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Stoney Lookout Hike in Banff National Park

No matter what season it is, we always enjoy coming to Mt. Norquay for a quick hike on the Stoney Lookout trail. Without a significant amount of time or effort, the Stoney Lookout hike rewards hikers with an excellent viewpoint over the town of Banff and the majestic mountains of the Bow Valley and beyond.

Given its short distance, the Stoney Lookout hike is a kid-friendly Banff hike too. While you might think it’s too much time in the trees for the small payoff at the top, kids will find plenty to enjoy along the trail.

Finish up the morning with a ride up the Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift and lunch at the Cliffhouse Bistro.

Stoney Lookout Trail – Quick Details

Trailhead:  Stoney Lookout trailhead

Distance:  4.6 km loop

Elevation:  246m elevation gain

View on Stoney Lookout in Banff

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The Stoney Lookout trail was renamed in 2020 from its previous racist and offensive name. You may see it referred to as either Stoney Lookout or Upper Stoney Loop.

Stoney Lookout Hike Highlights

The Stoney Lookout hike (or Upper Stoney trail) begins at the very back of the Mount Norquay ski area parking lot. There is a large information sign at the trailhead just before you enter the forest.

Stoney Lookout hiking trail in Banff

The Stoney Lookout trail is a short hike up the spine of Stoney Lookout mountain. It’s an enjoyable walk through a beautiful evergreen forest with a dense mossy carpet and wispy old man lichen dangling from the tree branches.

The incline of the Stoney Lookout trail is mostly a pleasant, gradual slope, but there are several short segments which get noticeably steeper. There are typically lots of tree roots along these short, steep sections which almost act like stairs.

child on hiking trail with a close up of a mushroom - Stoney Lookout hike in Banff

After 1 km of hiking along the Stoney Lookout trail, you’ll be along the bottom of a very pleasant little gully, with gradual hill rising on either side of the trail. The open space around the hiking trail helps you appreciate how tall the surrounding trees are.

You’ll have gained enough elevation after hiking 1.5 km on the Stoney Lookout hike that you can start seeing off into the distance through the trees.

You’ll reach a trail junction at the 1.6 km mark of the hike. This junction can get awfully confusing due to some questionable trail signage. There are two directional hiking signs. To continue along to the summit of the Stoney Lookout trail, walk straight past the first one heading towards the second hiking sign.

trail marker on Stoney Lookout hike in Banff

The second directional hiking sign says to go to the right, but you actually need to walk right past it to the left. The hiking trail is very prominent to the left of the sign – you can’t miss it. The second sign is intended for traffic coming back the other way.

woman hiking Stoney Lookout in Banff in October

Beyond the confusing trail signage, the Stoney Lookout trail descends along a mossy rock wall into another gully to set up for the final push to the top.

The final leg of the Stoney Lookout hike is along a side slope, which always makes for good views while hiking.

At the 2.0 km, the Stoney Lookout loop trail reaches a clearing with views of the Town of Banff below. Around the town you’ll enjoy excellent views of Sulphur Mountain, Mt. Norquay, the Sundance Range and the Vermillion Lakes. As nice as this viewpoint is, it’s not as nice as the main lookout just a little further along the hiking trail.

view of Cascade mountain from Stoney Lookout hike in Banff

You’ll reach the summit of the Stoney Lookout loop trail after only 2.2 km of hiking. Look up as you approach the clearing to enjoy an amazing view of Cascade Mountain looming large overhead. This is one of the best views of Cascade Mountain found outside of the classic TransCanada Highway view driving into Banff.

Cascade Mountain in Banff National Park from Upper Stoney trail

At the Stoney Lookout summit you’ll find a large clearing, with many small rocks to sit down on to enjoy the vistas. Watch your step as there is an unmarked cliff just below the clearing, which could be very bad news for anyone who falls. If hiking with kids, keep them far away from the edge.

The views from the Stoney Lookout are spectacular, looking all the way down the Bow Valley towards Canmore. The closest mountains (besides Cascade) are Mt. Inglismaldie and Mt. Girouard, while at the far end of the range are Canmore favorites Mt. Lady MacDonald and Grotto Mountain. If you look closely, you can also see the corner of Two Jack Lake as well as Cascade Ponds in the Lake Minnewanka area of Banff National Park.

