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Banff National Park

Day Hikes in the Banff Area

Rushing rivers, snowcapped peaks, alpine meadows, and glacially-carved cirques make the wilderness surrounding the Town of Banff a popular destination with hikers. Hiking in the Banff area range from low-elevation strolls along boardwalks to more strenuous full-day outings that lead seasoned hikers to alpine passes framed by mountains permanently mantled in snow.

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.

Easy Trails | Moderate Trails | Difficult Trails | Trail Conditions

Day Hikes | What to bringSafety and etiquetteBanff 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 Time (return) Elevation (m) Description
Johnson Lake 3 km,
loop
1 hour minimal Walking in a counter-clockwise direction, the trail winds through a lush montane forest before emerging at the far end of Johnson Lake. From this point, views extend across the water to the distinctive profile of Cascade Mountain. To complete the circuit around the lake, the trail crosses open slopes, passes some of Alberta’s oldest Douglas fir trees, and detours around a shallow bay where waterfowl are often sighted.
Fenland Trail 2.1 km, loop 40 minutes minimal This short self-guided interpretive trail under a canopy of old-growth spruce is a pleasant escape from the bustle of town. It also provides an opportunity to learn about the local ecosystem—and maybe view wildlife such as elk which call the area home.
Boom Lake 10 km, round trip  3 to 4 hours 175 If you are looking for a rewarding trail—Boom Lake is it. This gradual elevation trail leads hikers through a picturesque forest to a large alpine lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Do not forget to pack a shore lunch.
Spray River West and East 5.6 km, one way 3 to 4 hours 65 Popular with hikers, cyclists and horseback riders, these two lengthy but relatively easy trails traverse rolling terrain along either side of the Spray River and are generally hiked together. A short walk around The Fairmont Banff Springs will link the east and west trailheads.
Sundance Trail / Sundance Canyon 3.9 km, one way 3 hours 145 Follow the paved trail beyond the Cave and Basin National Historic Site and within a few minutes of easy walking, views open up to a mountain panorama across the Bow River. After a steady climb away from the river, the paved section ends and a moderately difficult trail loops through a water-filled canyon.
Silverton Falls 1 km,
one way
40 minutes 60 While nearby Johnston Canyon gets most of the attention, this short trail ends at the base of a waterfall that cascades over a series of narrow ledges surrounded by forest
Johnston Canyon Lower Falls 1.2 km, one way 1 hour 30 Johnston Canyon is one of the most spectacular natural features in Banff National Park. Rather than running along the rim, a catwalk leads through the depths of the canyon and through a low tunnel to emerge at the impressive Lower Falls, where the cool mist of Johnston Creek lingers in the air.
Johnston Canyon Upper Falls 2.4 km, one way 1.5 hours 120 Beyond the Lower Falls, this trail switchbacks up to a string of waterfalls along Johnston Creek, including the 30 metre-high Upper Falls. For a unique perspective, continue to the viewpoint at the top of the falls.
Stewart Canyon 1.5 km, one way 40 minutes minimal From the day-use area, follow the Lake Minnewanka shoreline to the Stewart Canyon trailhead kiosk. This low-elevation trail leads to a bridge spanning the smooth walls of Stewart Canyon, through which the Cascade River flows into Lake Minnewanka. But there’s no rush to reach the canyon—along the way are pebbly beaches strewn with driftwood and a number of enticing picnic spots.
Marsh Loop 2.8 km, loop 40 minutes minimal Marsh Loop is an enjoyable trail that encircles a wetland filled by water from hot springs flowing out of the lower slopes of Sulphur Mountain. The unique environment is best observed below the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, where exotic plant species such as orchids thrive. An additional 1.1 km stroll on the Marsh Boardwalk will take you over pristine marshland and bubbling thermal waters.
Tunnel Campground Loop 6.5 km, one way 1.5 hour 60 The perfect place for an evening stroll, this lightly forested trail remains in sight of the campground at all times. Although the trailhead kiosk is along Tunnel Mountain Road, the trail can be joined at any number of points from within the campground.
Sunshine Meadows / Rock Isle Lake 1.8 km, one way 1 hour 105 Reward to effort ratio doesn’t get much better than this trail which crests the Continental Divide and then descends to a viewpoint above Rock Isle Lake, one of the most photographed backcountry scenes in the Canadian Rockies. From the viewpoint, the 4.9 km slightly more challenging Grizzly-Larix Lakes Loop (allow two hours) is a natural extension for exploring the Sunshine Meadows region. The circuit follows the shoreline of two lakes, crosses an open forest of alpine larch, and passes a viewpoint where the panorama extends across the mountainous wilderness of Kootenay National Park.

