Along the spine of the North American continent, the Rocky Mountains rise 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.

 

Easy Trails | Moderate Trails | Difficult Trails | Trail Report

Hiking in Banff National Park | What to bring | Safety and etiquette

Lake Louise Area Trails Brochure (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.

Easy trails 

Trail Distance
(one way)
Time (return) Elevation (m) Description
Bow Summit Lookout 2.9 km 2.5 hours 245 From the highest point on the Icefields Parkway (2070 m), hike beyond the Peyto Lake Viewpoint on the upper self-guided nature trail, then follow an old fire road to the lookout. Watch for pikas, marmots and ptarmigan.
Parker Ridge 2.7 km 2.5 hours 250 After a series of switchbacks you’ll be rewarded with dramatic views of the Saskatchewan Glacier – headwaters of the Saskatchewan River. Help maintain this fragile alpine ecosystem by staying on the trail.

 

 

Descriptions of easy trails

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.

Bow Summit Lookout

Length: 2.9 km one way
Hiking time: 2.5 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 245 m
Trailhead: Highway 93 North, 40 km north of the Lake Louise junction at the Peyto Lake parking lot.

Description: From the highest point on the Icefields Parkway (2070 m), hike beyond the Peyto Lake Viewpoint on the upper self-guided nature trail, then follow an old fire road to the lookout. Watch for pikas, marmots and ptarmigan.

Parker Ridge

Length: 2.7 km one way
Hiking time: 2.5 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 250 m
Trailhead: Highway 93 North, 40 km north of Saskatchewan Crossing or 9 km south of the Icefield Centre.

Description: After a series of switchbacks you’ll be rewarded with dramatic views of the Saskatchewan Glacier – headwaters of the Saskatchewan River. Help maintain this fragile alpine ecosystem by staying on the trail.


 

Moderate trails 

Trail Distance (one way) Time (return) Elevation (m) Description
Bow Glacier Falls 4.6 km 3 hours 155 At the base of Bow Glacier Falls, amid the spray and roar, you can witness the birth of a river. The Bow River, part of western Canada’s largest watershed, begins as meltwater tumbling down from the Wapta Icefield.
Helen Lake 6 km 4 to 5 hours 455 Tucked well into the Main Ranges of the Canadian Rockies is a breathtaking lake in a valley abounding with alpine wildlife and
grand vistas.
Cirque Lake 4.2 km 3 hours 150 This path is thickly forested, but offers mountain and glacier views at the shore of the lake. Note that the trail is often muddy
Chephren Lake 3.5 km 3 hours 80 Chephren Lake lies underneath the brooding walls of Howse Peak and Mount Chephren. This trail is often very muddy.
Sunset Lookout 4.5 km 3 to 4 hours 390 There is no question that old fire tower locations offer up great views. A 1.6 km branch off the Sunset Pass trail allows you to enjoy an almost vertical view down to the confluence of the Alexandra and North Saskatchewan Rivers.
Wilcox Pass 4 km 3 to 3.5 hours 335 Rise quickly above treeline to the expansive meadows of this glacier-carved landscape. Bighorn sheep are sometimes seen in this area.
Nigel Pass 7.2 km 4.5 to 5.5 hours 365 A consistent and gentle grade ensures that it doesn’t take long to reach treeline as you head towards the wide-open scenery of the Banff / Jasper boundary.

 

 

Descriptions of moderate trails

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.

Bow Glacier Falls

Length: 4.6 km one way
Hiking time: 3 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 155 m
Trailhead: Highway 93 North, 36 km north of the Lake Louise junction, 400 m down the Num-ti-jah Lodge access road.

Description: At the base of Bow Glacier Falls, amid the spray and roar, you can witness the birth of a river. The Bow River, part of western Canada’s largest watershed, begins as meltwater tumbling down from the Wapta Icefield.

Helen Lake

Length: 6 km one way
Hiking time: 4 to 5 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 455 m
Trailhead: Highway 93 North, 33 km north of the Lake Louise junction across from the Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint.

Description: Tucked well into the Main Ranges of the Canadian Rockies is a breathtaking lake in a valley abounding with alpine wildlife and grand vistas.

Cirque Lake

Length: 4.2 km one way
Hiking time: 3 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 150 m
Trailhead: Same as Chephren Lake.

Description: This path is thickly forested, but offers mountain and glacier views at the shore of the lake. Note that the trail is often muddy.

Chephren Lake

Length: 3.5 km one way
Hiking time: 3 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 80 m
Trailhead: Highway 93 North, 57.5 km north of the Lake Louise junction in the Waterfowl Lakes Campground.

Description: Chephren Lake lies underneath the brooding walls of Howse Peak and Mount Chephren. This trail is often very muddy.

