Check out these easy hikes in Banff that are family-friendly, as we know many are not up for death-defying mountain summits in the Canadian Rockies. The fresh mountain air and gorgeous scenes in Banff National Park and the surrounding Canadian Rockies are soul-stirring. Everyone should get out for at least one hike while visiting, regardless of age, experience, or ability!
Heading to Banff and not enjoying a few easy Banff hikes or walks in the wilderness would be a disservice to you. These easy hikes in Banff and a few from the area are appropriate for everyone and will supply some outstanding natural sights and pristine wilderness. These easy Banff hikes take place on maintained trails and are sure to be enjoyed no matter your skill or fitness level.
- Our Absolute Favorite Hikes in Banff
- Tips For Hiking in Banff
- What to Wear Hiking
- Family Friendly Hotels to Stay in Banff
The Best Easy Hikes in Banff
Length: 1.8 km | Duration: > 1-Hour | Elevation Gain: Minimal | Best Time To Go: Year-Round | Trailhead: Banff or Fenlands Recreation Center
Fenland is an easy loop through the forest just outside of town. It’s also a great way to connect the town with a walk to the docks of Vermilion Lakes for a beautiful morning or evening hike. The trail is scenic and loops through the forest along Echo Creek, a tributary that connects Vermilion Lakes and the Bow River.
It’s a very relaxing walk that offers some pleasant river views and a few mountain views of Mount Norquay. If you’d like to spot some wildlife, this is an excellent trail as lots of birds nest in the marshlands of Vermilion Lakes, and elk often rut along Echo Creek. Not much of a hike, but a great way to stretch the legs and enjoy nature.
Length: 6.8 km | Duration: 2 Hours | Elevation Gain: 260 meters | Best Time To Go: Year-Round | Trailhead: Lake Minnewanka Parking (GPS)
The Stewart Cayon hike is a great option if you plan to spend your day exploring the loop drive just outside of Banff. It’s a short 6km hike to and down Stewart Canyon. Most of the trail follows along Lake Minnewanka for some pleasant lake views.
Eventually, the trail reaches a wood bridge over Stewart Canyon and the Cascade River for an epic view. The course is well-graded and remains relatively flat for most of the hike, so most should be capable.
It’s a great area to spot some wildlife, but carry bear spray and check for trail closures. The good news is this trail can be completed year-round. You may have to contend with snow or ice in winter and early spring.
You can hike further along the canyon or the trail that follows the Lake Minnewanka shoreline, which continues for 30km. It’s best to turn around whenever you feel ready, but we encourage everyone to hike to the wood bridge.
Sulphur Mountain / Cosmic Ray Station
Length: 1 km | Duration: 1 Hour | Elevation Gain: 35 meters | Best Time To Go: Year-Round | Trailhead: Banff Gondola
Hike along a mountain top without climbing to the top, thanks to the Banff Gondola. From the gondola’s top station is a delightful hike along elevated boardwalks to the Cosmic Ray Station. The station was built in the late 50s as part of an international cosmic weather study, and the structure still stands with its outstanding views.
The boardwalk is flat and only has a few flights of steps. Since you do not need to watch every step, you can spend more time looking out at the sweeping views of the mountains all around. We recommend that anyone who takes the Banff Gondola take a walk along the boardwalk.
You can hike up Sulphur Mountain to the top from the Banff Gondola base for a more challenging and free version. It’s an easy trail, but you do have a fair amount of elevation gain, so some fitness level is required. We consider the hike up Sulphur Mountain to be a moderate hike.
Learn More About The Banff Gondola
Length: 1.3 km | Duration: 1 Hour | Elevation Gain: 75 meters | Best Time To Go: Year-Round | Trailhead: Panther Falls Parking (GPS)
This is a super short 1 km hike along the Icefields Parkway and a great way to stretch the legs. Panther Falls is a stunning waterfall worth a stop no matter the season. In the summer, it’s a rushing waterfall in a lovely setting along the parkway.
