10 Amazing Hikes in the Banff Townsite – No Car Required!

Author: Dan Brewer

Last Updated:

Banff National Park is a huge outdoor playground in the Canadian Rockies. It’s a hikers paradise with outstanding hikes for all skill levels scattered in every corner of the park. But, you may be surprised to know that there are many excellent hikes you can do right from the Town of Banff. Yes, that’s right – you can enjoy these 10 hikes right from the Banff Townsite!

Don’t think you are missing out by hiking around the Town of Banff – in fact, many of these hikes in the Banff townsite rank among my favorite hikes in the national park. Regardless of whether you are visiting Banff without a car, or just don’t feel like driving a long distance to a trailhead, we’re sure you will enjoy these excellent hikes around the Town of Banff.

I’ve organized these hikes by skill level, starting with the best easy hikes in the Banff townsite, all the way to the more challenging hikes in the area.

yellow wildflowers grow next to the Marsh Loop Trail, on of the best easy hikes in the Banff townsite.

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The Top 10 Best Hikes in The Banff Townsite

Easy Hikes in the Banff Townsite

These easy hikes in the Banff townsite should be appropriate for all skill levels. They are great for families looking for an easy hike in the Town of Banff, casual walkers or just anyone looking for an easy, scenic walk around town.

1. Fenland Trail

I love the short, easy walk along the Fenland Trail in the Town of Banff. The trailhead is not far from the “Banff” welcome sign at the entrance to the townsite, so you can easily pair this easy hike with a picture with the Banff sign.

The Fenland Trail is a short loop through some wetlands near Echo Creek (a tributary of the Bow River). Given the abundance of water in the area, the forest along this easy hiking trail is especially lush, and makes a great home for some Banff wildlife. We often see deer and elk along the Fenland Trail.

two young kids enjoy an easy hike in the Banff townsite along the Fenland Loop trail.
Fenland Trail, Town of Banff.

Fenland Trail Stats

Distance: 1.9 km / 1.2 miles loop
Elevation Gain: 50 m / 165 feet
Fenland Trail Map

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2. Bow River Trail to Bow Falls

The easy walk along the Bow River Trail to the Bow Falls is a beautiful and highly enjoyable walk along the Bow River. Starting from Central Park, this easy Banff walking trail takes you from main part of the Banff townsite across the Bow River on the Banff Pedestrian Bridge to the Bow Falls.

The Bow Falls are not the highest, or most beautiful waterfalls in Banff National Park, but they are wide and powerful, making it a worthy destination at the end of your easy Banff townsite hike. Plus, the Bow Falls are right below the famous Banff Springs Hotel, so you can easily combine your visit to Bow Falls with the Fairmont hotel.

The raging Bow Falls are a short walk from the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff National Park.
Bow Falls, Town of Banff.

Bow River Trail Stats

Distance: 2.7 km / 1.7 miles return.
Elevation Gain: 50 m / 165 feet.
Bow River Trail Map

3. The Discovery Boardwalk at the Cave & Basin National Historic Site

The Cave & Basin is the birthplace of Canada’s national park system and a national historic site, making it a must-visit for anyone visiting Banff National Park. In addition to the main exhibits at the Banff Cave & Basin, there are a series of very enjoyable easy hiking trails in the area, including the Discovery Boardwalk.

If you only pick one hiking trail to enjoy at the Cave & Basin, make sure it’s the Discovery Boardwalk Trail. This short, easy hike in the Banff Townsite leads visitors to the location where the original hot springs were discovered, ultimately leading to the creation of Banff National Park. It’s the single most important thing to see at this national historic site.

a natural hot spring sits alongside a wooden boardwalk on the Discovery Trail at the Cave & Basin national historic site in Banff National Park.
Natural hot springs along the Discovery Trail, Cave & Basin, Banff.

There’s ample parking at the Cave & Basin, but if you choose to enjoy any of the Cave & Basin hikes without a car, it’s a 2 km walk along Cave Avenue from downtown Banff.

Discovery Trail Stats

Distance: 1.1 km / 0.7 miles loop.
Elevation Gain: 40 m / 130 feet.
Cave & Basin Discovery Boardwalk Map

4. The Marsh Loop Trail at the Cave & Basin

The Discovery Boardwalk is a must-do hike at the Cave & Basin national historic site, but if you are looking for something a bit longer, we recommend adding on the Marsh Trail.

