Banff National Park is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The rugged Canadian wilderness and towering peaks of the Canadian Rockies provide the perfect setting for some truly epic hiking. We’ve been hiking around Banff for decades and are happy to share with you our list of the 25 best hikes in Banff National Park.
From popular tourist destinations such as Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, to more off-the-beaten track locations, our list of the best hikes in Banff covers every corner of Canada’s oldest national park.
Ranging from easy hikes like Johnston Canyon and the Bankhead Ghost Town, to more challenging trails such as Aylmer Lookout and Sentinel Pass, our list of the best hikes in Banff has something for every skill level as well.
Regardless of whether you are a local or are visiting Banff National Park for the very first time, we hope you will love these excellent Banff hikes as much as we do!
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The Best Hikes in Banff National Park
1. Johnston Canyon Trail
One of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park, a visit to Johnston Canyon is a must for all visitors. The Johnston Canyon trail is a beautiful walk along Johnston Creek as it makes its way through a deep mountain canyon.
For much of the Johnston Canyon walk, hikers walk along elevated boardwalks bolted to the canyon walls, providing a thrilling opportunity to walk above the water and enjoy the many cascading waterfalls along the route.
Aside from the exciting hike up the belly of a deep mountain ravine, one of the reasons that the Johnston Canyon trail is so popular is that it can be customized for everyone’s physical capabilities.
There are three destinations you can hike to along the Johnston Canyon trail:
The Johnston Canyon Lower Falls
This is one of the best easy hikes in Banff! Just 1.2 km in length, the hike to the lower falls at Johnston Canyon is the most exciting. The easy hike to the lower falls is where most of the elevated boardwalks are found, providing a thrilling Banff hiking experience, no matter your physical capabilities.
Once at the lower falls, hikers can cross a bridge to enter a small cave, which takes you so close to the powerful waterfall that you are certain to get wet! It’s a big thrill and a unique opportunity to feel the power of nature up close. Between the super-fun boardwalks and the lower falls cave, it’s no wonder why this leg of the Johnston Canyon trail is one of the best hikes in Banff for kids.
Johnston Canyon Upper Falls
The crowds start to thin a little bit as you pass the lower falls and begin your hike to the Johnston Canyon upper falls. This leg of the Johnston Canyon trail still closely follows Johnston Creek, but is mostly through forest, as opposed to elevated boardwalks. The Johnston Canyon upper falls are significantly taller than the lower falls with two viewing platforms (upper and lower) to enjoy them from.
The hike between the Johnston Canyon lower falls and the upper falls adds an additional 1.3 km in distance. Although it’s a little steeper, the hike to the upper falls still falls within most hikers capabilities.
The Ink Pots
The crowds continue to thin beyond the Johnston Canyon Upper Falls, but to us, that just makes the hike even better. The final leg of the Johnston Canyon hike to the Ink Pots is a beautiful forested hike which adds an additional 3.2 km of distance, for a total one way distance of 5.7 km (11.4 km return).
Hikers who make it all the way to the Ink Pots are rewarded with a series of deep pools in a meadow, where spring water bubbles up through gravel and sand. On a sunny day, the greenish-blue color of the water is truly incredible. Add to this, the beautiful Canadian Rockies surrounding the meadow and you’ll quickly realize why the Ink Pots are one of our favorite places in Banff National Park – it’s truly special.
You could take the TransCanada Highway to the Johnston Canyon hike, but we recommend the Bow Valley Parkway as it’s the more scenic route. Or, for an even better experience, try cycling the Bow Valley Parkway instead!
The Johnston Canyon trail is truly one of the best hikes in Banff National Park. Get all the details on this amazing Banff day hike in our full blog post on the Johnston Canyon Trail.
2. Aylmer Lookout Trail
It’s not easy to get to the Aylmer Lookout, but those who make the effort are rewarded with one of the best viewpoints in Banff National Park. This is not an exaggeration – the scenery from Aylmer Lookout is stunning!
