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12 Best Hikes in Banff National Park

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Looking for the best hikes in Banff National Park? We got you covered!

There are a ton of amazing things to do in Banff National Park Alberta but hiking is undeniably the most popular all-season activity. Banff sits in the heart of the Canadian Rockies with its innumerable peaks and jaw-dropping vistas attracting hikers all year round. 

This is a bucket list destination and a nature lover’s dream. Alpine blue lakes, peaks blanketed in snow, scatterings of wildflowers, and interesting wildlife. And the best way to experience it all is by lacing up your hiking shoes and hitting the trails. 

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Best hikes in Banff National Park

Summer is the best time to visit Banff National Park for hikes. But even in summer, it can get icy on the glacial trails. Remember to prepare yourself with the correct hiking gear. 

You’ve got your boots, trail snacks, and a pioneer’s spirit. We’ve got a guide to the best hiking trails in Banff National Park to suit every level.

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Best Hikes in Banff National Park

Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail

  • Distance: 1.8 miles return 
  • Elevation: 98 ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Total time (return trip): 30 – 40 mins
Canadian Rockies Moraine Lake
Canadian Rockies Moraine Lake

This route is less of a hike and more of a stroll to one of the most iconic views in Banff National Park. It’s a great option for sneaking in a quick trot when you only have an hour or two to spare. It’s also the perfect trail to do with kids and dogs and is accessible to people of any fitness level. 

There are a load of amazing photo spots in Banff. And this is one of them. The Moraine Lake ‘rockpile’ is an instagram-famous spot and you’ll probably recognize the view instantly. The short hike will lead you to unbeatable views of typical snow-capped rocky peaks encircling an alpine lake.  

This trail offers the best effort to reward ratios. It’s well worth a quick walk and can be modified to include the Lake Agnes or Plain of Six Glaciers trail. 

It’s an extremely popular hike so we suggest heading off very early in the morning with a flask of coffee. Hopefully, you’ll miss most of the crowds and be able to snap a pic of your own.

READ: How to spend 3 amazing days in Banff National Park

Johnston Canyon Hike

  • Distance: 3 miles return
  • Elevation: 393 ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Total time (return trip): 1.5 hours
Johnston Canyon Hike In Winter
Johnston Canyon Hike In Winter

This is a user-friendly hike that most people can do. The route is popular because of the Upper and Lower Falls as well as the several minor falls along the way. The trail is oftentimes a walkway with handrails, rather than a natural path. 

The hike to the Lower Falls is pretty easy, following a boardwalk through the scenic canyon. Once you reach the falls, you can walk through a small cave to get a better look at the water, but you risk getting wet! 

Carrying on to Johnston Canyon Upper Falls, you’ll follow a well-maintained trail that offers a ton of spots from which to view the falls from different viewpoints. It is a stunning trail with almost too many waterfalls to count! 

If you’re feeling strong and you want to escape the crowds, continue to the Ink Pots. This is a quieter and longer trail which will add about 4 miles to your hike. But it is well worth it if you have the time and energy. 

The Ink Pots are bubbling ponds of different colors, created by spring water coming through the sand. They are a fun and interesting sight, especially as they are surrounded by impressive mountains.

In winter you can book a guided canyon ice-walk which is an exhilarating and unique way to experience this trail. 

Parker Ridge Trail

  • Distance: 3.4 miles return
  • Elevation: 820 ft
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Total time (return trip): 2.5 hours
Ridge parker trail
Ridge Parker trail

This is a short, sweet, and not that steep trail. The route is an unmissable Banff National Park hike because it requires only a moderate effort for a whole mountain load of rewards. 

The trail is a steady, upward climb that works its way up a series of switchbacks. It begins among the pines and ends above the treeline. And the views just get better and better as you climb. 

The best part about this hike is the totally unexpected, awe-inspiring views of the Saskatchewan Glacier when you reach the top and the trail flattens. Climbing up, there are no hints to give away the sight which lays in store. It is a breathtaking moment when you reach the top and spy the first glance of the long, winding glacier. 

Because of the trail’s proximity to the Icefields Parkway, it’s chilly all year round. Remember to wear warm layers, even in the summer. 

Lake Agnes Tea House

  • Distance: 4.5 mi loop
  • Elevation: 1279 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Total time (return trip): 2.5 to 3 hours
Lake louise short hikes in winter
Lake Louise short hikes in winter

This is definitely one of the most renowned hikes in Banff National Park and an all-time fan favorite. For good reason too. It’s a relatively easy hike that takes you to a historic teahouse sitting on the shores of Lake Agnes on the mountaintop. 

It’s quite wonderful to sip on hot tea and eat fresh pie after climbing the mountain, with views of the waterfall flowing out of the lake below you.

The route starts at the front of the lake near the Fairmont Chateau Hotel. The trail is not steep, but it is a continuous upward climb. The route begins in a forest, winding past Mirror Lake and the base of Big Beehive. To reach the treehouse, you’ll have to conquer some grueling stairs. Most people reach the top panting, regardless of their fitness level.