The Marsh Trail follows the flow of the water from the Cave & Basin hot springs downstream all the way to the Bow River. On this easy hiking trail, you’ll pass hot springs waterfalls, enjoy beautiful Canadian Rockies mountain views, and visit some fun fish and bird viewing platforms.

Mountain reflections in the Bow River along the easy Marsh Loop hiking trail at the Cave & Basin in Banff, Canada.
The beautiful Bow River along the Marsh Loop Trail.

Marsh Loop Stats

Distance: 3.4 km / 2.1 miles loop.
Elevation Gain: 93 m / 305 feet.
Marsh Loop Trail Map

5. Sundance Canyon Trail

In my opinion, the most beautiful easy hike in the Cave & Basin area is the Sundance Canyon Trail. To get to the Sundance Canyon Trail, you’ll enjoy a 3 km hike or bike along a paved trail along the beautiful Bow River, enjoying mountain scenery the whole way.

Once at the Sundance Canyon Trail, you’ll enjoy one of the most beautiful natural areas in all of Banff National Park. The highlight of Sundance Canyon is a raging waterfall which cuts dramatically through a very narrow canyon. The Sundance Canyon Trail runs alongside this natural wonder right to the very top, where you can cross a bridge over.

A powerful waterfall flows through in Sundance Canyon near the Cave & Basin national historic site in Banff National Park.
Sundance Canyon at the Cave & Basin.

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For all of the stats and location details on this easy Banff townsite hike, check out our full post on the Sundance Canyon hiking trail.

6. Vermilion Lakes

The final entry in our list of easy hikes you can do right from the Banff Townsite is the Vermillion Lakes Trail. Although this isn’t on a true hiking trail (it’s on a paved road), it’s a popular walking spot for those who are looking for a very scenic, easy walk in the Town of Banff.

The views from the Vermillion Lakes are so beautiful that they commonly appear in promotional material for Banff National Park. The sight of the majestic slopes of Mt. Rundle reflecting in the glasslike waters of the Vermillion Lakes is breathtaking in person.

To improve your odds of seeing the reflections of Mt. Rundle in glasslike water, we recommend you enjoy the Vermillion Lakes walk as early in the day as you can.

The view of Mount Rundle from the Vermillion Lakes Trail.

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Distance: As far as 4.3 km / 2.7 miles one-way.
Elevation Gain: nil.
Vermillion Lakes Trail Map

Moderate Hikes around the Town of Banff

Stepping up the effort level a little bit, these moderately challenging hikes around the Town of Banff are some of the most popular hikes in town!

7. Surprise Corner to Hoodoos Trail

The Surprise Corner to the Hoodoos is one of my favorite hikes in the Town of Banff. It’s a relatively easy hike connecting two of the best viewpoints in the Banff Townsite – the Surprise Corner viewpoint and the Banff Hoodoos.

After enjoying the views of the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel from Surprise Corner, you’ll walk through a beautiful forest in the shadow of Tunnel Mountain. The scenery includes great views of Mount Rundle, one of my favorite mountains in Banff National Park, and occasional stretches of the Bow River.

Dan Brewer, owner of TravelBanffCanada.com, hikes the Surprise Corner to Hoodoos Trail in the Town of Banff.

As you might imagine, many of the hikes around the Banff Townsite are extremely popular. One of the reasons I like this Town of Banff hike so much is that it is off the tourist radar, meaning you can enjoy your nature hike in peace. It also greatly improves your chances of seeing some Banff wildlife too.

Note, we recommend all guests of the Banff Springs Hotel pay a visit to the Surprise Corner, even if you don’t do the enjoyable Banff Townsite hike. The view of the Banff Springs Hotel from Surprise Corner is the best you’ll get anywhere in town.

Banff Springs Hotel as seen from Surprise Corner Viewpoint.
The view of the Fairmont Banff Springs from Surprise Corner.

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For all of the stats and location details on this moderate Banff townsite hike, check out our full post on the Surprise Corner to the Hoodoos hiking trail.

8. Tunnel Mountain

Tunnel Mountain is a big hill located just east of the Town of Banff. Although it’s not technically a mountain, it was called Tunnel Mountain as the original plan for the Canadian Pacific Railway was to bore a tunnel through it. The name stuck, even without the tunnel, so now you have the chance to bag an easy summit of a mountain in Banff!

Dan Brewer, of the Travel Banff Blog, high fives his son upon reaching the summit of Tunnel Mountain in the Banff Townsite.
Congratulating my son on his first summit in Banff!