Stoney Lookout view over Bow Valley

From the summit of the Stoney Lookout trail, you can reverse course and take the same hiking trail back to your car, or you can continue on and make the hiking trail a loop. We recommend that you hike the Stoney Lookout trail as a loop as it’s always nice to enjoy new scenery whenever possible. In our opinion, the forest along the back half of the Stoney Lookout loop is nicer and more interesting than the first half.

To hike the second half of the loop, simply continue following the hiking trail beyond the lookout clearing. The hiking trail begins to descend, with a steep downslope on the right-hand side of the trail. This steep downslope helps maintain great views of Cascade Mountain through the trees on the right.

As with the first half of the loop, the descent down Stoney Lookout mountain can get pretty steep for short spurts. There are lots of trees near the trail which are useful to grab for stability on the steeper sections.

At the 2.6 km mark of the Stoney Lookout trail, you’ll enter a small clearing with nice views of Mt. Norquay. Take a moment to enjoy the view as once the trail reenters the forest, the mountain views are pretty much over.

Nearing the 3 km mark of this short Banff hike, the trail enters a beautiful part of the forest on Stoney Lookout mountain. The trail cuts through a very rocky section of forest with a steep side-slope. The rocks, trees and forest floor are covered with a thick layer of moss.

Mossy section of forest on Stoney Lookout Hike

My favorite stretch of the entire Stoney Lookout hike is through this section. As the hiking trail winds its way through a ravine, it clings to the edge of a 15 foot high rock cliff on the left-hand of the trail. With a pretty sharp drop-off on the right, it’s a pretty dramatic section of hiking trail.

Moss covered rockwall on Stoney Lookout Hike in Banff

Beyond the rock cliff, the hike begins to flatten out as it leads you towards the Mt. Norquay ski area village. The forest along this section is especially lush, with copious amounts of moss and Old Man Lichen.

You’ll reach a T-intersection after 4 km of hiking. Go left to reach the Mt. Norquay village (and ultimately back to your car), or turn right to access the Cascade Amphitheatre hike or the Lower Stoney trail.

Forest hike Stoney Lookout Banff

Shortly after you turn left, you’ll round a corner and stand at the top of a hill. Ahead of you is a full top-to-bottom view of the Mt. Norquay Ski Area. Look for a building near the top, where the rocky alpine layer begins. This is the Cliffhouse Bistro, which is accessed through the Mt. Norquay sightseeing chairlift. The Cliffhouse Bistro is a wonderful place for an apres-hike meal or drink.

You’ll reach the ski village after 4.2km of hiking and 400m later, you’ll have reached the end of the Mt. Norquay parking lot and the end of the Stoney Lookout loop hike.

Stoney Lookout Trailhead Location

The Stoney Lookout trailhead is immediately to your right as soon as you enter the Mount Norquay ski area parking lot. You can’t miss the large information sign at the trailhead just before you enter the forest.

Stoney Lookout Hike Trailhead

Trail sign for Stoney Lookout - Mt Norquay hiking in Banff

How to Get to Stoney Lookout Hike

You have several options to get to the Upper Stoney Lookout in Banff National Park:

Drive to Stoney Lookout, Banff

It’s a 90 minute drive from Calgary to Stoney Lookout, or just a 12 minute drive from Banff to Stoney Lookout.

As the trailhead for the Stoney Lookout hike is the Mt Norquay ski resort parking lot, there’s plenty of space.

view of transcanada highway from stoney lookout

Take the Shuttle to Stoney Lookout

Banff Norquay offers a free shuttle from 4 spots in Banff to outside the North American Lodge at Norquay. You don’t even need to book in advance, just check the schedule and hop on, just one more great way to get around Banff without a car!

Please note that if you take the free shuttle, you’ll need to walk back down the road from the North American Lodge to the main parking lot to access the Stoney Lookout hiking trail.

Stoney Lookout Trail Statistics

How Long is the Stoney Lookout Hike?

The Stoney Lookout hike is a pretty short Banff hike, clocking in at just over 4.6 km long.

How Steep is Stoney Lookout Trail?

The Stoney Lookout hiking trail has a few steep sections that will get your heart pumping, but once you reach the lookout it’s almost all downhill back to the parking lot.

boy on Stoney Lookout hike in Banff

How Hard is the Stoney Lookout Hiking Trail?