There are a few challenges hikers face to get to the Alymer Lookout, but this makes it all the more rewarding when you get to the scenic viewpoint:
- To get to Aylmer Lookout, you must first make it to the trailhead, which is 7.8 km from the start of the Lake Minnewanka Shoreline Trail. You can mountain bike the shoreline trail in the shoulder seasons, making it a bit faster to get to the Aylmer Lookout trailhead.
- This is prime grizzly bear territory and in the prime Banff hiking months Parks Canada mandates that hikers must travel in groups of at least 4 people and carry bear spray.
- Once you reach the Alymer Lookout trailhead, it’s a 4 km uphill slog to the viewpoint.
But, if you are up to these challenges, the payoff is so worth it. Aylmer Lookout is a rocky outcrop located along the first bend of Lake Minnewanka (the largest lake in Banff National Park).
Being 500 m above the water, you can see 8 km across the water towards Tunnel Mountain and another 10 km to the south-east. Countless peaks of the Canadian Rockies line the shores of Lake Minnewanka and beyond, making this my personal favorite scenic viewpoint in Banff National Park.
With such amazing scenery, the Aylmer Lookout hike is one of the best Lake Minnewanka hikes. For more details, see our full blog post on the Aylmer Lookout hike.
3. Larch Valley / Sentinel Pass Trail
Moraine Lake is considered by many to be the most beautiful spot in Banff National Park, and the Larch Valley Hike is considered one of the best hikes in Moraine Lake. With this unbeatable combination, it’s no wonder the Larch Valley – Sentinel Pass trail is one of the best hikes in Banff National Park.
The Larch Valley trail is a moderately challenging uphill climb up the lower slopes of Mount Temple. If you can make it up the switchbacks (and most determined hikers can), you’ll be rewarded with an easy walk though a massive larch forest. From this elevated vantage point, the views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks above the larch trees are simply amazing.
While the Larch Valley trail is one of the best hikes in Banff during any month it is accessible, the Larch Valley trail (literally) shines in late September, when the needles on the larch trees turn a beautiful gold color.
One of the largest larch forests in Banff National Park, a walk through Larch Valley in peak larch season is an experience you will not soon forget. Larch hikes are incredibly popular in Banff in fall, and it’s easy to see why the Larch Valley trail is widely considered one of the best larch hikes in Banff National Park.
The official Larch Valley trail ends when you reach the beautiful Minnestimma Lakes at the beginning of the alpine zone on Mount Temple, but there is an excellent add-on hike to continue the adventure. The Sentinel Pass trail is a short, steep zig-zag up to a mountain pass in-between Pinnacle Mountain and Mount Temple.
Standing at the top of Sentinel Pass, you’ll marvel at the majesty of Banff National Park – this vista competes with the Aylmer Lookout as one of the best viewpoints in Banff.
From Sentinel Pass, you can see the incredible mountains of the Valley of the Ten Peaks standing guard over the huge larch forest you just hiked through. And, on the other side of the pass you can see the Grand Sentinel, a massive quartzite pinnacle jutting out of the rocky slope, overlooking Paradise Valley below.
The Larch Valley hike is one of the most sought-after hikes in Banff National Park, but it takes some pre-planning to get there. Do not count on getting a spot in the Moraine Lake parking lot – it’s like winning the lottery. Instead, you’ll need to read more about getting to Moraine Lake, which often requires taking a shuttle to Moraine Lake.
Once you’ve figured out how to get to Moraine Lake (trust us, it’s worth the effort!), then learn more about why this we consider the Larch Valley Trail and the Sentinel Pass Trail as two of the best hikes in Banff National Park.
4. Plain of the Six Glaciers Trail
In an area blessed with many amazing trails, we believe the Plain of the Six Glaciers Trail is one of the best hikes in Lake Louise. This moderately-challenging Banff hike offers hikers some of the best scenery in the national park, and a chance to enjoy some refreshments at one of the fabled Banff tea houses.
The Plain of the Six Glaciers trail begins with a magical 3 km walk along the Lake Louise Lakeshore trail (which also appears on this list of the best Banff hikes) where you can marvel at the turquoise-blue waters of this iconic Banff lake. Beyond the far end of Lake Louise, the Plain of the Six Glaciers hike ventures deep into a stunning natural mountain amphitheater.