Due to its relative ease and incredible scenic payoff, the Tunnel Mountain hike is one of the most popular hikes in the Town of Banff. The Tunnel Mountain trail is basically a series of switchbacks up the side of the hill until you get to the top.

The hiking trail on Tunnel Mountain is a steady uphill the entire way, but nearly everyone can do it with a little perseverance. There’s plenty of scenic spots to stop along the way to the summit of Tunnel Mountain, including views of the Banff Springs Hotel, the Banff Townsite, the Bow Valley and the surrounding mountain peaks.

At the top of Tunnel Mountain, you’ll have a chance to get a picture with a pair of the iconic Parks Canada red Adirondack chairs. Parks Canada has strategically placed these chairs in many of the most scenic spots in Canada’s national parks. Find out where to find the rest of the Parks Canada red chairs in Banff.

Dan Brewer sits in one of the Parks Canada Red Chairs at the summit of Tunnel Mountain in the Banff Townsite.

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For all of the stats and location details on this moderate Banff townsite hike, check out our full post on the Tunnel Mountain hiking trail.

Challenging Hikes around the Banff Townsite

9. Sulphur Mountain Trail

As you plan your trip to Banff National Park, you’ll undoubtedly come across the Banff Gondola, as it is one of the most popular things to do in Banff. The Banff Gondola quickly and easily whisks people to the top of Sulphur Mountain to enjoy some of the best mountain views in Canada’s oldest national park.

But, did you know that you can skip the Banff Gondola and hike the Sulphur Mountain Trail to the top instead? The Sulphur Mountain Trail departs from the Banff Gondola parking lot, and is a series of steep switchbacks all the way up the mountain. It’s a grind for sure, but it should be easily doable for anyone who regularly hikes.

Visitors to Banff can hike the Sulphur Mountain Trail instead of taking the Banff Gondola.
Me pausing to soak in the views from the Sulphur Mountain Trail.

The best part is that once you reach the top of Sulphur Mountain, you can enjoy all the same world-class amenities as the people who paid to take the Banff Gondola up. But, here’s a secret…  the views from the top of Sulphur Mountain look better when you’ve earned them!

Celine Brewer, of the Travel Banff Canada blog, enjoys the views from the top of Sulphur Mountain.
Celine enjoys the views from the top of Sulphur Mountain.

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We have a post with everything you need to know about the Banff Gondola to help you decide whether you should hike up or ride up.

Our advice is to save a lot of money by doing this enjoyable Banff townsite hike to the top. With all the money you save, you could splurge on the best guide to visiting Banff National Park (sorry… shameless plug – haha!), and still have a lot left over for dinner at one of Banff’s best restaurants.

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For all of the stats and location details on this challenging Banff townsite hike, check out our full post on the Sulphur Mountain hiking trail.

10. Mt. Rundle Trail

You may recognize Mt. Rundle as it is featured in many of the beautiful promotional images of Banff National Park; and for good reason – it’s a stunning mountain. Seasoned hikers will have an opportunity to hike to one of the 18 summits of this amazing mountain, right from the Banff Townsite.

The trailhead for the Mt. Rundle Trail is just off Banff Avenue by the Banff Canoe Club. From here, it’s a steady climb through the forest. Eventually you will reach the Dragon’s Back, an exposed, narrow ridge which may be challenging for hikers with a fear of heights. The last section of the Mt. Rundle hike involves hiking through scree until your reach the top.

A very steep and long trail, this challenging Banff Townsite hike should only be attempted by experienced hikers only. If you enjoy this challenging hike up Mt. Rundle, there is another similar hike on the opposite end of Mt. Rundle, called the East End of Rundle Trail (commonly known as EEOR).

Mt. Rundle Trail Stats

Distance: 15 km / 9.3 miles return.
Elevation Gain: 1,700 m / 5,600 feet!
Mt. Rundle Trail Map

And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed my post on the 10 best hikes in the Banff Townsite!

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Dan Brewer, a life-long Alberta resident, calls Canmore home along with his wife and two kids. He is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada, where he gets to share his passion for the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Dan, along with his family, love being outdoors doing one of the many activities they enjoy in the mountains: hiking, mountain biking, paddleboarding, skiing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

When he's not in Canmore enjoying one of his favourite local hikes, you can find him hoping on a plane to explore a new country with his family or working on one of their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.