It may be even better in the winter as the waterfall freezes and forms giant icicles. If you plan to visit in the winter, it’s good to have some microspikes and possibly a helmet if you want to walk underneath.
Two Jack Lakeside
Length: 4.7 – 7.3 km | Duration: 1-2 Hours | Elevation Gain: Minimal | Best Time To Go: Spring-Fall | Trailhead: Two Jack Lake Parking (GPS)
Two Jack Lake is one of our favorite lakes in Banff, so naturally, a hike along its shoreline is a great one. It’s a breathtaking lake and often casts a reflection of the iconic Mount Rundle. The hike follows a trail that connects the Two Jack Lake with the neighboring campground and the Cascade Canal.
The hike itself is not busy, but the lake and water are popular on a lovely sunny day. Two Jack is a playground for water sports and a fabulous picnic spot. You won’t be alone, but the hike is often quiet. Start from the car park and follow the shoreline trail towards Mount Rundle to follow the trail.
The trail will follow the lakeshore until it reaches the Cascade Canal, and a bridge leads over the canal just past the campground. That makes a good turn around, or you can cross the bridge and follow the canal to Johnson Lake Road. The only issue is you can’t loop the trail and need to walk back towards the car park.
Length: 1.3 km | Duration: 1 Hour | Elevation Gain: 144 Meters | Best Time To Go: Summer | Trailhead: Banff Airport Parking (GPS)
Every visitor to Banff will see Cascade Mountain looming over the Bow Valley. It’s a huge mountain, and the Cascade Falls are tough to miss as they tumble down the mountain. Not far from the overpass of the TransCanada lies a small parking lot where you can cut through the trees and towards the waterfall.
It’s a short and steep climb up scree to reach the fall, but it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes. As a reward, you’ll get to see touch the water and catch some views of the Bow Valley down below. This hike can be a little more difficult, although we’d still classify it as an easy hike because it’s so short. The scree can be challenging to climb, so be sure-footed.
Bow Falls Viewpoint
Length: 3 km | Duration: 1 Hour | Elevation Gain: 50 Meters | Best Time To Go: Year Round | Trailhead: Town Of Banff
The Bow Falls viewpoint is one of our favorite walks in Banff. Whenever we feel like a change of pace, we’ll grab a coffee and walk from town to the Bow Falls. The viewpoint at Bow Falls is about 1.5 km from the center of downtown Banff. Along the way, you’ll cross over the Bow River for some astounding views of the Bow Valley from the bridge.
After the bridge, the trail to the falls is paved or gravel and very easy outside one steep stair section that provides a view over the falls. However, the classic viewpoint lies a litter further and just below the famous Banff Springs Hotel. If it’s a nice summer day, consider heading up to the hotel’s restaurant, Waldhaus, for beautiful views and German beer.
Athabasca Toe Glacier
Length: 1.4 km | Duration: 1 Hour | Elevation Gain: 61 Meters | Best Time To Go: Summer | Trailhead: Toe of the Athabasca Glacier Trailhead (GPS)
While Banff’s lakes will take your breath away, the Icefield will inspire awe. The Athabasca Glacier sits right along the parkway and beckons for exploration. While not everyone is a mountaineer, the glacier presents an opportunity for everyone to experience one.
You can still hike to the glacier’s toe if you don’t feel like shelling over a hundred dollars to hop aboard an “Ice Explorer” vehicle. It’s a short hike to the toe of the glacier from a car park across the street from the Discovery Center.
Due to the elevation, loose rock, and steep trail, it may be difficult for some. Despite a few difficulties, the hike is short enough to be completed by almost anyone. Make to have a warm jacket as the katabatic winds from the glacier feel like standing in front of an open freezer.