The dramatic peaks contrasting with the sparkling waters of Lake Agnes is a truly magnificent view. One which you can enjoy with a cup of tea. We’re sold. 

Larch Valley

  • Distance: 7.2 mi
  • Elevation gain: 2378 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Total time (return trip): 4 – 5 hours
Larch Valley hiking trail
Larch Valley hiking trail

This is a stunning hike to do in fall. The Larch trees transform into a striking yellow color which adds a special element to the already spectacular views. However, because of the gorgeous display that the trees put on, this trail is extremely popular and busy in the month of September. 

This hike begins at the very busy Moraine Lake parking lot. The route resembles the backcountry of Banff National Park and you’ll be treated to amazing views of the Ten Peaks. You’ll walk through Larch Valley to Sentinel Pass. 

If you head up the pass, you’ll be flanked by Pinnacle Mountain and Mount Temple and from here you’ll have an unprecedented view into Paradise Valley. 

The jaw-dropping beauty of the fauna and the landscape features make this trail one of the most popular in the park. But be vigilant as this area is home to grizzly bears at certain times of the year. Due to the bear activity, it is required that you hike in a group of four during certain seasons. Check Parks Canada seasonal restrictions before you plan this hike.

Chephren Lake

  • Distance: 4.5 mi loop
  • Elevation: 262 ft 
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Total time (return trip): 3 hours
Chephren Lake Trail

Hiking to Chephren lake is a short and simple hike which ends up at a seldom visited, but stunning, lake. The trail begins as a gravel path that hugs the edge of the Waterfowl Lakes Campground. 

The initial views are not sheltered as you’ll be walking through the forest. You’ll see peaks peeking through the trees every now and again which is just enough to keep you motivated. 

Chephren Lake gets its name from the formidable peak that it sits below, Mt Chephren. And the bright aquamarine waters with the backdrop of the imposing peaks creates an unbelievable panoramic view that is worth the covered trail which leads to it.

The trail can get pretty muddy so be prepared to get a bit dirty and do your best not to slip!

Read: List of the stunning lakes across Canada

The Plain of Six Glaciers

  • Distance: 8.6 miles return
  • Elevation: 1246 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Total time (return trip): 4 – 6 hours

Getting to the Plain of Six Glaciers starts easily enough at the Chateau Lake Louise and following along the shoreline of Lake Louise. And it’s not until you reach the far end of the lake where the trail starts to climb. But it’s nothing strenuous. Though it’s a rocky terrain all around you, it’s still stunning.

This trail offers quintessential Banff views of the vast mountain features surrounding the Lake Louise area. It’s an accessible and beautiful hike that leads you through a valley amongst expansive mountains and culminates at the overlook of the Victoria Glacier. 

It begins near the Fairmont Hotel and eases you into the hike with a trail along the Lake Louise shoreline. The trail then leaves the lake and enters into the valley where you’ll pass a number of striking mountain features. Look out for the Lefroy Glacier, the peaks of Mount Aberdeen and Haddo Peak. 

You can stop for a rewarding snack at the Six Glaciers Tea House before heading down the short and rustic trail to the glaciers.

Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass

  • Distance: 9.3 miles return
  • Elevation gain: 2378 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Total time (return trip): 5 – 6 hours

This trail is a full day expedition, and deservingly so. This is a stunning trail which is a bit of a secret gem and is great for escaping crowds. The trailhead is on the west side of Trans-Canada Highway. It is a steep climb through a forest trail lined with moss-covered trees and wildflowers.

For much of the start, you’ll be in a dense alpine forest with fleeting views of the mountains between the trees. The heady scent of trees makes up for the lack of views at the beginning of the trail. Don’t be discouraged, there is magic waiting above the treeline. 

After passing Wolverine Creek, Bourgeau Lake, with its dark waters and rock wall backdrop, will emerge. The mysterious lake and formidable rock wall are an arresting site and a great spot for lunch. 

If you have some energy left, carry on to Harvey Pass. You’ll have to endure some more uphill scrambling and it will add 3 miles and around 2 hours to your trip. But the expansive views, magical waterfalls, and the bragging rights you’ll earn from reaching two summits in one day are worth it.

Helen Lake Trail

  • Distance: 7.5 miles return
  • Elevation: 1476 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Total time (return trip): 4 hours
Helen Creek and Dolomite Peak in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Helen Creek and Dolomite Peak in Banff National Park

Helen Lake is world-renowned for its array of wildflowers, a stunning display of color. The steep climb will bring you to Helen Lake with the backdrop of Cirque Peak. It really is a mesmerizing alpine vista. But you don’t need to wait until the end of the hike to be rewarded with spectacular views. There is an abundance of incredible vistas from start to finish. 

You will pass by the impressive Dolomite Peak and the picturesque Helen Creek. The landscape changes throughout the trail from the forest, to alpine meadows to rocky trails. This ever changing scenery, and the final prize of Helen Lake in all its glory, make this a very popular hike.

