Personal Favorites With Photos

Looking for the best Banff hikes? We share our favorite hikes in Banff 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 Banff hiking trails that anyone of reasonable fitness can complete. 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, Banff is a huge park and there are so many more hikes in Banff and tons of exploring. Any one of these Banff hikes is certain to 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.


Best Banff Hikes


1.) Mount Bourgeau & Harvey Pass

Bourgeau
  • 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

I’m going to start off 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 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 requires strong legs and some stamina.

To reach Bourgeau 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 to reach the top.

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 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 were able to complete 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-Mount-Rundle-View
The view of Mount Rundle from Tunnel Mountain – one of my favorite easy Banff hikes!
  • Length: 4.5 km.
  • Duration: 1 hour+
  • Elevation Gain: 266 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best Time To Go: Year-Round
  • Parking: Three official parking lots or 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 center of town, but Tunnel Mountain is a short walk from Banff Ave. 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 over the Bow River and Mount Rundle. 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. Tunnel Mountain is an easy hike for families or those with mobility issues.

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 a great 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 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

  • 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 is sure to be loved by all who set out on the journey. It peaks twice a year – first in the early summer when the valley flooded with millions of wildflowers and again in fall when the thousands of larch trees turn gold. Once hikers reach the pass they are afforded stunning views of the surrounding peaks and Egypt Lake further down.

Parks Canada does a great job in 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.

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 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. In wet weather, the forest can also be very muddy so be sure to wear high ankle boots. However you’ll quickly put those 7km behind you as the trail opens up. 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

  • 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, there is a campground at Egypt Lake so most people stay overnight and possibly scramble up Pharaoh Peak the next day.

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.

Regardless the whole circuit can be done in a long day especially if you are a fast hiker or trail runner included Pharaoh Peak. We hiked to Egypt Lake and back in a day and it took us around 7.5 hours, 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

Another one of my favorite easy Banff hikes
  • Length: 1.5 km
  • Duration: 2-4 hrs
  • Elevation Gain: 269 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best Time To Go: June-September
  • Parking: Parker Ridge Trailhead

After completing Parker Ridge this past summer it shot right up to one of my favorite hikes in Banff. For amazing views with relatively easy effort, it doesn’t get much better than Parker Ridge Trail. 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.

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 you reach the Columbia Icefields center.

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. 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 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 lots of photo stops.

Read the Full Hike Report – Guide to Hiking Parker Ridge


7.) Sentinel Pass /Larch Valley

  • 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 the most stunning natural scenery in Canada.

The pass is well known in the park 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.

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.

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


8.) Helen Lake (+Cirque Peak 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

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 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 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)

Little Beehive
  • Length: 10.3 km
  • Duration: 2 – 4 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 647 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: June – October
  • Parking: Lake Louise Parking Lot or Overflow

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 teahouse and stunning Lake Agnes.

This is an easy hike that can be done in under two hours. However, be warned it is a busy one! 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 October, before it really starts to snow and the trail to the tea house closes for the season.

If you’re seeking more challenge check out Mount Saint Piran or Devils Thumb scramble. The next step for an experienced scrambler/climber would be to summit Mount Niblock or Mount Whyte (difficult!).

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

  • 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 then consider continuing up Mount St. Piran. It’s classified as an easy scramble, but there is little hands-on scrambling involved. However, it is steep, but the views are worth it

The route up to Mount St Piran falls between a scramble and 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.

Since the route begins at Lake Louise one of the hardest parts of the day is to secure parking in the morning. There are multiple ways up Mount St. Piran, but the easiest and most straightforward is via the Little Beehive.

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


11.) Cory Pass – Mt Edith Circuit

  • Length: 13km
  • Duration: 4 -7 hrs
  • Elevation Gain: 1,168
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Best Time To Go: June – October
  • Parking: Cory Pass Loop Trailhead

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.


12.) Wilcox Pass

  • Length: 9.3 km
  • Duration: 3-5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 522 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking: Wilcox Pass Trailhead

Wilcox Pass offers mesmerizing glacial views over the Columbia Icefields and towering mountains. 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.

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. The scale here is mind-boggling.


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, Overflow

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.


14.) Bow Glacier Falls

Mount Jimmy Simpson Scramble
  • Length: 8.7 km
  • Duration: 2 – 3 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 266 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking: Num-Ti-Jah Lodge

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.

However, the views from along Bow Lake are spectacular and at its finish hikers witness the birth of a vital river in Alberta and powerful waterfall 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.


15. ) Johnston Canyon / Ink Pots

Johnston Canyon Landscape
johnston canyon - banff
Johnston Canyon in the summer
  • Length: 11.7 km
  • Duration: 2 -5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 608 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best Time To Go: Year-Round
  • Parking: Jonhston Canyon Parking Lot

The Johnston Canyon walk is the best thing you can do in Banff in the winter. 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 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 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.

