Banff National Park is world-famous for its majestic mountain landscape. The rocky mountain landscape has many difficult hikes, but thankfully there are also lots of easy hikes in Banff. In fact, many of the best hikes in Banff National Park are easy.
People of all ability levels can enjoy some easy hiking trails in Banff National Park. In fact, one of the best ways to enjoy the magnitude of Banff’s mountain peaks is to enjoy them from down below.
Snow and glacial ice melt from Banff’s mountains in the spring to create beautiful alpine lakes with an incredible blueish-green color. On a sunny day, you simply won’t believe the colors you see. Many of the best Banff hikes are along the shores of its many beautiful lakes.
Melting ice also has a hand in creating the other locations for some of the best easy hikes in Banff. Hiking along the floor of canyons and valleys is a fun way to explore the mountains without needing to climb any of them. Taking an easy walk along the base of the mountains gives you a sense for the sheer size of Banff’s mountains.
Hiking truly is one of the best free things to do in Banff!
We have lived in Canmore (near Banff) with our kids for over five years. We love hiking with our kids and we hike in Banff with kids frequently. The easy Banff hikes listed below are also some of the best family-friendly hikes in Banff and included in our list of best things to do in Banff with kids.
Easy Banff Hike
- 12 Easy Hikes in Banff
- Need Help Planning Your Trip?
- 11. Vista Lake Trail
- 12. Smith Lake Trail
- What to Bring Hiking in Banff
- Easy to Moderate Banff Hikes
- Where to Stay in Banff National Park
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12 Easy Hikes in Banff
1. Johnston Canyon Hike to the Lower Falls
The Johnston Canyon Lower Falls trail is one of the best easy hikes in Banff National Park. Located on the Bow Valley Parkway scenic drive, this fun & unique hike follows Johnston Creek into depths of Banff’s of Johnston Canyon. The Johnston Canyon trail alternates between smooth gravel in a lush evergreen forest and elevated walkways bolted to the rocky walls of the canyon.
The safe elevated walkways are the most fun part of this easy hike in Banff. They hover above the rushing water and provide walkers a unique vantage point to one of Banff’s most beautiful locations.
This easy hike ends at a viewpoint for the Johnston Canyon Lower Falls. You can either stay dry and enjoy the Lower Falls’ beauty from an elevated walkway or you can enter a small cave for an up-close experience.
The Johnston Canyon Lower Falls cave is one of the reasons why this is one of the most popular kid-friendly hikes in Banff. You really can feel the power of the waterfall from inside the cave. Beware – you will get wet!!
Read all about cycling the Bow Valley Parkway to enjoy Johnston Canyon with a cycling experience.
2. Tunnel Mountain Hike
Want to tell your friends that you summited a mountain in Banff? The Tunnel Mountain trail is the easiest hike to a mountain summit in Banff National Park.
Tunnel Mountain is a cute little mountain just outside the Town of Banff. You can walk to the top of this easy Banff hike with about 15% of the elevation gain vs. some of the surrounding 3,000m peaks.
The Tunnel Mountain hike is a gradual uphill trail, so there is some moderate effort involved. You will be rewarded with excellent views of the Banff Townsite, the iconic Banff Springs Hotel and the surrounding mountain landscape of Banff National Park.
Tunnel Mountain is one of our favorite easy hikes in Banff with the kids.
See more information about the Tunnel Mountain Hike.
We have some great resources for hiking with kids on our Family Can Travel website. Check out our best tips for hiking with kids, the best hiking gear for kids and the 9 Best Hiking Songs for Your Family.
3. Sunshine Meadows Hike
The Sunshine Meadows hike is home to some of the most incredible mountain scenery within Banff National Park. I’ve lived near Banff my whole life and I was still blown away by the scenery at Sunshine Meadows on my last visit. The best part? This easy hike in Banff is almost all downhill!!
This spectacular easy hike is located within the Sunshine Village ski resort. To get there, you’ll need to buy lift tickets for the enjoyable & scenic 4.3km gondola ride to the ski resort. Once at the top, you take the Standish Express Quad chairlift to the beginning of the super-easy downhill hike back to the upper gondola building.
There are several hiking trails to choose from within Sunshine Meadows. The easiest scenic route we recommend is most was Trail 2 (Standish Viewing Deck Loop) to Trail 3 (Rock Isle Junction) to Trail 1 (Rock Isle Road).
Get more information on the Sunshine Meadows hike.
4. Lake Louise Hike – Lakeshore Trail
No trip to Banff National Park is complete without a visit to Lake Louise. You will be in awe as you stand in front of the Chateau Lake Louise looking out at the turquoise-blue waters of Lake Louise surrounded by many jagged 2,500m peaks.
One of the best easy hikes in Lake Louise is a very enjoyable walk along the northern shore of the lake. The Lake Louise Lakeshore trail is as flat as you can get in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, with virtually no noticeable elevation gain to contend with. There are no trees to obscure the views of beautiful Lake Louise and its surrounding mountain peaks.