The towering Rocky Mountain peaks which surround the trail are home to the massive glaciers for which this trail is named, including the iconic Victoria Glacier. In the summer, be sure to stop and listen – if you are lucky enough to hear the chilling sound of glacier ice cracking, you’ll never forget it.
On your way back to the lovely shores of Lake Louise, be sure to stop at the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House to enjoy some chocolate cake and coffee.
As with Moraine Lake, the Lake Louise parking lot also fills beyond capacity during the peak hiking season. If you’d like to experience the Plain of the Six Glaciers trail, we recommend you read about the Lake Louise shuttle bus.
Learn more about why this is one of the best Lake Louise hikes in our full blog post about the Plain of the Six Glaciers trail.
5. Sunshine Meadows Hiking Trails
There are so many great areas for scenic hikes in Banff National Park, but one of our absolute favorite hiking areas is Sunshine Meadows.
Begin with a fun 20 minute gondola ride to the Sunshine Village ski resort – one of the best ski resorts in Banff. In summer, this popular Banff ski resort is transformed into one of the most unique hiking experiences in the national park.
Due to all the effort-free altitude gain you get from the gondola ride, the Sunshine Meadows hiking trails give hikers an opportunity to enjoy some high-altitude day hikes without much effort to get there.
The signature hiking trail at Sunshine Meadows is also an incredibly easy hike as it begins with a fun ride up the Standish ski chairlift, allowing you to enjoy an easy downhill hike back to the upper gondola terminal.
There are a wide variety of hiking trails at Sunshine Meadows, sure to please hikers of all ability levels. Throughout most of the hiking season, visitors will marvel at the incredible mountain views, the stunning alpine lakes and the explosion of beautiful mountain wildflowers. And, yes… in fall, there’s even larch trees to enjoy on many of the Sunshine Meadows hiking trails.
Find out more about the best hiking trails in the area and how to buy tickets in our full blog post on Hiking Sunshine Meadows.
6. Lake Agnes Hike
Easily one of the most popular Lake Louise hikes, the Lake Agnes trail is a short, uphill hiking trail leading to two stunning mountain lakes, each with its own beautiful mountain vista.
The trail to Mirror Lake (the first of the two lakes) is a bit steep, but is manageable by most hikers, regardless of skill level. Mirror Lake is a modest lake by Banff standards, but what makes it special is that it rests at the bottom of the Big Beehive – a towering, near-vertical, rounded massif which towers over the lake.
After leaving Mirror Lake, your next stop will be along the side of a beautiful Banff waterfall, fed by water from nearby Lake Agnes. A quick climb up a wooden staircase and you will discover why the Lake Agnes hike is so popular.
Surrounded on all sides by jagged Rocky Mountains, the setting for Lake Agnes is breathtaking. It’s hard to find a short Banff hike which offers comparable scenery to the Lake Agnes hike.
Be sure to reward yourself for completing one of the best Banff hikes, with a tasty treat from the historic Lake Agnes Tea House. Named for the original First Lady of Canada, the Lake Agnes Tea House has been serving tea to hikers since 1905!
If you are interested in this exceptional Banff National Park hike, learn more in our full post on the Lake Agnes Tea House Trail.
7. Big Beehive Trail
Remember the Big Beehive we talked about in the Lake Agnes trail above? The great news is that you can hike to the top of the Big Beehive! It’s incredibly scenic and is one of our favorite hikes around Lake Louise.
The hike to the Big Beehive begins at the Lake Agnes Tea House. From here, it’s a very enjoyable easy hike along the shoreline to the far end of Lake Agnes. Then you’ll climb a short section of steep switchbacks, until you reach the top.
Once at the top of the switchbacks, the easy hiking returns and it’s a pleasant, fun walk along the rocky spine of the Big Beehive to the very top. There’s several spots where you can pull over and enjoy amazing elevated views of Lake Louise – you won’t believe how much more electric the turquoise water gets from high above.
But, as you’d expect, the views are best at the end of the Big Beehive trail, where you can not only see the otherworldly colors of Lake Louise below, but far off into the Bow Valley with countless peaks of the Canadian Rockies in the distance.