Length: 10.2 km | Duration: 3-4 Hours | Elevation Gain: 175 Meters | Best Time To Go: Summer-Fall | Trailhead: Boom Lake Day Use Area (GPS)
Boom Lake is a gorgeous alpine lake that can only be reached on foot. The majority of the trail is flat, making for an easy hike in Banff. It’s a nice hike through the forest, and you’ll get a chance to see some of the largest trees in the park. The start of the hike is most difficult as you gain around 100 meters, but after that, it’s smooth sailing.
Compared to many of Banff’s more popular hikes and sites, the hike to Boom Lake gives you a chance to be alone in nature. However, the crystal clear Boom Lake with substantial mountain views makes this easy hike in Banff a winner. The trailhead lies off 93s just before the border of B.C. and Kootenay National Park.
Length: 5.1 km | Duration: 2 Hours | Elevation Gain: 120 Meters | Best Time To Go: Year-Round | Trailhead: Johnston Canyon Parking Lot (GPS)
Johnston Canyon is one of the top attractions in Banff year-round and can attract a crowd. We love the hike in the winter due to the summer crowds, but there is good reason to visit in the summer.
A summer hike is visceral as the roaring water reverberates through the canyon and into your chest. You get up close and personal with the canyon thanks to a series of suspended walkways as a hiker. Along the way, hikers catch scenic glimpses of the mountains, multiple waterfalls, and a chance to spot wildlife.
In the winter, the waterfalls are locked away in a massive swath of ice. If you’ve never seen a frozen waterfall, this is a beautiful opportunity to do so. The trail along Johnston Canyon is open year-round unless noted by Parks Canada.
We suggest renting or buying ice cleats in town if you visit Banff in the winter or early spring. Although the trail is well managed, it can get icy, and it’s better to not slip everywhere on the path – ours were very handy! No matter the season, it’s an easy hike along a well-maintained trail suitable for all ages. For an extended hike, continue on to the Ink Pots.
Learn More About Johnston Canyon
Length: 4.5 km | Duration: 1 Hour | Elevation Gain: 100 Meters | Best Time To Go: Summer | Trailhead: Hector Lake Pull Off (GPS)
Hector Lake is a glacier lake in Banff that sees only a few visitors. It’s also staggeringly beautiful, but it does come with a catch as it requires a hike to reach and a short river crossing. This deters most visitors, but the hike is straightforward and quick.
The hike down to the river is just over two kilometers and takes around a half-hour. The trail can also be a little muddy, but the small detractions are easily outweighed by the serenity of sitting along a gorgeous lake in solitude. If you cross the river, keep an eye on the river depths as it will rise late on a hot day due to snowmelt.
Length: 8 km | Duration: 2 Hours | Elevation Gain: 240 Meters | Best Time To Go: Summer | Trailhead: Waterfowl Lakes Campground (GPS)
Chephren Lake is a gorgeous lake with staggering views of Mount Chephren above. What’s fantastic is it’s a shimmering aquamarine-colored lake with only a few visitors every day. You won’t be alone, but it’s a far cry from the crowds of the more popular lakes in the park.
It’s an easy hike up to the lake at around 7.7 km and 241 meters of elevation gain. This would make it one of the more difficult Banff hikes on this list but still plenty doable for everyone.
The hike is well worth the effort, though, once you reach the lake. We recommend you allocate plenty of time least actually enjoy Chephren Lake. If you’re super brave, throw on a swimsuit and jump into the lake. The water in the lake is only a couple degrees above freezing.
Sundance Canyon Trail
Length: 9 km | Duration: 2 Hours | Elevation Gain: 350 Meters | Best Time To Go: Year-Round | Trailhead: Cave & Basin National Historic Site (GPS)
The Sundance Canyon trail is a great trail that starts at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. It’s a fairly popular trail as it’s readily accessible and follows along the Bow River for a couple of kilometers. There are some great views of the river and the surrounding mountains along the way.
It’s a bit of a journey and some elevation gain to reach Sundance Canyon. However, for an easy version of the hike, we suggest turning around before you begin to gain elevation. Consider walking along the Healy Creek Trail, which continues along the Bow River, if you’d like to extend.
