The Upper Stoney Loop snowshoe in Banff is a short, uphill climb through a lodgepole pine and spruce tree forest. The snowshoe up to the Upper Stoney Lookout will get your heart pumping for the first half, allowing for a break at the top before an almost entirely downhill second half.
This short, yet enjoyable, snowshoe in Banff leaves from the Mt. Norquay Ski Resort parking lot. Along with the Tunnel Mountain hike, the Upper Stoney Lookout is one of the easier Banff summits. Though the Upper Stoney isn’t technically a mountain, it will still feel like a summit and has some views to prove it.
While some may say that a winter hike through the trees isn’t all that interesting, we beg to differ. This snowshoe trail snakes through the dense forest with snow covered trees. There’s something beautiful and peaceful about walking through the trees weighed heavy by snow.
Upper Stoney Lookout Snowshoe
- Upper Stoney Loop Snowshoe Highlights
- Upper Stoney Snowshoe Trail Stats
- Upper Stoney Loop Snowshoe Trail Location
- Upper Stoney Loop Trail Map
- Snowshoeing Upper Stoney Loop with Kids
- Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
- Upper Stoney Snowshoe Trail Safety
- Upper Stoney Loop Snowshoe Trail Logistics
- What to Bring for Hiking Upper Stoney Loop in Winter
- Upper Stoney Loop Foot Traction Recommendations
- Kananaskis & Banff Winter Activities
- Banff Trip Planning Resources
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Upper Stoney Loop Snowshoe Highlights
The Upper Stoney Lookout snowshoe trail immediately enters a dense snow covered forest.
This Upper Stoney Loop trail is fun to snowshoe as it winds it’s way up the side of the Stoney promontory. The forest coverage is pretty complete along the trail which limits views, but the forest is so beautiful and the trail is so fun, you won’t mind at all.
The trail is a mix of difficulties – it alternates between a gentle incline and very steep in parts, with just enough spots that level off to catch your breath. The steep sections are rarely very long, but we always work up a sweat on the way up.
As you near the top, you’ll encounter a couple of trail signs which seemingly point at each other. There are often trails in the snow leading in the wrong direction. Walk towards the second sign and turn left down the hill.
At the top, the trees thin and you’ll be treated to a couple breaks in the trees, providing well earned views of the Town of Banff and beyond.
The second viewpoint is the best with excellent views of the town and surrounding mountains. Don’t venture too far away from the trail as there is an unmarked cliff near the trail – a fall would be fatal.
After the Stoney lookout viewpoints you can turn and go back, or you can continue on and make it a loop. We recommend the loop trail.
The loop trail down is a lot of fun. Like it’s uphill counterpart, the trail twists and turns through the forest. There’s even a beautiful rock wall along the way, which is more impressive in the summer when it’s not covered in snow.
You’ll eventually come to a T-intersection. Turn left to go back to the Norquay Cascade Lodge or turn right to go to the trail junction for Lower Stoney and to snowshoe to the Cascade Amphitheater.
If you go back towards the Norquay Cascade Lodge, you’ll often be confused with several trails in the snow. Don’t worry – they all basically end up in the same place. Just follow the music coming from the lodge and you’ll be ok.
Upper Stoney Snowshoe Trail Stats
How Long is the Upper Stoney Loop Trail?
The Parks Canada site states the distance for the Upper Stoney snowshoe loop is 4.8 km long. We recorded the distance on the AllTrails app as 5.4 km.
How Steep is the Upper Stoney Snowshoe Trail?
The first half of the Upper Stoney Lookout snowshoe is a steady uphill climb. The total elevation gain we tracked while snowshoeing the Upper Stoney trail is 275 m, which was mostly in the first 2-3 km.
How Hard is the Upper Stoney Snowshoe Loop?
We’ve always started the loop from the Norquay parking lot and ended at the Norquay Cascade Lodge. Going this way, the 2 km uphill climb is easily manageable. There are a couple of really short steep sections, but it levels off pretty quickly. The second half of the loop is almost entirely downhill, except for a small section right before the junction.
Further to that, this Banff snowshoe is popular enough that it’s almost always packed down, making it an easy winter hike (rather than breaking trail with snowshoes).
With a packed down trail, the Upper Stoney Loop Trail is a kid-friendly snowshoe trail in Banff – our kids (aged 5 & 7) were able to complete it without issue.
How Long Does It Take to Snowshoe Upper Stoney Loop Trail?
It should take a typical adult approximately 1.5 hours to snowshoe the full loop of the Upper Stoney trail (assuming the trail is well packed).
We would expect this to be longer if snowshoeing with kids, as they typically end up being slower on the climbs. We’d plan for 2.5-3 hours snowshoeing the Upper Stoney Lookout with kids.
Upper Stoney Loop Snowshoe Trail Location
The Upper Stoney snowshoe trail is easy to find as it leaves right from the Mt. Norquay Ski Resort parking lot, one of the free places to park in Banff. The trailhead can be found on the right, leading into the forest, immediately after making a right off Mount Norquay Road into the parking lot.
It’s easy to spot, as there are several signs marking the trailhead.
To do the loop in reverse, walk to the Mount Norquay ski area past the Cascade Lodge and follow the Mount Norquay snowshoe trails signs.