It is a long but pretty easy hike, with a steep scramble right at the end. The gorgeous views are uninterrupted throughout the hike which makes it immensely enjoyable. 

You can begin this hike from the Helen Lake parking lot on the Icefields Parkway.

Bow Glacier Falls

  • Distance: 5.4 miles return
  • Elevation: 872 ft
  • Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
  • Total time (return trip): 2 – 3.5 hours

This trial has it all, diverse and fascinating terrain passing lakes, waterfalls, canyons and glaciers! The trail begins behind the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge and follows the shore of Bow Lake. 

A lot of the trail is along the shore of the turquoise blue lake until you start to make your way up the narrow gorge. The toughest part of the trail is the last 15 minutes of stair climbing.

The glacial blue lake is exquisite to walk beside and the Bow Glacier Falls are enormous and a wonderful sight. These two features are part of some of the most pristine scenery you’ll see in Banff National Park. 

The trail is fairly easy along the lake until you turn inland and hike up a steep pass to reach the waterfalls. On the way back down, you’ll have the view of the bright red lodge against the ice blue lake, and it is stunning. 

This is the perfect hike for those looking for a full Banff hiking experience. It is not very challenging and has literally everything that the Rockies can offer you. 

Cascade Amphitheatre

  • Distance: 8 miles return 
  • Elevation: 2099 ft
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Total time (return trip): 4 – 6 hours
Cascade Amphitheater

The trail starts at the Mt. Norquay ski area and snakes through a dense forest to a natural amphitheatre that sits at just over 6889 ft. It is a strenuous hike featuring a seemingly never ending series of switchbacks climbing to the mouth of the amphitheatre. 

Most of the trail is through the forest and might seem a bit long. We suggest doing it with friends as chatting always helps the time go by when there is a lack of views. 

However, as you emerge into the meadows of the Cascade Amphitheatre you will be greeted by a breathtaking scene. The amphitheatre is enclosed by impressive limestone cliffs and is often carpeted with wildflowers. It’s a great spot to have a break and a snack. 

If you’re feeling up to it, you can tackle the summit of Cascade Mountain. It is not for the faint-hearted so make sure you’re prepared if you plan on taking on the extra challenge. 

Aylmer Lookout via Lake Minnewanka

  • Distance: 16 miles return
  • Elevation: 2755 ft
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Total time (return trip): full day 9+ hours
Minnewanka Lake

If you’re heading to the Canadian Rocky Mountains and you’re a keen hiker, then you must be eager to find a full day hike full of natural delights. Well, this is it. Of course, you can tailor the distance but the further you go, the more peaceful it will be. 

The trail starts at the parking lot at the west end of Lake Minnewanka. The trail follows beautiful Lake Minnewanka for most of the hike and is a moderate journey. Eventually it leads to a steep climb which brings you to Aylmer Lookout, which is a worthwhile challenge. 

The lookout offers one of the most exceptional views in Banff National Park. Vistas which reach across sweeping valleys, gorgeous peaks and the bright blue Lake Minnewanka. You’ll be looking over what seems to be the entirety of the park. 

The hike is long but you’ll have amazing views pretty much the entire time. And despite the elevation gain, it’s doable for hikers who have the capacity for endurance even if they don’t have experience. 

And if you’re wanting the beautiful lake views without the full day of walking, you can always book a Lake Minnewanka boat tour. 

The Mountains are Calling

Best hikes in Banff National Park

Find yourself an amazing place to stay in Banff National Park and head off on some of these epic Banff hiking trails to be delighted by nature. 

With so many beautiful spots, you can’t go wrong. Choose a hike which suits your fitness levels and prepare to be amazed by the startling beauty of the Candian Rockies. 

Of course, remember to be safe. Check weather conditions, prepare high energy snacks and the correct gear. And always organise travel insurance before you head off on mountain adventures. More so for the sprained ankles, than the grizzlies! 

There are many stunning national parks in the Canadian Rockies like the Jasper National Park, Kootenay National Park, Waterton National Park, and Yoho National Park, so do check them out as well.

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  1. I’ve been wanting to visit Banff! It would be so fun to spend a weekend hiking there all of these amazing trails. I would definitely want to hike around Bow Lake, it looks absolutely stunning.

  2. SO many incredible hikes in Banff National Park. I have done a few of these but will bookmark this post for when I’m back so I can do the rest because they all look amazing

  3. I love Banff SOOO much, I can’t even explain it!
    I’m so glad that you put Moraine Lake first on this list as in my opinion it is the most amazing lake in Canada!
    I have also done the Lake Agnes hike and the Lake Louise Beehive hike which is further up the mountain from the tea house!
    I can’t wait to make it back to Canada to do more of these!!

  4. Such an amazing and helpful guide! I was supposed to visit Banff this summer and do some of these hikes. I hope to be able to do this trip next summer. Thank you so much for sharing!

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