Along the spine of the North American continent, the Rocky Mountains poke high into the clouds and blue glaciers cling to their slopes. Green forested valleys provide a vital food source for grizzly bears and other species. This is the Lake Louise and Icefields area of Banff National Park, a landscape of wonder which has been dubbed the “hiking capital of Canada”. Use the trail descriptions to choose a hike suitable for everyone in your party.

For maps, detailed route finding and trail descriptions, visit a Parks Canada Visitor Centre or purchase a hiking guide book and topographical map. Cell service is not reliable.

Moderate Trails | Difficult Trails | Trail Conditions

Day Hikes | What to bring | Safety and etiquette
Day Hikes: Lake Louise, Castle Junction and Icefields Parkway Area (PDF)

Thanks to an ongoing collaboration between Parks Canada and Google, you can now explore some Banff National Park highlights using Street View for Google Maps.

Moderate trails 

Trail Distance (one way) Time (return) Elevation (m) Description
Castle Lookout 3.7 km 3-4 hours 520 In the mid-20th century, Banff erected numerous fire towers where spotters could detect flames from afar. The Castle Lookout tower has long since been removed, but the expansive views of the middle Bow Valley remain.
Boom Lake 5.1 km 3-4 hours 175 Travel on a heavily forested trail featuring some of the largest subalpine trees in Banff National Park. Your ultimate destination is a pristine lake backed by an impressive mountain rampart.
Stanley Glacier 4.2 km 3 hours 395 The hike to Stanley Glacier features fire and ice in equal measures. The lower trail, which burned in 1968 and 2003, is re-growing with lodgepole pines, willows, and colourful wildflowers. Along the upper trail, you’ll get clear views of Stanley Glacier, and its numerous meltwater falls.

Castle Lookout

3.7 km one way
520 m elevation gain
3 to 4 hour round trip
Trailhead:
5 km west of Castle Junction on the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A).

In the mid-20th century, Banff erected numerous fire towers where spotters could detect flames from afar. The Castle Lookout tower has long since been removed, but the expansive views of the middle Bow Valley remain.

Boom Lake

5.1 km one way
175 m elevation gain
3 to 4 hour round trip
Trailhead:
7 km southwest of Castle Junction on Highway 93 South.

Travel on a heavily forested trail featuring some of the largest subalpine trees in Banff National Park. Your ultimate destination is a pristine lake backed by an impressive mountain rampart.

Stanley Glacier

4.2 km one way
395 m elevation gain
3 hour round trip
Trailhead:
in Kootenay National Park, 13 km southwest of Castle Junction on Highway 93 South.

The hike to Stanley Glacier features fire and ice in equal measures. The lower trail, which burned in 1968 and 2003, is re-growing with lodgepole pines, willows, and colourful wildflowers. Along the upper trail, you’ll get clear views of Stanley Glacier, and its numerous meltwater falls.


Difficult trails 

Trail Distance Time (return) Elevation (m) Description
Arnica Lake 5.1 km one way 5 hours 580

Lose elevation before you gain it en route to Arnica Lake; the views and variety make this destination worth the ups and downs.

Twin Lakes 8.0 km one way 6 - 7 hours 715 Hike under a canopy of larch trees while the continental divide guides you to Arnica and Twin Lakes.
Taylor Lake 6.3 km one way 4 - 5 hours 585 Thick forest gives way to subalpine meadows as you climb steadily to this classic glacial lake. This trail holds its snow through the early part of the hiking season, so it’s best from July on.

Arnica Lake

5.1 km one way
120 m elevation loss
580 m elevation gain
5 hour round trip
Trailhead:
Vista Lake Viewpoint on Highway 93 South, 8 km southwest of Castle Junction, on the east side of the road.

Lose elevation before you gain it en route to Arnica Lake; the views and variety make this destination worth the ups and downs.

Twin Lakes

Via Arnica / Vista Lake trailhead: 8.0 km one way
120 m elevation loss
715 m elevation gain
6 to 7 hour round trip
Trailhead:
Vista Lake Viewpoint on Highway 93 South, 8 km southwest of Castle Junction.

Hike under a canopy of larch trees while the continental divide guides you to Arnica and Twin Lakes.

Taylor Lake

6.3 km
585 m elevation gain
4 to 5 hour round trip
Trailhead:
Taylor Creek day use area 8 km west of Castle Junction, or 17 km east of Lake Louise, on the south side of the Trans-Canada highway.

Thick forest gives way to subalpine meadows as you climb steadily to this classic glacial lake. This trail holds its snow through the early part of the hiking season, so it’s best from July on.

Side trip to O’Brien Lake: 2.1 km one way; 55 m elevation gain from Taylor Lake.

Extend your Taylor Lake hike by visiting this charming tarn