Upper Stoney Loop Trail Map
If you’re like us, you’ll want to have a map of this snowshoe on your phone. We use and recommend the AllTrails app. Download any map data prior to driving to up the Mount Norquay Road, as data gets spotty. I have found that I have cell service throughout this snowshoe, but it’s best not to count on it.
The Upper Stoney trail is easy to follow, especially in the winter when the trail is well packed down. We’ve found that early in the season the full loop isn’t always packed down when early winter hikers turn back and descend the same way they came.
Snowshoeing Upper Stoney Loop with Kids
We consider the Upper Stoney snowshoe loop to be a kid friendly Banff snowshoe trail. With an easy 5 km distance and short uphill climb most kids can manage it. The first 2 km might take some encouragement and bribes, but it gets easier once it starts the descent back down to the parking lot.
Don’t forget to take a break with some hot chocolate and snacks at the top.
Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
The summit of the Upper Stoney Lookout is the perfect place to stop for a snack break. With any luck, the skies will be clear for the beautiful view.
There are quite a lot of trees to contend with on this snowshoe, so there’s really only one good spot for a view but it’s worth it.
Upper Stoney Snowshoe Trail Safety
Banff Wildlife Safety
In the dead of winter, the bears in Banff National Park should be hibernating (be careful in early winter or early spring though!). But that’s not a reason to let your guard down as other animals like wolves, cougars and elk still provide a safety risk to Banff visitors. Take a few minutes and read “Living with Wildlife” by Alberta Parks.
Upper Stoney Loop Trail Report
It’s always a good idea to check the Upper Stoney Loop snowshoe trail conditions before you leave home. Parks Canada publishes a Upper Stoney Loop Trail Report for the snowshoe trail which details any area closures, known animal risks, etc.
Upper Stoney Loop Snowshoe Trail Logistics
- There are no toilets in the Mount Norquay parking lot. Use the toilets in the Mount Norquay Cascade Lodge.
- There are no drinking water facilities, so bring plenty of water with you or fill up at the lodge.
- On-leash dogs are allowed on the Upper Stoney snowshoe trail.
- The trail is popular with winter hikers, snowshoers and people fat biking in Banff. Share the trail.
What to Bring for Hiking Upper Stoney Loop in Winter
It’s can be challenging to know how to dress for snowshoeing or winter hiking in Banff. If you snowshoe at a fast pace or decide to have fun in the deep snow, you’ll get hot pretty quickly, even when it’s cold outside.
The Upper Stoney snowshoe trail is almost entirely through a dense forest offering protection from the cold winds. The uphill section will have you sweating. Once you stop, especially near the top where the trees thin out, you’ll get cold quickly.
Plan to remove extra layers on the uphill before you get too hot and put them back on when you stop for a break.
Upper Stoney Loop Foot Traction Recommendations
The Upper Stoney snowshoe trail will be much easier with some sort of foot traction device. Unless you are the first one breaking trail after a snowfall, you could use microspikes instead of snowshoes.
However, snowshoes are equally as good as they provide traction for climbing, even if you don’t need them for deep snow.
If you are going to snowshoe the Upper Stoney Loop, make sure you have multiple crampons underneath your snowshoes – some on the front toe and a pair under your heel. Also, if possible, look for a pair of snowshoes with double-ratchet bindings and avoid snowshoes with any form of buckle bindings – they tend to come undone, which gets annoying quickly.
Winter Hiking Traction Devices
If you are going to winter hike the Upper Stoney Loop trail you should have some form of traction device on your feet.
We own and highly recommend Kahtoola MICROspikes. Look at the steel spikes on the bottom of the Kahtoola MICROspikes and you’ll see why we love these traction devices so much. They are a scaled-down recreational version of the crampons you’ll see on mountain expeditions.
Yaktrax are another popular multi-purpose traction device used around Banff for winter walking or running. They are popular as they are very comfortable for walking on winter hikes or snow-covered walking trails in Canmore or Banff. The lack of spikes makes them comfortable to walk on snow and cleared pathways, but they are not great for ice walking.
No matter which traction device you use for your feet, you should consider using trekking poles to help your balance. We’ve tried trekking poles and to be honest, we don’t like them nor use them, but we seem to be in the minority. Trekking poles are widely used around Banff and Kananaskis in winter.
It makes sense… winter hiking on snow or ice in the mountains is often very slippery and trekking poles add two more points of contact with the ground, thus greatly reducing your odds of slipping.
The Upper Stoney Loop is a very enjoyable and easy snowshoe trail in Banff. While it might not have sweeping views, there’s something very enjoyable about this trail that snakes through a dense forest with snow covered trees.
Interested in other easy winter trails around Banff and Kananaskis? See our list of Kananaskis Snowshoe Trails and Easy Cross-Country Skiing Trails in Banff and Area.
Kananaskis & Banff Winter Activities
- 30+ Amazing Things to do in Banff in Winter
- Visiting Banff in December
- Banff at Christmas
- Visiting Banff in January
- Grotto Canyon Ice Walk
- Jura Creek Winter Hike
- Wild Ice Skating around Banff
Banff Trip Planning Resources
- How to Get to Banff National Park
- Getting Around Banff without a Car
- Expert Tips to Spot Banff Wildlife
- Best Affordable Hotels in Banff
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