Hiking to Boom Lake in Banff National Park

Author: Celine Brewer

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The Boom Lake hike in Banff National Park is a moderately long, but reasonably easy hike through a pleasant forest to a Banff lake surrounded by towering rock cliffs. To be honest, the Boom Lake hike is an underrated hike in Banff. The scenery to be earned by hiking up to Boom Lake is on par with many of the best hikes in Banff National Park.

While it’s nearly impossible to compete with the stunning scenery of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, you’ll find Boom Lake is still well worth the time. The lake itself is beautiful with an impressive mountain backdrop. The clear blue water of the lake is incredibly inviting on a calm summer day, but don’t be fooled as it will still be quite cold!

The hike up through the forest isn’t the most exciting, as it doesn’t offer too many views, but don’t let that deter you. It’s a pleasant walk through a peaceful forest, that’s enjoyable nonetheless.

Incredible views at Boom Lake in Banff National Park

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Boom Lake Hike – Quick Details

Trailhead: Boom Lake trailhead

Distance: 10.2 km out and back

Elevation: 175 m elevation gain

Boom Lake Hike Highlights

The Boom Lake trailhead is found at the at far end of parking lot. This easy Banff hike begins with a bang as the trail almost immediately crosses a half moon bridge over Boom creek. A dazzling array of colorful wildflowers line the sides of the trail.

Wildflowers growing along Boom Lake hiking trail

After a short walk through tall bushes, the Boom Lake hiking trail enters the forest. The coniferous trees are covered in old man’s beard lichen flowing gracefully in the wind, while the forest floor is covered in small bushes and moss.

At this stage, the Boom Lake trail starts going uphill. With a few exceptions, the Boom Lake hike is a steady, but moderate uphill. Depending on your fitness level, you may not even notice the incline, or it may cause you to get a good sweat on.

You’ll see the first of thousands of tall pink fireweed flowers growing next to the Boom Lake trail, alongside other Banff wildflowers such as paintbrushes, purple daisies and Columbine.

purple wildflowers along Boom Lake trail in Banff in Summer

One of the species of bush you’ll see along the Boom Lake trail are buffaloberry. In summer, the buffaloberry bushes explode in bright red berries and are an important food source for bears. When the berries are out, be extra careful and make lots of noise while hiking.

After a few hundred meters, take a moment and look behind you for a glimpse of Storm Mountain. You don’t get many views of this magnificent mountain on the Boom Lake trail, so enjoy it while you can.

Seeing Storm Mountain through Trees on Boom Lake hiking trail

After hiking around 0.8 km along the Boom Lake trail, you’ll notice the ground around the hiking trail becomes boggy. If you look close, you’ll notice rail ties lined up in a row beneath the gravel on the hiking trail.

The entire length of the Boom Lake trail is lined with small creeks and natural springs flowing next to or over the hiking trail. This means the hiking trail is often muddy, so although you can often cross the mud over rocks or on the side, we recommend wearing water resistant hiking boots.

Muddy Sections in July along Boom Lake Hike

A rule of nature is where there is water, there is life. Birds and flowers love this environment, but so do mosquitos. In season, ensure you have a healthy amount of insect repellent.

You never know what, if any, Banff wildlife you’ll see while hiking in Banff. With so much water, the Boom Lake hike is a good wildlife spotting opportunity. On our hike we were fortunate enough to see a grouse, a frog and we heard many woodpeckers.

Grouse along Boom Lake trail

At the 1.5 km mark, the Boom Lake trail gets close enough to Boom creek to hear it. As you cross a little bridge over one of the streams crossing the hiking trail, look through the trees on the left for one of the first good looks of Boom Mountain through the trees.

As you reach the 2.4 km mark, the Boom Lake trail meets up with a trail junction for O’Brien Lake and Taylor Lake. In fall, we highly recommend hiking to Taylor Lake, as it is one of the nicest larch tree hikes in Banff National Park.

One of the things which makes Boom Lake special is the fact it is surrounded by mountains on three sides. After 3 km of hiking along the Boom Lake trail, you’ll enter the front of this mountain amphitheater with Mount Bell rising on the left. It’s difficult to see through the trees though.

Mountain views through the trees while hiking to Boom Lake

Half a kilometre later, Boom Mountain joins Mount Bell on the other side of the valley. You will now be walking between these two Rocky Mountains for the duration of the Boom Lake hike. Being much closer, the views of the magnificent Boom Mountain become more consistent.

Despite having mountains on your left and right, the Boom Mountain hike still gets lots of morning sun from the east behind you.