If you still have energy and wish to continue, the moderately difficult Plain of the Six Glaciers trail continues on from the end of the Lake Louise Lakeshore trail.
Due to the popularity of Lake Louise in the summer, the paid parking lots at the Lake Louise Lakeshore fills quickly. Try these alternative free parking spots in Lake Louise instead.
Get more information on the Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail.
Need Help Planning Your Trip?
Our Banff Travel Guide has everything you need to get the MOST out of your trip to Banff!
5. Moraine Lake Hike
It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful place than Lake Louise, but Moraine Lake just might be the most scenic spot in Banff National Park. Just a short drive from Lake Louise, Moraine Lake is close enough that you can visit both in one day and decide for yourself.
The easy Moraine Lake hike begins to the left of the Moraine Lake Lodge and follows the tree-lined western shoreline of Moraine Lake. As you enjoy this easy Banff walk, views of the incredibly blue Moraine Lake and its surrounding massive mountains will appear through the trees. As if that’s not enough, you’ll pass many scenic waterfalls feeding into Moraine Lake, including a large one at the end of the Moraine Lake Trail.
You’ll experience the sheer magnitude of Banff’s Rocky Mountains on this hike as the mountains hugging Moraine Lake are even taller than those wrapped around Lake Louise. With such an intimate amphitheater, you’ll feel humbled by their size.
The incredible beauty of Moraine Lake means it is also one of the most popular places to visit in Banff National Park. Due to limited parking lot capacity, it can often be near impossible to visit Moraine Lake without advance planning. If you’d like to enjoy this easy Banff hike, learn more about your options on how to get to Moraine Lake.
Get more information on the shoreline Moraine Lake Hike.
Looking for more great walks in the Canadian Rockies? Try these scenic walking trails in Canmore, Alberta.
6. Sulphur Mountain Lookout
The Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain is one of the most popular things to do in Banff. After an enjoyable 8-minute gondola ride to the top, you’ll be treated to incredible views of the Banff townsite and the surrounding majesty of Banff National Park in all directions.
After enjoying the state-of-the-art summit building and interpretive centre at the top of the Banff Gondola, you can take a short walk along the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk trail. This elevated wooden trail follows a ridgeline along the top of Sulphur Mountain, affording views in all directions. There are some stairs along the way, but there are plenty of benches to stop, rest and enjoys the view if required.
In addition to the spectacular views, you’ll be rewarded with a visit to a National Historic Site of Canada at the end of the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk Trail. The Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station was a station for scientists to study cosmic rays and space particles until 1978. To be honest, there’s not much to see here, but it’s still a fun end to one of the best easy hikes in Banff.
Get more information on the Sulphur Mountain Lookout.
7. Peyto Lake Panorama Viewpoint
Many of the lakes within Banff National Park have incredible turquoise colored water. The lake which has the most incredible water color in Banff is Peyto Lake.
Visitors to Peyto Lakes can enjoy a short, easy walk on a paved path to an elevated viewpoint. From here you’ll get one of the most scenic vistas in all of Banff National Park and one of Banff’s best viewpoints.
Peyto Lake is the furthest of our easy hikes in Banff away from the Town of Banff. It’s a 35-minute drive past Lake Louise, but it is on the way to the Athabasca Glacier. If you are visiting the Athabasca Glacier, Peyto Lake is an excellent place to stop and stretch your legs on this easy hike.
Get more information on the Peyto Lake Panorama Viewpoint.
8. Consolation Lakes Hike
We discovered the Consolation Lakes trail a few years ago and are kicking ourselves for not having done it earlier!
This easy Lake Louise hike departs from the Moraine Lake parking lot. It’s a great alternative if you want to avoid the massive crowds swarming for pictures of Moraine Lake.
The beginning of this hike has a bit of an uphill climb through a rock pile at the base of majestic Tower of Babel. You may need to step over an uneven rock or two in this section, but most people shouldn’t struggle with this. After this initial climb, the trail is reasonably level, with only minor hills to contend with.
The Consolation Lakes hike leads hikers through a dense mountain forest. With mushrooms and moss everywhere, kids will have fun looking for fairies!
This easy Banff walk ends along a very scenic spot along the shores of Babel Creek. Hikers who wish to reach the shoreline of the Consolation Lakes will need to do some minor scrambling for approx 100m over some medium-sized boulders. The boulders are a good spot to see a rare marmot – please keep them stay wild by not feeding them.
If you don’t wish to navigate the rocks, don’t worry – there are lots of spots to stop along the spot where Consolation Lake flows into Babel Creek. The views of the Consolation Lakes and its surrounding mountains are pretty special.
Safety note: Due to bear activity in the area, Parks Canada recommends hikers travel in groups of 4 or more.
Get more information on the Consolation Lakes Trail.
Did You Know? You can visit Consolation Lakes as part of a small-group guided tour with Discover Banff Tours.
9. Johnson Lake Hike
The Johnson Lake day use area is one of our family’s favorite spots to go when we go hiking Banff National Park. It’s not nearly as popular as Lake Louise or Moraine Lake, which is exactly why we visit so often.