Length: 2.9 km | Duration: 1 Hour | Elevation Gain: 121 Meters | Best Time To Go: Summer | Trailhead: Banff/Jasper Park Boundary Parking (GPS)
We consider it a mini version of Lake Louise without any of the crowds. You may even be the only hiker if you make this stop! Boundary Lake is a bit of a secret before one of the busiest spots in Banff, the Icefields Discovery Center. It can be a little difficult to find the trailhead of this gem, but it is well worth the effort.
The parking lot is a small one that sits right along the boundary of Banff and Jasper. You descend a short distance down to the valley from the trailhead before climbing back up the lake.
Length: 7.6 km | Duration: 2-4 Hours | Elevation Gain: 433 Meters | Best Time To Go: Summer-Fall | Trailhead: Lake Louise
The hike up to the Lake Agnes Teahouse is a classic in the Lake Louise area. It is an easy to moderate hike above Lake Louise, suitable for everyone as long as you don’t mind a bit of elevation gain. At the top of the climb, you’ll find the historic teahouse that is beautifully situated on a high alpine lake.
This easy hike can be done in under two hours and is one of those short hikes in Banff you can’t miss. However, be warned, it is a busy one! To escape the crowds (and get better views), keep climbing to the Little or Big Beehive. However, those hikes are more moderate to difficult.
See Our More Recommendations For Hikes
Length: 2 km | Duration: 1 Hour | Elevation Gain: 126 Meters | Best Time To Go: Summer-Fall | Trailhead: Vista Lake Day Use Area (GPS)
Vista Lake is located right off of Highway 93 before crossing into Kootenay National Park and is one of our favorite easy hikes in Banff. Vista Lake is an excellent family-friendly lake to check out since you can easily park and walk just over 100 meters down to the lake. You also get a great view of the lake from the parking lot if you don’t feel like hiking.
Once you park, all you have to do is get out of the car for an incredible viewpoint of Vista Lake. The short 1km hike down to the lake will likely take less than 30 minutes to walk. It is not stroller friendly. If you want a longer and more challenging hike, continue to Arnica Lake, one of Alberta’s best larch hikes!
Length: 4.5 km | Duration: 1-2 Hours | Elevation Gain: 266 Meters | Best Time To Go: Year-Round | Trailhead: Lake Louise
Tunnel Mountain is one of our favorite easy hikes in Banff 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 most minor mountains in Banff National Park, but it still offers tremendous views of the surrounding valleys.
The hike moves slowly up the mountain through several switchbacks and offers various viewpoints into the Bow and Spray Valleys. The grand finale is the view over Mount Rundle and the town of Banff. It’s great for sunrise or sunset, and it rarely disappoints.
Learn More About The Hike
Moraine Lake Shoreline
Length: 2.9 km | Duration: 1 Hour | Elevation Gain: 162 Meters | Best Time To Go: Summer | Trailhead: Moraine Lake
This flat trail works along the lake’s shoreline and back from the Moraine Lake canoe docks. It’s a wonderful trail that moves through 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 with one of the area’s most accessible trails. So if you are looking to get away from crowds at the rockpile, consider walking this path! The hike’s end is a boardwalk near the waters flowing down from Wenkchemna pass.
More Information On Moraine Lake
Length: 6.6 km | Duration: 2 Hour | Elevation Gain: 280 Meters | Best Time To Go: Summer-Fall | Trailhead: Peyto Lake Parking (GPS)
This hike goes past the first two viewpoints over Peyto Lake and crosses the ridge until you reach a view out to Bow Lake below. It’s a decent easy Banff hike if you’re looking to stretch your legs and enjoy nature with a bit of a workout, as there is some elevation gain.