Discover why we think this day hike is one of the best Banff hiking trails in our full post on the Big Beehive trail.
8. Arnica Lake Trail
The Arnica Lake trail is perhaps the most underrated hike in Banff National Park. This might be due to the fact it’s not located in the popular Banff hiking areas like Lake Louise or Moraine Lake. But rest assured, we rank the Arnica Lake hike so high on this list as it’s one of the best hikes in Banff National Park under 10 km.
The Arnica Lake hike winds its way up the lower slopes of Storm Mountain, visiting both Vista Lake and Arnica Lake along the way. The Rocky Mountain vistas you’ll earn along this rewarding Banff hike are excellent.
If you are lucky enough to visit Banff National Park in fall, you’ll be treated to golden larch trees surrounding Arnica Lake. If you are looking for one of the best larch hikes in Banff, the Arnica Lake trail is a worthy alternative to the super-popular Larch Valley Trail at Moraine Lake.
If you have the time and energy, you can continue on past Arnica Lake to see a few more beautiful Banff lakes on the Twin Lakes Trail.
Discover more reasons why we think this is one of the top 10 best Banff hikes in our full blog post on the Arnica Lake trail.
9. Bankhead Ghost Town
The very easy hike around the Bankhead ghost town is one of the most fun things to do with kids in Banff National Park.
In the early 1900’s, Bankhead was a thriving town built close to a Banff coal mine at the base of Cascade Mountain. The coal mine shut down in 1922 and many of the buildings were dismantled or moved or dismantled. What remains today is the Bankhead ghost town.
We love taking our kids to the Bankhead ghost town. It’s a genuinely fun, educational interpretive walk through an important piece of Banff history. Kids will be having so much fun exploring, that they won’t even realize they are learning something too!
Learn more about the history of Bankhead, Alberta and the family-friendly hike through the remnants in our full post on the Bankhead Ghost Town trail.
10. Eiffel Lake Trail to Wenkchemna Pass
The Valley of the Ten Peaks at Moraine Lake is so beautiful that it used to be featured on the back of the Canadian $20 bill. One of the best Moraine Lake hikes for Valley of the Ten Peaks scenery is the Eiffel Lake trail to Wenkchemna Pass.
Although it is not as famous or popular as the Larch Valley trail, Eiffel Lake is quite possibly one of the most beautiful Banff hikes near Moraine Lake. A moderate hike, the Eiffel Lake trail showcases some of the best scenery in the Lake Louise / Moraine Lake area. We love this Banff National Park hiking trail for its incredible views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks, but it gets even better in the Banff larch tree season.
If, like us, you don’t want the scenery to end, you can continue on for another 3 km beyond Eiffel Lake to Wenkchemna Pass. This add-on to the Eiffel Lake hike offers some of the best views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks that you can find anywhere in the national park. In fact, you can see nine of the ten peaks at once, with the 10th and final peak hiding just around the corner. It doesn’t get much better than this!
We love that you can get all this incredible scenery on the Eiffel Lake Trail to Wenkchemna Pass without the crowds found on the nearby Larch Valley trail. If you promise not to tell anyone about this well-kept secret, we’ll let you read more about the Eiffel Lake trail and the Wenkchemna Pass trail. 😉
11. Saddleback Pass Trail
With so many amazing hikes around the Lake Louise area, the Saddleback Pass hike is often overlooked, which is a shame as it’s one of the best hikes in Lake Louise, especially when you pair it up with the Sheol Valley trail, creating a loop back to the Chateau Lake Louise.
The Saddleback Pass trail begins along the turquoise shores of Lake Louise, making its way through a lush forest on Fairview Mountain leading to a beautiful alpine meadow with spectacular views. Continuing on past the Saddleback Pass takes you into Sheol Valley where you’ll feel so small compared to the giant mountain peaks towering directly overhead.
As with many of the hikes around Lake Louise, the Saddleback Pass Trail and the beginning of the Sheol Valley trail are wonderful larch tree hikes. Saddleback Pass is especially popular during larch season – we recommend escaping the crowds and continuing onto the Sheol Valley trail (even if you plan to turn back) to enjoy the larch trees in peace.