The easy trail around Johnson Lake is a loop, but we prefer to hike along the northern shore to the end of the lake and back. From the northern shore, you’ll enjoy amazing views of Johnson Lake with Mount Rundle in the background.
There is nothing wrong with the trail along the southern shore of Johnson Lake, but it’s primarily through the forest and you won’t get many mountain views.
Get more information on Johnson Lake Trail.
10. Bankhead Ghost Town
Did you know that there’s a ghost town in Banff National Park? Visitors to the Bankhead ghost town in the Minnewanka Loop will enjoy an easy Banff hike through a fascinating piece of Alberta history. Dating back to the early 1900’s, Bankhead, Alberta was a thriving coal mining town of nearly 1,000 citizens built next to the operations site of an anthracite coal mine.
Many of the residential buildings from Bankhead, Alberta were moved or demolished when the Bankhead Banff coal mine closed in 1922, many of the buildings were moved or dismantled. A surprising amount of the coal mining operations still remains in this unique Banff ghost town.
Today, visitors to the Bankhead ghost town can enjoy an easy Banff hike around the remains of the former Banff coal mining operation.
Get more information about the Bankhead Ghost Town hike.
11. Vista Lake Trail
Tucked away in an often forgotten corner of Banff National Park, the walk to Vista Lake is a very enjoyable easy hike in Banff National Park. Despite being a bit remote, Vista Lake is actually 10 minutes closer to the Banff townsite than Lake Louise!
This easy Banff hike is all downhill from the trailhead all the way to the shores of Vista Lake. Along the way you’ll be descending into a valley at the base of the majestic Storm Mountain. As the hiking trail descends along the valley wall, you’ll always enjoy a great view looking down-slope.
The view on this easy Banff hiking trail varies from the expansive evergreen forest through the valley, to the rocky upper slopes of Storm Mountain, to Boom Mountain across the highway (home to the popular, moderately difficult Boom Lake hike).
Approximately halfway down the trail, Vista Lake comes into view and remains in view until you reach her beautiful shores. On a clear day, looking at the submerged rocks and tree trunks through the crystal-clear emerald green water of Vista Lake is breathtaking.
Of course, being all downhill on the way to Vista Lake, means you need to walk uphill back to the trailhead. The Vista Lake parking lot is approximately 130 m above this beautiful Banff lake. Spread over 1.5 km, this means you’ll be climbing an average of 8.5 m per 100 m hiked. It may be a challenge for some beginner hikers, but the return trip on this easy Banff hike should be doable for most.
Vista Lake is the first lake day hikers encounter on their way to Arnica Lake and on to the Twin Lakes of Banff. For more information on the Vista Lake trail, please see our full post on the Arnica Lake trail.
12. Smith Lake Trail
If a short Banff hike is what you’re looking for, then you can’t go wrong with a hike to Smith Lake in Banff. At only 1.6 km each way, hikers can escape the crowds and enjoy a beautiful Banff Lake.
The Smith Lake trail also offers hikers to the opportunity to visit another Banff lake. Copper Lake is just a short 0.7 km from the parking lot. The total to both lakes will be 4.6 km with approximately 280 m elevation gain.
The trail to Copper Lake is flat and well groomed. The downfall of this trail is that it’s close enough to the highway to hear the traffic for the majority of the hike. We recommend doing this portion first.
After completely the hike to Copper Lake, return the same way and instead of turning back to the parking lot, continue straight to join the Smith Lake trail. The trails are both easy to follow and are well marked.
The Smith Lake trail has more incline and more roots, but both are easy to manage. After the uphill climb, you’ll be on the ridge overlooking Smith Lake. It’s a short but steep descent down to enjoy this peaceful lake in Banff.
Trail Maps for the Easy Hikes in Banff
It’s pretty hard to get lost on any of these easy hikes in Banff, so you likely won’t need to bring any Banff trail maps with you.
That said, I still like having a digital map of my Banff hikes with me. I use and recommend the AllTrails app as it has an extensive database of Banff hikes. I like having a history of my Banff hikes along with the stats for each (distance, elevation gain, etc.).
I rarely use a paper Banff trail map while hiking, but I love spreading out my hiking maps out on my kitchen table and finding Banff trails I’ve never tried before.
If you like doing this too, I highly recommend Gem Trek hiking maps. They are the gold standard for Banff hiking maps and we own the entire set. They are exceptional 3D topographic maps which I love looking at for hiking inspiration.
The best Gem Trek map for easy Banff hikes is the map entitled, “Banff & Mount Assiniboine Map”.
National Geographic is also renowned for the quality of their maps. National Geographic publishes a Banff National Park map pack filled with the best Banff hiking trails.
What to Bring Hiking in Banff
You don’t need a lot of hiking gear to enjoy hiking in Banff. Our list of hiking essentials contains the hiking gear and clothing you’ll need for the variable Banff weather and trail conditions.
Want to improve your chances of seeing wildlife in Banff? Get wildlife spotting tips from a professional photographer.
Easy to Moderate Banff Hikes
Where to Stay in Banff National Park
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