Length: 1.4 km | Duration: 1 Hour | Elevation Gain: 50 Meters | Best Time To Go: Year-Round | Trailhead: Marble Canyon Parking (GPS)
This easy hike is technically not in Banff but in Kootenay National Park. It’s a lovely hike through a canyon often filled with thousands of wildflowers in the summer and delightfully snow-covered in the winter. The trail follows the canyon and has a series of bridges that cross over the rushing Kootenay River.
The trail is well marked and maintained, so it’s easy to follow. As the river is fed by glaciers high above the Alpine, it often has a blue tinge color, which is breathtaking in the peak summer months. It’s one of our favorite trails for families or anyone looking for something easy and straightforward.
Lake Louise Trail
Length: 4.7 km | Duration: 1-2 Hours | Elevation Gain: 100 Meters | Best Time To Go: Year-Round | Trailhead: Lake Louise
A simple walk around Lake Louise is always a breathtaking walk. It’s very popular, and it’s pretty tough to escape the crowds around Lake Louise, but it is justified as you can see those baby blue colors in all directions.
The best part about hiking around the lakeshore is that you can just turn around and head back whenever you get tired. You can bring a stroller on this path, but keep in mind that it gets rough at sections, so make sure it’s durable.
It is one of the most serene places on earth, and although we prefer to avoid crowds, we still adore Lake Louise.
Length: 1.8 km | Duration: 1 Hour | Elevation Gain: 112 Meters | Best Time To Go: Year-Round | Trailhead: Rockbound Lake Trailhead (GPS)
This short hike follows an old dirt road to the more significant Banff hikes, Rockbound Lake, but splits off for a quick detour to Silverton Falls. The trail follows along Silverton Creek until it reaches the Silverton Falls viewpoint.
The waterfall is 50 meters tall, and in the summer months, it’s pretty impressive. The best part about this trail is it’s pretty quiet compared to nearby Johnston Canyon, so if you’re allergic to crowds, this would be a great choice.
Consolation Lakes Trail
Length: 5.8 km | Duration: 1-2 Hours | Elevation Gain: 65 Meters | Best Time To Go: Summer | Trailhead: Moraine Lake Parking Lot
This is a family favorite as it can be paired with the Moraine Lake Rockpile, and it’s pretty easy with a bit of elevation gain. It’s an excellent step up from the Lakeshore Trail as the terrain is more difficult with more significant elevation gain and a short section that crosses over a boulder field.
You get views of the scree slopes from the Tower of Babel along the hike. The hike passes through the old-growth forest before arriving at an alpine field and wetlands with the consolation lakes at their end.
From the lakes, you get tremendous views of the backside of the Ten Peaks, Mount Babbel, and Mount Fay, topped by glaciers.
Length: 3.1 km | Duration: 1 Hour | Elevation Gain: Minimal | Best Time To Go: Summer | Trailhead: Johnson Lake Day Use Area (GPS)
Take a pleasant stroll around Johnson Lake and enjoy the mountain scenery. It’s a straightforward hike at an even elevation and makes for a great evening or morning walk as it’s not too far from Banff town and very close to Two Jack Lake campsite.
The trail works its way through the forest and offers some astounding views over the lake back to Cascade Mountain looming high above. The lake is tranquil and a great place to go stand up paddleboarding or even take a swim if you’re brave enough. Keep an eye out for a rope swing!
Surprise Corner To Hoodoos
Length: 9.5 km | Duration: 2-3 Hours | Elevation Gain: 355 Meters | Best Time To Go: Summer | Trailhead: Surprise Corner Viewpoint
This is an excellent easy Banff Hike that’s just outside of town. The trail follows along the Bow River and moves around Tunnel Mountain. As you hike along the river, you’ll find amazing views of the Bow and Spray Valley, including the iconic view of the Banff Springs Hotel over the Bow River (called Surprise Corner).
You’ll also find the Hoodoos along the hike, a series of thin spires of rock formed after years of erosion. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you enter the wilderness as it sits right at the doorstep of the town of Banff.