Get trail maps and details in our full blog posts on the Saddleback Pass trail and the Sheol Valley Trail – two of the best hikes in Banff National Park.
12. Castle Mountain Lookout Trail
Speaking of the best hikes in Banff National Park for views, you won’t do much better than the Castle Mountain Lookout trail. We’ve included the Castle Mountain Lookout hike on our list of the best hikes in Banff as it’s easily one of the best panoramic viewpoints in the national park.
Once you see it from the TransCanada Highway or the Bow Valley Parkway, you’ll immediately know why Castle Mountain is considered one of the most majestic mountains in Banff National Park.
One of the reasons I love the Castle Mountain Lookout hike so much is the opportunity to get an up-close view of the towering rock walls that make Castle Mountain so stately.
But, what makes this one of the best hikes in Banff National Park is, of course the incredible panoramic views. From the Castle Mountain Lookout, you can see all the way down the Bow Valley as far as the iconic Three Sisters Mountain in Canmore – an incredible 60 km away!
If you are looking for one of the best Banff hikes to a viewpoint, but don’t feel up to the effort required to reach the Aylmer Lookout, the Castle Mountain Lookout trail is an excellent choice.
13. Taylor Lake / O’Brien Lake Trail
The Taylor Lake hike is one of the most popular day hikes in Banff. Located on the TransCanada Highway, just east of the Lake Louise junction, the Taylor Lake hiking trail follows the path of Taylor Creek through a dense, lush evergreen forest on the lower slopes on Mount Bell. The hiking trail is 2-3 people wide nearly the whole way up to Taylor Lake, making it one of the best hikes in Banff National Park for groups.
As with most Banff lakes, the natural setting for Taylor Lake is breathtaking. Taylor Lake rests at the bottom of the rocky Mount Bell and forested Panorama Peak, creating some magnificent reflections on still Banff mornings.
Taylor Lake is one of the most enjoyable year-round hikes near Lake Louise, but it’s especially beautiful in the fall when the lake is surrounded by golden larch trees. There’s a short add-on hike you can’t miss during larch season which takes you to a large larch forest near Panorama Peak.
Speaking of Taylor Lake add-on hikes, if you have the energy, we recommend you also visit O’Brien Lake. For an additional 2 km (one way), you can see another beautiful Banff alpine lake, this time on the opposite side of Mount Bell.
Learn more about these very scenic hikes in Banff in our full blog posts on the Taylor Lake Trail and the O’Brien Lake Trail.
14. Sulphur Mountain Trail
While we’re still on the topic of incredible Banff viewpoints, many visitors to Banff National Park flock to the Banff Gondola to enjoy the vistas of the Canadian Rockies from the top of Sulphur Mountain. We love the Banff Gondola too (it’s one of the best gondolas in Banff), but did you know that you can skip the costly gondola ride to the top and hike there instead?
As far as hikes go, the actual Sulphur Mountain hiking trail isn’t the best hike in the national park. From the parking lot, it’s basically one long switchback after another until you reach the top. Granted, the views you get along the way are quite spectacular.
In our experience, the views are always better when you earn them and I can’t help but feel a little smug knowing that I’ve got an extra 65 bucks in my pocket, which I can use to treat myself because I just burned a ton of calories getting to the top.
Hikers who reach the top can enjoy all the same facilities as the folks who paid for Banff Gondola tickets, including the many excellent dining options. The only exception is, of course, you can’t hop on the gondola down (without paying).
If you are traveling to Banff on a budget, or are like us and like to earn your views, read our full post on the Sulphur Mountain trail to see why we like hiking up instead of taking the Banff Gondola. And hey, if you are happy we saved you $65 each, why not invest some of it in one of our Banff travel guides to make your trip even better? You’ll still have plenty leftover for a great post-hike meal!
15. Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail
You may have noticed by now, that we have a thing for vertical hikes with lots of elevation gain, so we thought we’d take a break and include another of the best easy hikes in Banff National Park.
As you might guess from the descriptive name, the Moraine Lake Shoreline trail follows the shoreline of this world-famous Banff lake. Along this pleasant walk, it’s hard not to feel small with the full height of the mountains of the Valley of the Ten Peaks towering overhead.