Sun on Wildflowers along Boom Lake trail

At 4 km, the Boom Lake hike starts to descend towards Boom Lake. There are some massive trees in this section of forest, many of which have fallen. Stop and look at the trunks which have been chain sawed – there are hundreds of growth rings on these giants.

The Boom Lake trail crosses many streams on its way down to the Boom Lake shore. It can get a bit steep in spots – enjoy the downhill as you’ll have to hike back up on the way back to the car.

Wooden Boardwalk near end of Boom Lake hike

Around the 5 km mark of the Boom Lake hike the trail becomes a long wooden boardwalk. The boardwalk crosses an especially moist section of the Boom Lake trail, with many marshes and streams below. There’s something inherently fun about hiking on wooden boardwalks, and kids of all ages enjoy the experience.

Beyond the wooden boardwalk, the Boom Lake trail surface becomes rockier and with more roots, so watch your step. Not long after, you’ll reach the shores of Boom Lake.

Getting first views of Boom Lake - Banff National Park

We’ve been to Banff National Park hundreds of times and the scenery at Boom Lake still made us say “Wow!”.

Standing on the north shore of Boom Lake looking south you’ll be in awe of the massive rock wall from Boom Mountain rising over 900m overhead. Boom Mountain is an especially dramatic mountain with colorful bands of sedimentary layers running along the upper layers of the rocky cliff and permanent layers of snow resting in some of the areas the sun rarely reaches.

Impressive Views at Boom Lake Banff

Completing the semi-circle of mountains around Boom Lake are the rugged mountains of Chickadee Peak, Chimney Peak and Bident Mountain. Across the other side of these mountains is the province of British Columbia. Mount Bell is behind you (firmly in Alberta), but is mostly obscured by trees.

The shore of Boom Lake is lined with boulders, making it easy to find a spot to sit, rest and soak in these incredible views of Banff National Park. If you can peel your eyes off the towering Rocky Mountain peaks around you, notice how crystal clear the water of Boom Lake is.

Clear water of Boom Lake Banff

Boulder fields, such as the one at the bottom of Boom Lake, are perfect habitat fir Hoary Marmots and pikas, but we didn’t see any on our visit.

Boom Lake Trailhead

The Boom Lake trailhead is found in the Boom Lake Day Use Area along Highway 93 South. The Boom Lake Day Use is under 30 minutes from Banff and an hour and 50 minutes from Calgary.

parking lot and toilets at Boom Lake Day Use - Banff National Park

To reach Boom Lake Day Use, take the TransCanada Highway 1 West to the Highway 93 exit. Turn left at the exit and continue up Highway 93 South for 7 km then turn right into the Boom Lake parking lot at the sign.

Boom Lake Hike Stats

How Long is the Boom Lake Hike?

The round-trip distance of the Boom Lake trail is 10.2 km (one-way distance of 5.1 km) from the Boom Lake trailhead through the forest until you reach the shores of the lake.

Boom Lake Trailhead sign

How Hard is the Hike to Boom Lake?

Due to the length and incline, we rate the Boom Lake hike as “easy”.

Rating a hike is difficult, as everyone has different physical abilities. A hike can even feel different from one day to the next. When we start reaching distances of 10 km even with little elevation, it becomes more difficult and becomes more of a moderate hike for many.

wide easy trail to Boom Lake

We’ve rated this one as easy because the elevation gain is so little and hardly perceptible when you are hiking. There are no real steep sections to contend with. It’s a very gradual climb throughout the first 4.5 km before you do a small descent down to the lake.

How Long Does the Boom Lake Hike Take?

It should take a typical adult 2.5-3.5 hours to hike to Boom Lake. We did this hike with our two kids (8 and 6 years old) and it took us around 4 hours.

Kids walking on fallen tree on Boom Lake hike

Our time of 4 hours includes stopping for lunch at Boom Lake and taking pictures along the way.

Boom Lake Trail Map

The Boom Lake trail is easy to follow and is well marked. If you are feeling uncertain, you can use the Alltrails app while hiking to Boom Lake, but the trail is easy enough to follow and there’s really only one way to go.

To find the Boom Lake trail map in Alltrails, simply search for “Boom Lake trail”. Be sure to download your hiking maps prior to leaving.

Enjoy map downloads and many more premium features with a 7-day free trial of AllTrails+!

Boom Lake - Banff National Park hikes

A paper map isn’t required for this easy Banff hike, but if you prefer to hike with a paper map and compass as an additional safety layer, we highly recommend Gem Trek hiking maps. We own the entire set of these excellent Banff and Kananaskis hiking maps. They are exceptional 3D topographic maps which we love looking at for hiking inspiration.