Johnson Lake

Length: 3 km loop
Hiking time: 1 hour
Elevation gain: minimal
Trailhead: Johnson Lake day-use area, off Lake Minnewanka Road.

Description: Walking in a counter-clockwise direction, the trail winds through a lush montane forest before emerging at the far end of Johnson Lake. From this point, views extend across the water to the distinctive profile of Cascade Mountain. To complete the circuit around the lake, the trail crosses open slopes, passes some of Alberta’s oldest Douglas fir trees, and detours around a shallow bay where waterfowl are often sighted.

Fenland Trail

Length: 2.1 km loop
Hiking time: 40 minute round trip
Elevation gain: minimal
Trailhead: Fenland Trail parking area, off Mount Norquay Road 

Description: This short self-guided interpretive trail under a canopy of old-growth spruce is a pleasant escape from the bustle of town. It also provides an opportunity to learn about the local ecosystem—and maybe view wildlife such as elk which call the area home.

Boom Lake

Length: 10 km round trip
Hiking time: 3 to 4 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 175 m
Trailhead: Boom Lake picnic area and parking lot located 7.5 km west of Castle Junction on Hwy 93S

Description: If you are looking for a rewarding trail—Boom Lake is it. This gradual elevation trail leads hikers through a picturesque forest to a large alpine lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Do not forget to pack a shore lunch.

Spray River West and East

Length: 5.6 km one way from Spray River East trailhead (Golf Course Road) to Spray River Bridge; 5.7 km one way from Spray River Bridge to Spray River West trailhead 
Hiking time: 3 to 4 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 65 m

Description: Popular with hikers, cyclists and horseback riders, these two lengthy but relatively easy trails traverse rolling terrain along either side of the Spray River and are generally hiked together. A short walk around The Fairmont Banff Springs will link the east and west trailheads.

Sundance Trail / Sundance Canyon

Length: 3.9 km to end of easy paved path, plus a moderate 1.6 km loop through canyon
Hiking time: 3 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 145 m
Trailhead: Cave and Basin NHS, south end of Cave Avenue

Description: Follow the paved trail beyond the Cave and Basin National Historic Site and within a few minutes of easy walking, views open up to a mountain panorama across the Bow River. After a steady climb away from the river, the paved section ends and a moderately difficult trail loops through a water-filled canyon.

Silverton Falls

Length: 1 km one way
Hiking time: 40 minute round trip
Elevation gain: 60 m
Trailhead: Rockbound Lake trail, Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A), 0.2 km east of Castle Junction

Description: While nearby Johnston Canyon gets most of the attention, this short trail ends at the base of a waterfall that cascades over a series of narrow ledges surrounded by forest

Johnston Canyon Lower Falls

Length: 1.2 km, one way 
Hiking time: 1 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 30 m
Trailhead: Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A), 22 km west of Town of Banff

Description: Johnston Canyon is one of the most spectacular natural features in Banff National Park. Rather than running along the rim, a catwalk leads through the depths of the canyon and through a low tunnel to emerge at the impressive Lower Falls, where the cool mist of Johnston Creek lingers in the air.

Johnston Canyon Upper Falls

Length: 2.4 km, one way (from parking area) 
Hiking time: 1.5 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 120 m
Trailhead: Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A), 22 km west of Town of Banff

Description: Beyond the Lower Falls, this trail switchbacks up to a string of waterfalls along Johnston Creek, including the 30 metre-high Upper Falls. For a unique perspective, continue to the viewpoint at the top of the falls.

Stewart Canyon

Length: 1.5 km, one way 
Hiking time: 40 minute round trip
Elevation gain: no elevation gain
Trailhead: Lake Minnewanka day-use area, off Lake Minnewanka Road

Description: From the day-use area, follow the Lake Minnewanka shoreline to the Stewart Canyon trailhead kiosk. This low-elevation trail leads to a bridge spanning the smooth walls of Stewart Canyon, through which the Cascade River flows into Lake Minnewanka. But there’s no rush to reach the canyon—along the way are pebbly beaches strewn with driftwood and a number of enticing picnic spots.

Marsh Loop

Length: 2.8 km loop
Hiking time: 40 minute round trip
Elevation gain: no elevation gain 
Trailhead: Cave and Basin NHS, south end of Cave Avenue

Description: Marsh Loop is an enjoyable trail that encircles a wetland filled by water from hot springs flowing out of the lower slopes of Sulphur Mountain. The unique environment is best observed below the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, where exotic plant species such as orchids thrive. An additional 1.1 km stroll on the Marsh Boardwalk will take you over pristine marshland and bubbling thermal waters.