16. Sundance Canyon Trail
As the birthplace of Banff National Park, the Cave and Basin is a hugely popular tourist attraction. While the Cave & Basin is a very enjoyable thing to do in Banff (especially the hot springs walk above the facility), many people don’t know that it also sits on a very beautiful piece of land adjacent to the Bow River.
Once you are done visiting the Cave & Basin, why not enjoy one of the many enjoyable hikes in the area? There are many beautiful trails near the Cave & Basin, but the one we enjoy the most is the Sundance Canyon trail.
The first 4 km of the hike to Sundance Canyon is on a paved walking trail following the Bow River, which is excellent for biking if you have the opportunity. Even if you have to walk the paved trail, the Rocky Mountain / Bow River scenery is pretty amazing.
Once you leave the paved trail and enter the forested trail, the Sundance Canyon trail really pays off. The trail now follows the path of Sundance Creek as it rages through the Sundance Canyon.
This short loop hiking trail passes some river rapids flowing below a beautiful waterfall as you walk through a tight canyon with towering rock walks high overhead. The raw beauty of Sundance Canyon is one of the most scenic spots in all of Banff National Park, which can’t be missed.
Learn more about this very popular easy hike hike near the Banff Cave and Basin in our full post on the Sundance Canyon trail.
17. C-Level Cirque Hike
So far, Lake Louise and Moraine Lake have been hogging the majority of the spots on this list of the best hikes in Banff National Park. But there are other great areas to hike outside of these iconic Banff lakes, including the Lake Minnewanka area. One of our favorite hikes in the Lake Minnewanka area is the C-Level Cirque Trail.
The C-Level Cirque hike begins through a lush evergreen forest on the lower slopes of Cascade Mountain. Along the way, you’ll pass historic remnants of the abandoned Bankhead coal mine, including some buildings and some fenced off mining shafts.
When you emerge from the forest, you’ll be standing at the bottom of a majestic Cascade Mountain cirque – a semi-circle amphitheatre of towering mountain cliffs. The giant boulder field is a great place to stop and marvel at the rock wall extending 1 km overhead – a unique opportunity to contemplate the sheer size of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Most will end their C-Level Cirque hike there, but it’s possible to continue hiking to the beginning of the alpine zone where the forest stops growing. From this vantage point, you can see Johnson Lake, Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake – three of Banff’s most beautiful lakes in one incredible vista.
Discover why this is one of the best hikes in Lake Minnewanka in our full post on the C-Level Cirque Trail.
18. Healy Pass Trail
The Healy Pass hike at Sunshine Village is one of the most beautiful larch hikes in Banff National Park. With incredible views and a truly massive larch forest, the Healy Pass trail is a must-do Banff hike in fall.
The trailhead for the Healy Pass trail is in the Sunshine Village parking lot. At a time when parking is nearly impossible to find at some of the other popular Banff larch hikes, you are virtually guaranteed to get a parking spot for the Healy Pass hike.
The Healy Pass trail is a little further down this list of the best hikes in Banff as some hikers complain about the ‘boring’ forest hike on the way to the larch forest. While it’s true the first 7 km or so is pretty dense forest without many mountain views, it is a beautiful, lush forest which follows Healy Creek. It’s not the most scenic 7 km of hiking in Banff, but we thought it was easy, quick and a very nice forest.
Learn more about this exceptionally scenic Banff hike on our full blog post on the Healy Pass hike.
19. Tunnel Mountain Hike
One of the best hikes near the Banff Townsite, Tunnel Mountain is a rewarding easy-to-moderate hike to an outstanding viewpoint. Despite the name, Tunnel Mountain isn’t technically a mountain (it’s more like a big hill), but it sure sounds good to tell your friends and family that you summited a mountain in Banff National Park!
Located on the east side of the Banff townsite, the Tunnel Mountain hike is short, but it’s a little steep, making it a bit challenging for novice hikers. On any given day, you’ll see hikers of all abilities making their way to the top. Virtually everyone makes it with a little determination.