Sunset Lookout

Length: 4.5 km one way
Hiking time: 3 to 4 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 390 m
Trailhead: Highway 93 North, 16.5 km north of the Saskatchewan Crossing.

Description: There is no question that old fire tower locations offer up great views. A 1.6 km branch off the Sunset Pass trail allows you to enjoy an almost vertical view down to the confluence of the Alexandra and North Saskatchewan Rivers.

Wilcox Pass

Length: 4 km one way
Hiking time: 3 to 3.5 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 335 m
Trailhead: Highway 93 North, 47 km north of Saskatchewan Crossing, or 3 km south of the Icefield Centre at the entrance to the Wilcox Creek campground in Jasper National Park.

Description: Rise quickly above treeline to the expansive meadows of this glacier-carved landscape. Bighorn sheep are sometimes seen in this area.

Nigel Pass

Length: 7.2 km one way
Hiking time: 4 to 4.5 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 365 m
Trailhead: Highway 93 North, 37 km north of Saskatchewan Crossing or 13 km south of the Icefield Centre.

Description: A consistent and gentle grade ensures that it doesn’t take long to reach treeline as you head towards the wide-open scenery of the Banff / Jasper boundary.


Difficult trails 

Trail Distance
(one way)
Time
(return)
Elevation
(m)
Description
Molar Pass 10.5 km 7 to 8 hours 530

Travel into Banff National Park’s wilderness as you rise well above treeline to an expansive alpine meadow.

North Molar Pass 11.9 km 8 to 9 hours 760 At the Molar Pass trail junction you have the option of travelling to the alpine meadows of Molar Pass or heading left to this higher pass, a rugged and stark landscape of rocky meadows.
Dolomite Pass 9 km 6 to 7 hours 550 After you’ve made it to Helen Lake, you can extend your hike and get a geology lesson at the same time: at the pass you’ll have great views of Dolomite Peak, a picture perfect layer-cake mountain, as well the wine-coloured folds below the summit of Cirque Peak.
Sarbach Lookout 5.2 km 4 to 5 hours 590 This trail is a good physical workout, but since the fire lookout closed in 1971, forest growth has increasingly blocked the views.
Glacier Lake 8.9 km 6 to 7 hours 210 Snow-free early in the season, this rolling wooded trail takes you to a picturesque lake set below the peaks seen by early European explorers.
Sunset Pass 8.2 km 6 to 7 hours 725 Climb steadily through a thick forest to reach an expansive meadow atop Sunset Pass. Look west for a panorama of the largest peaks in the parks, or east into the remote White Goat Wilderness Area.

 

 

Descriptions of difficult trails

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.

Molar Pass

Length: 10.5 km one way
Hiking time: 7 to 8 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 530 m
Trailhead: Highway 93 North, 24 km north of Lake Louise.

Description: Travel into Banff National Park’s wilderness as you rise well above treeline to an expansive alpine meadow.

North Molar Pass

Length: 11.9 km one way
Hiking time: 8 to 9 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 760 m
Trailhead: Highway 93 North, 24 km north of Lake Louise.

Description: At the Molar Pass trail junction you have the option of travelling to the alpine meadows of Molar Pass or heading left to this higher pass, a rugged and stark landscape of rocky meadows.

Dolomite Pass

Length: 9 km one way
Hiking time: 6 to 7 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 550 m
Trailhead: Highway 93 North, 33 km north of the Lake Louise junction across from the Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint.

Description: After you’ve made it to Helen Lake, you can extend your hike and get a geology lesson at the same time: at the pass you’ll have great views of Dolomite Peak, a picture perfect layer-cake mountain, as well the wine-coloured folds below the summit of Cirque Peak.

Sarbach Lookout

Length: 5.2 km one way
Hiking time: 4 to 5 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 590 m
Trailhead: Highway 93 North, 71 km north of the Lake Louise junction, or 6 km south of Saskatchewan Crossing, at the Mistaya Canyon parking lot.

Description: This trail is a good physical workout, but since the fire lookout closed in 1971, forest growth has increasingly blocked the views.

Glacier Lake

Length: 8.9 km one way
Hiking time: 6 to 7 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 210 m gain / 220 m loss
Trailhead: Highway 93 North, 1 km north of the Saskatchewan Crossing.

Description: Snow-free early in the season, this rolling wooded trail takes you to a picturesque lake set below the peaks seen by early European explorers.

Sunset Pass

Length: 8.2 km one way
Hiking time: 6 to 7 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 725 m
Trailhead: Highway 93 North, 16.5 km north of the Saskatchewan Crossing.

Description: Climb steadily through a thick forest to reach an expansive meadow atop Sunset Pass. Look west for a panorama of the largest peaks in the parks, or east into the remote White Goat Wilderness Area.