The Boom Lake trail map is found in the “Banff and Mt. Assiniboine” map. You can order it before your trip, or you can pick it up here as they are widely available.

Hiking Boom Lake Trail with Kids

If you are visiting Banff with kids, this is an excellent hike for the entire family. It may be challenging for some kids due to the length of 10.2 km, but it’s well worth it to make it to the lake. Even kids can appreciate a view like the one you get at Boom Lake.

family picture at Boom Lake in Banff National Park

Along the way there are plenty of opportunities to stop for a break on a log or a large rock.

Our kids, who are 8 and 6 years old, are decent hikers and they really enjoyed this hike. The hiking trail to Boom Lake is wide enough for 2-3 people, making it a great hike for families or groups.

Boy on large boulder while hiking Boom Lake trail in Banff

There is a very long boardwalk as you near the lake, which our kids always love. It was also easy to distract them by playing “the floor is lava” and hopping across streams and on rocks the entire way up.

kids running on wooden boardwalk along Boom Lake hiking trail in Banff

Don’t miss these other best Banff day-hikes with kids.

Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break

The obvious place to stop for lunch is at the Boom Lake. Trust us, this is a place where you’ll want to stop and take it all in. Don’t rush your break at the lake, it’s an incredibly scenic place. You may not want to leave!

Hike to Boom Lake in Banff National Park

If it’s not time for lunch when you reach the lake, there’s also a nice picnic area surrounding the Boom Lake Day Use area.

Picnic table in Boom Lake Day Use area

Boom Lake Hiking Safety

There are relatively few hiking hazards along the Boom Lake hiking trail. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow up all the way to the Boom Lake.

Banff Hikes - Boom Lake Hiking Trail

That being said, it’s still important to educate yourself on Bear Safety in Banff National Park. This should entail carrying bear spray, hiking in a group and making plenty of noise on the way up.

Cougars also live in Banff National Park. Learn more about Cougar Safety in Banff National Park.

Chances of a dangerous wildlife encounter in Banff are very low, but you never know what will happen with Banff wildlife, so be prepared.

We recommend you check the Boom Lake trail report (under Bow Valley/Castle Junction Area) for the Boom Lake trail conditions, wildlife warnings and possible closures before you head out.

Boom Lake Trail Logistics

  • On-leash dogs are allowed on the Boom Lake hike.

  • Mountain biking is not allowed on the Boom Lake trail.

  • There are toilets in the Boom Lake Day Use parking lot.

  • Plan to pack plenty of water and snacks for this hike. Fill your hydration packs before you leave.

  • You won’t get cell service for the entirety of your hike, so don’t count on it for your safety.
Hiking to Boom Lake in Banff National park with Kids

What to Bring for Hiking Boom Lake Trail

Check out our list of hiking essentials with the hiking gear and clothing we recommend to get the most enjoyment out of your hike, regardless of the variable Banff weather and trail conditions.

Here are a few items that we recommend bringing on every Banff hike:

  • Bear spray is a must. Cannisters are available to buy or rent at many locations in Canmore and Banff. Carry your bear spray in an easily accessible location.

  • Water – the Boom Lake trail is a gradual uphill climb and offers decent shade, but on a hot summer day you’ll want to ensure you have enough water. A hydration pack is an effective and eco-conscious way to bring enough water for a hard hike.

  • Bring several layers of clothing with you. The weather can be quite variable hiking in Banff National Park, no matter the season. For hiking in Banff, we typically wear convertible hiking pantsT-shirts, a fleece top and rain jackets. Bring a daybag as you can expect to put on and take off layers all day.

  • We don’t use trekking poles, but they can help with balance and to take pressure off knees on the descent.
What to wear for hiking to Boom Lake in Banff

Boom Lake Footwear Recommendation

The Boom Lake trail is in decent shape for most of its length. You could do this easy Banff hike with running shoes on.  

The Boom Lake hike is the perfect kid-friendly hike for families looking for a longer distance hike.

Other Banff Hikes

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Don't miss the jaw-dropping views at Boom Lake in Banff National Park. This moderately long hike is well worth the effort!
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Celine Brewer, a local Canmore resident, is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada. She has a passion for being out in the mountains any time of year. In the summer, you'll often find her hiking or mountain biking. In the winter, she enjoys cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking the most.

As much as she loves the mountains, she also loves travel! When she's not playing outdoors at home, she's either traveling the world with her husband and two kids or working on their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.