When you arrive at the top, you’ll be rewarded with excellent vistas of the Town of Banff, the world-famous Banff Springs Hotel and the jagged mountain peaks of the Bow Valley. You’ll also discover a pair of the iconic Parks Canada red Adirondack chairs, which makes for a great photo op.
If you are visiting Banff without a car, the close proximity of this hike to downtown Banf makes it one of the best hikes without a car in Banff.
If you’d like more information on one of the best Banff day hikes, we have a full blog post on the Tunnel Mountain Trail.
20. Hidden Lake Trail
The Hidden Lake trail is a very enjoyable Lake Louise area hike to an alpine Banff lake. The picturesque scenery alone is enough to include the Hidden Lake trail on this list of the best Banff hiking trails, but it also has a very uplifting conservation story as well.
The Westslope Cutthroat Trout was designated a Threatened species in Canada in 2013. In response, Parks Canada has been working diligently to save this native fish species, including significant work around the Hidden Lake area. Parks Canada shares this success story though some very informative interpretive signage along the way.
Although you can easily enjoy the Hidden Lake trail on your own, this is a rare opportunity to sign up for a Parks Canada guided hike. If you are lucky enough to get a coveted spot on a Hidden Lake guided hike, you’ll be joined by a Parks Canada guide who will teach you lots of interesting facts about the Hidden Lake area as well as sharing more information on the Westslope Cutthroat Trout conservation project.
Find out more about this great Lake Louise hike and how to join a Parks Canada guided hike on our full blog post on the Hidden Lake hike.
21. Lake Louise Shoreline Trail
Another of the best easy hikes in Banff National Park is along the shores of iconic Lake Louise. Most visitors to Lake Louise don’t venture much further than the viewing areas in front of the Chateau Lake Louise, but it’s a real shame as there is a very easy walking trail along the lakeshore which is suitable for all skill levels.
In an environment as rugged as the Canadian Rocky Mountains, it’s very hard to find a hike without any elevation gain. If you think about it, the best place to find a flat hiking trail in the mountains is along the shore of a lake, which by definition is level!
There are so many reasons to love the Lake Louise Shoreline trail, but we think this is one of the best hikes in Banff for the variety of views of this iconic lake. The famous turquoise water color of Lake Louise seems to change as you walk, with the different perspectives and shifting lighting. The ever-changing views of the Victoria Glacier at the far end of the lake are special too.
Although you can walk as far as 3 km to the far end of Lake Louise, you can choose how far you go. Simply take your time on this easy hike and savor these world-class views of the Canadian Rockies.
22. Boom Lake Trail
Another of the great, yet underrated Banff hikes tucked away on the Banff Windermere Highway (Highway 93), the scenery around Boom Lake is quite special. To be honest, the peaceful hike through the forest to Boom Lake isn’t the most exciting hiking trail in Banff National Park, but there are some truly massive trees as your near the lake.
What makes the Boom Lake hike so appealing to many is that it is a moderately long, but reasonably easy hike to a gorgeous Banff lake. With jagged Rocky Mountains on all sides and incredibly clear, freezing cold water, the scenery you’ve earned by hiking to Boom Lake is comparable to that of the best hikes in Banff National Park found towards the top of this list.
Learn more about this hidden gem Banff hiking trail in our full blog post on the Boom Lake hike.
23. Johnson Lake Trail
One of the best kid-friendly hikes in Banff National Park, the Johnson Lake hike is a highly enjoyable circumnavigation of the lake. On this easy Banff hike you’ll enjoy a wide variety of beautiful Banff scenery, including mountain vistas, beautiful stretches of forest and, of course, views of Johnson Lake. If you know where to find it, there’s even an old hermit’s cabin hidden deep in the woods along the trail.
Even without this fun hiking trail, the Johnson Lake day use area is one of the most popular things to do with kids in Banff. The Johnson Lake day use area, located in the Minnewanka Loop, is one of the best picnic spots in Banff and it even has a little rocky beach area for the kids. I’m always amazed at how resilient kids are swimming and playing in the freezing cold, glacial waters of Johnson Lake.