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. This means it’s extremely busy in July and August, 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

  • 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, Lake Louise, Overflow

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 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 Babel. 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 Babel and Mount Fay, topped by glaciers.


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 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.


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 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, 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 Banff walking 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 and hike along one 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
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: May – October
  • Parking: Upper Bankhead Parking Lot

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 it’s close to town. The perfect way to end a workday in the summer is by heading here. It’s also 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, so if you can try and visit on a weekday.


20.) Banff Bow River Trail

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

This is a classic Banff trail 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 with mobility issues — 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.


21.) Chephren Lake

Chephren-Lake
  • Length: 7.7 km
  • Duration: 1-3 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 241 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best Time To Go: July – October
  • Parking: Waterfowl Lakes

One of the best easy hikes in Banff that not many people tackle or know about is Chephren Lake. Chephren Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Banff and sits above the Waterfowl Lakes along the Icefields Parkway 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. 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

  • 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 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.


23.) Sulphur Mountain

Town of Banff Overlook Canmore vs Banff
  • Length: 10.1 km
  • Duration: 2 – 4 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 744 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: Year Round
  • Parking: Banff Gondola / Hot Springs

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.

A Guide to: Hiking Sulphur Mountain


24.) Taylor Lake

Skinning up to Taylor Lake in March
  • 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 opens up to some spectacular views. It’s a really 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 especially beautiful during the larch season when the whole area turns yellow.

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

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 hike year round – the above photo was taken in March.


25.) Skoki Area

  • 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 car park area for Skoki Lodge near Lake Louise Ski Resort. The start of the hike is 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 real fun begins as you hike along easily trails coming across mind-blowing larches and impressive peaks.

There are tons of Banff hiking trails and mountains to climb once you get back here, including Mount Richardson and Brachiopod Mountain, which are both fantastic. However, I found the most amazing views to be around Myosotis Lake and Zigadenus Lake. 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.



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 very popular sport in Banff, but it should not be confused with hiking. Some scrambles are dangerous and you should have proper experience with harder hikes and maybe even some beginner scrambling. 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 referring to how difficult the scramble is as far as scrambling terms. This means is there exposure, and how experienced should you be. The difficulty scale here is not the same as the difficulty on a Banff hike.


26.) Devil’s Thumb

Devils-Thumb-lake louise
  • 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 harder than the Big Beehive, The Devil’s Thumb is classified as a scramble. Albeit a very easy 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 a great 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 is going to 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


27.) The Onion

  • 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 not a lot of intel and not mentioned in any scrambling books or even on Alltrails.

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

A Guide to: Scrambling The Onion in Banff


28.) Mt. Jimmy Simpson

Mount Jimmy Simpson Scramble
  • 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’m going to be heading back to Bow Lake a whole lot more next summer.

The scramble up Jimmy Simpson is a long one, and is best left to the more experienced as there is some route finding 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 of a day for you, you can always consider bushwacking up to Jimmy Simpson Jr which has much less elevation gain and distance involved.

A Guide to: Scrambling Jimmy Simpson Mountain


29.) 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 large party
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate Scramble
  • Best Time To Go:  July – September.
  • Parking: Hector Lake Parking area

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 view little actual scrambling involved, but the sections that do require 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.


30.) 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 there are a few hands-on scrambling points throughout the hike. We met a lot of people on Cascade that had never hiked before, and 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.

How to Hike Cascade Mountain


31.) 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

Tower of Babel is 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. Tower of Babel is a sub-peak. 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.

We had Tower of Babel on our objective list last summer, but due to parking struggles at Lake Moraine we were never able to complete it. 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 your jaw dropping.

How to Scramble the Tower of Babel


32.) Observation Peak

  • Length: 8.2km
  • Duration: 5-8 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1,067m
  • Difficulty: Moderate scramble
  • Best Time To Hike Observation Peak: July – September
  • Where to Park: Across the street from Bow Summit car park.
  • Helmet Necessary: Yes

Have you heard of the Instagram famous Peyto Lake? Most visitors park in the nearby parking lot and walk up an easy 10 minute maintained path to see it in the summer. 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 is a moderate scramble that can be done in half a day. 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 there are some intimidating scramble sections that require experience scrambling in the Rockies.

A Guide to: Scrambling Observation Peak on the Icefields Parkway


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 are 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 ranging in difficulty.


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.
  • Leash your dogs. Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times while hiking in Banff.
  • If tackling some of these hikes in Banff during the winter months, 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!

What to Wear On a Hike in the Rockies?

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The Banff Blog Facebook Group is your headquarters for the Canadian Rockies travel advice and information. Including hike info and off-season travel information. This is also a place where you can meet one another when you’re in need of adventure buddies. 

About Cameron

Cameron Seagle 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.

2 thoughts on “32 Banff Hikes – Our Personal Favorites With Photos”

  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…

    Reply

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