The Stoney Lookout hike is an easy Banff hike. It’s not without it’s difficult sections and a steady uphill for the first half, but you’ll be rewarded for your efforts. There are flat sections where you can catch your breath before the next uphill section and once at the top, it’s a steady downhill

We rate the Stoney Lookout Trail as an “easy Banff hike”.

Stoney Lookout hiking trail covered in roots

How Long Does It Take to Hike Stoney Lookout?

It should take a typical adult roughly 1-2 hours to hike the Stoney Lookout loop trail.

We recently hiked Stoney Lookout and it took us 1 hour and 20 minutes. We’ve also completed this hike with our kids (5 & 7) and it took us 2.5 hours.

view from Upper Stoney Lookout in Banff National Park

Stoney Lookout Trail Map

The Stoney Lookout hike is easy to follow with trail markers at any of the junctions. While a map isn’t necessary, you can always download the map on AllTrails.

To find the traditional Stoney Lookout hiking map on AllTrails, simply search for “Stoney Lookout / Upper Stoney Loop”.

You should have some cell service on this hike but expect it to be spotty. It’s always a good idea to download the trail map onto your phone ahead of time just in case.

Hiking Stoney Lookout Trail with Kids

While we wouldn’t list this a must-do hike if your time in Banff with kids is limited. However, it’s a good hike to pair with a visit up the Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift.

As locals to the area, we enjoy doing this hike in Banff with our kids. It’s a fun way to spend the morning. It’s also a great hike for any time of the year.

boy hiking in Banff

Our kids have done this hike in the fall and as a winter hike. There’s plenty in the forest to keep them interested, plus it’s a bonus when we can get the hard work out of the way in the first half.

hiking Stoney Lookout with Kids

Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break

The lookout is the best place for a snack break! Enjoy the view at this halfway point before heading down the other side to finish off the Stoney Lookout loop.

There are a few big rocks in the clearing where you can lay down a hiking picnic blanket and soak in the views.

clearing at the summit of Stoney Lookout in Banff National Park

Stoney Lookout Hiking Safety Tips

Before hiking Stoney Lookout, please take the time to educate yourself on Bear Safety in Banff National Park. And please, make lots of noise as you hike to alert the bears of your presence.

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

Don’t let this scare you off – chances of a dangerous wildlife encounter in Banff are very low, but you never know what will happen with Banff wildlife, so be educated and prepared.

We recommend you check the latest Upper Stoney Trail Report, under the Town of Banff Area section, for trail conditions, wildlife warnings and possible closures before you head out.

Stoney Lookout Trail Logistics

mushrooms along Stoney Lookout trail in Banff
  • On-leash dogs are allowed on the Stoney Lookout hike.

  • The Upper Stoney Lookout trail is a mountain bike trail and is a popular Banff fatbiking trail in the winter. Always be on the lookout for fast moving bikes.

  • There are no washrooms in the Stoney Lookout day use parking lot.

  • There are no drinking water facilities at Stoney Lookout, so fill your reusable water bottles or hydration packs before you leave home.
Stoney Lookout trail in Banff

What to Bring for Hiking Stoney Lookout

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 Stoney Lookout trail has a steady & extended uphill climb. You’ll get a good sweat going on your hike, so be sure you have enough water with you. 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.

Stoney Lookout Hike Footwear Recommendation

The Stoney Lookout trail has sections that are covered in roots and some very rocky sections as well. We recommend proper hiking shoes.

hiking trail marker for Upper Stoney trail in Banff

Stoney Lookout Hike in Winter

Hiking Stoney Lookout in October

The Stoney Lookout hike is also a fun Banff snowshoe trail in the winter.

The best way to enjoy the Stoney Lookout snowshoe trail is with some proper foot traction devices. When the trail is packed, we love our Kahtoola MicroSpikes, but Yaktrax are also a popular alternative.

To be honest, the Stoney Lookout trail will be so well travelled in winter that you won’t need snowshoes to manage any deep snow on the trail, unless you are the first one on the trail after a snow fall.

We hope you love the Stoney Lookout hike as much as we do!

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Stoney Looking Hike in Banff is an easy hike. This kid-friendly hike in Banff is a great opportunity to pair up a hike with a fun sightseeing opportunity on the Mt Norquay chairlift in the summer.

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