Speaking of cold, it’s worth mentioning that the Johnson Lake trail is one of our favorite winter hikes in Banff as well!
Learn how to find the hermit’s cabin and much more in our full blog post on the Johnson Lake trail.
24. Stewart Canyon Trail
The Lake Minnewanka day use area is a very popular destination within Banff National Park. Most visitors come for a picnic or a scenic boat cruise, but there are also some excellent Lake Minnewanka hiking trails as well.
As you’ve seen above, Aylmer Lookout is one of our favorite hiking trails in Banff National Park, but is very difficult. If you are looking for an easy Lake Minnewanka hiking trail with plenty of rewarding scenery, the Stewart Canyon trail is perfect for you.
The Stewart Canyon hike begins along the easy and highly scenic Lake Minnewanka Shoreline trail. Once the shoreline trail crosses a bridge over the Cascade River, you reach the Stewart Canyon trail junction.
From here, the Stewart Canyon trail follows the path of the Cascade River, through a surprisingly lush forest. In spring, this forest is one of the best spots in Banff National Park to see wild Calypso Orchids (please don’t pick them so everyone can enjoy them).
The Stewart Canyon trail ends at the confluence of another mountain stream flowing into the Cascade River. There are lots of big rocks and fallen logs on to sit and soak in this rugged mountain paradise.
This rewarding, easy hike has long been one of our favorite things to do at Lake Minnewanka. Get all the details on this Banff day hike in our full post about the Stewart Canyon trail.
25. Little Beehive Trail
As with the Big Beehive hike, the Little Beehive hike also begins near the Lake Agnes Tea House. The Little Beehive trail isn’t as popular as the Big Beehive, but it’s short and offers some outstanding views of the Bow Valley and the Lake Louise area.
Along the Little Beehive hike you’ll enjoy views of Mirror Lake, Lake Louise, the Chateau Lake Louise, Mt. Fairview, the Lake Louise Ski Resort, and literally countless peaks of the Canadian Rockies looking west down the Bow Valley towards Canmore.
The Little Beehive hike is short enough that it is often paired up with the Big Beehive hike to do the “Beehive Circuit”.
Learn more about this very scenic, yet short add-on to the Lake Agnes Tea House trail in our full blog post on the Little Beehive trail.
Banff Hiking Gear
If you are going to be enjoying several of the best hikes in Banff, we recommend you read our post about Banff hiking essentials. You’ll learn about the hiking gear and clothing we recommend to get the most enjoyment out of these Banff hikes your hike, regardless of the variable weather and trail conditions.
But, if you don’t have the time to read our full post on Banff hiking gear essentials, here are a few items we recommend bringing:
- Bear spray is a must. Cannisters of bear spray are forbidden on airplanes and cannot be shipped by mail, so you can buy or rent it at many locations in Canmore and Banff. Carry your bear spray in an easily accessible location such as a holster (and definitely not inside your day bag).
- Water – the water in the lakes and streams around Banff National Park is not safe to drink without treatment. We recommend hikers bring a hydration pack on these Banff hikes, as it is an effective and eco-conscious way to bring enough water for a day hike in Banff.
- It’s very important to dress in layers. The weather can be quite variable hiking in the Banff mountains, no matter the season. For hiking in Banff, we typically wear convertible hiking pants, T-shirts, a fleece top and rain jackets. Bring a daybag as you can expect to put on and take off layers all day. For fall hiking, a toque, mitts, and jacket may be necessary.
- We don’t often use trekking poles, but they can help with balance and to take pressure off your knees on a steep downhill.
Banff Hiking Safety
Our list of the best Banff day hikes includes front-country trails that are well travelled, well maintained and are pretty safe from technical hazards. That said, it’s important to educate yourself on the safety elements of hiking in Banff National Park.
The chances of you having a dangerous wildlife encounter on these popular Banff hikes are very low, but this is a true mountain wilderness and you never know what will happen on any given hike, so be prepared.
Parks Canada has two excellent publications we recommend you read before enjoying the best hikes in Banff National Park:
We also recommend you check the trail report for these Banff hikes before you leave home to learn the latest trail conditions, wildlife warnings and possible closures before you head out.