Length: 8 km | Duration: 2-4 Hours | Elevation Gain: 309 Meters | Best Time To Go: Summer | Trailhead: Banff Sunshine Village Gondola
This is a solid hike with tremendous views and none of the work because the real leg work is done by the Sunshine Village Gondola, which gains most of your elevation for you. From the village, hikers have many 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 a spectacular viewpoint that looks out to Kootenay National Park. To walk through these alpine meadows feels like something out of a fairytale; it is sublime.
Closed For 2022 Season
Length: 4.3 km | Duration: 1-2 Hours | Elevation Gain: 203 Meters | Best Time To Go: Summer | Trailhead: Grassi Lakes Trailhead
Grassi Lakes is technically an easy Kananaskis hike. We wanted to mention it on this list of easy hikes in Banff, as everyone loves it! Grassi Lake is one of our favorites and the one hike we’ve probably done the most in the Canadian Rockies as we live just down the road from the trailhead in Canmore. Our visiting family loves this walk as it’s easy on the knees – perfect for kids, the elderly, and leashed pets!
The mesmerizing colors of the water at Grassi Lakes are remarkable and easy to reach on a short hike. Though there are other trails in the area, they’re clearly marked, and you’ll know to turn around when you’ve reached the impassably steep part.
About five kilometers south of town, the lakes are easy to get to, and you may want to consider packing a few some food for a picnic, as it’s one of the most picturesque places around Canmore. Stunning views of a nearby waterfall and the town of Canmore below present plenty of photo opportunities, so grab your favorite travel camera.
Length: 2 km | Duration: 1 Hour | Elevation Gain: 100 Meters | Best Time To Go: Year-Round | Trailhead: Lake Louise
The Fairview Lookout trail is a short, sweet Lake Louise hike that provides great views over Lake Louise from elevation. It’s a great option if you want to escape the crowds at the Lake Louise lakeshore and get a great view of the lake in both the winter and summer.
The hike’s highlight is an excellent platform that provides views back out to the impressive and historic Chateau Lake Louise Hotel. Don’t expect any sort of view on the way up as it’s all forested, but the lookout platform from the top is a lovely view worth the effort. This hike is great for kids or those that are less mobile as it is so short, and when you finish, you can finish with lunch at the Chateau or with a canoe on Lake Louise.
Banff Hiking Gear We Recommend
Many hikers will enjoy the security, comfort, and value in the Merrell Moab II. It’s a great beginner hiking boot.
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.
This nifty clip from Peak Design secures a camera to my backpack strap for easy reach. No more digging in the backpack!
A pair of durable and lightweight hiking poles are a great asset on the hiking trail.
20L feels like the ideal size for quick hikes and scrambles. We love the Nano from Gregory with a hydration reservoir.
There is not much cell service in the Canadian Rockies. In case of emergencies, we carry an emergency beacon with GPS.
Hikes in Kananaskis Country
This list was just easy hikes in Banff, but there is so much more in the area, such as Yoho National Park and 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.
Learn More About Hikes In Kananaskis Country
Advice on Hiking in Banff
- If this is your first time hiking in the Rock. 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 longer hikes, set a turnaround time at the departure. Any time we set out for an objective, I determine a time we need to turn around 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.
- 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. When you’re on a trail, always practice wildlife awareness, and please give animals space.
- Pets must be leashed at all times.
- Regarding times, keep in mind your mountain fitness as it’s different from 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.
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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 need adventure buddies.
Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies
- Travel Insurance: We don’t recommend traveling without travel insurance. We recommend checking out Safetywing or World Nomads offers competitive rates for all travelers.
- Hotels in the Rockies: There are many places to stay, from luxury hotels to wilderness cabins. See all our favorites here.
- Pack for the Rockies: See our complete Alberta packing list here.
- Get Around: We suggest either renting a car to get around, you can search for rental cars on Kayak. Or embark on an epic campervan trip with companies like Outdoorsy.