Tunnel Mountain Campground Loop

Length: 6.5 km one way (from parking area) 
Hiking time: 1.5 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 60 m
Trailhead: Corner Tunnel Mountain Road and Tunnel Mountain Drive

Description: The perfect place for an evening stroll, this lightly forested trail remains in sight of the campground at all times. Although the trailhead kiosk is along Tunnel Mountain Road, the trail can be joined at any number of points from within the campground.

Sunshine Meadows / Rock Isle Lake

Length: 1.8 km to Rock Isle Lake
Hiking time: 1 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 105 m
Trailhead: Sunshine Village, accessed by a 6.5 km trail or a fee-based shuttle service

Description:  Reward to effort ratio doesn’t get much better than this trail which crests the Continental Divide and then descends to a viewpoint above Rock Isle Lake, one of the most photographed backcountry scenes in the Canadian Rockies. From the viewpoint, the 4.9 km slightly more challenging Grizzly-Larix Lakes Loop (allow two hours) is a natural extension for exploring the Sunshine Meadows region. The circuit follows the shoreline of two lakes, crosses an open forest of alpine larch, and passes a viewpoint where the panorama extends across the mountainous wilderness of Kootenay National Park.


Moderate trails 

Trail Distance (one way) Time (return) Elevation (m) Description
C-Level Cirque 4.2 km 3 hours 455 Hike past concrete foundations and vents from the abandoned Bankhead mining operation to a massive glacially-carved cirque in the cool northern face of Cascade Mountain.
Tunnel Mountain Summit 2.4 km 2 hours 260 Accessible from downtown Banff, the switch-backing trail to this low summit provides sweeping views across the town and Bow Valley, with Mount Rundle rising dramatically to the south. The trail can be icy October through April (cleats recommended).
Surprise Corner to Hoodoos 4.8 km 3 hours 90 You can drive to the hoodoos, but don’t. Instead, take this pleasant trail that passes below the steep cliffs of Tunnel Mountain and meanders along the Bow River. As the final section of trail ascends, views open up across the Bow Valley to Mount Rundle. In summer, the Roam bus provides an easy option for returning to town.
Stoney Squaw 2.1 km 1.5 hours 190 The best-known view of Cascade Mountain is from Banff Avenue,but for a close-up experience, plan on hiking to the summit of Stoney Squaw, across the valley from the town. Along the way, the trail passes through a forest of trees covered in wispy lichen.
Cascade Amphitheatre 6.6 km 6 hours 640 One of the longer hikes close to town, allow a full day to reach this hanging valley that is carpeted with wildflowers in July and August. Pick up the Scrambler’s Guide to Cascade Mountain for information on the route to the summit.
Ink Pots 5.4 km 4 hours 330 Beyond Johnston Canyon, a lightly travelled trail continues up and over a forested ridge to emerge in an open meadow where warm water bubbles up from deep below the Earth’s surface into shallow pools.
Healy Pass 9 km 6 to 7 hours 655 This trail follows sparkling Healy Creek to its source amid open meadows above the treeline. Wildflowers bloom profusely from mid-July to late August, and in late September scattered alpine larch turn a magnificent golden yellow.
Bourgeau Lake / Harvey Pass 7.2 km 6 hours 725 A steady climb through lush forest and across rushing mountain streams leads to Bourgeau Lake, the closest subalpine lake to the town of Banff. A glacially-carved amphitheatre provides a dramatic backdrop to the lake, with large boulders providing the perfect perch for a picnic lunch. Although most hikers make Bourgeau Lake their final destination, a 2.2 km slightly more difficult trail continues upwards to Harvey Pass, from where exceptional views extend to snow-capped peaks along the Continental Divide.
Rockbound Lake 8.4 km 6 to 7 hours 760 A long, steady climb through a mixed forest leads behind the distinctive cliffs of Castle Mountain to open meadows and flower-fringed Tower Lake, 7.7 km from the trailhead. The trail then climbs a low cliff band and emerges in a glacial cirque filled by Rockbound Lake.
Sulphur Mountain 5.5 km 4 hours 655 The switchbacks on the slopes of Sulphur Mountain provide a steady grade for the hike to a summit renowned for its breathtaking mountain views. Take a 0.5 km side trip on the boardwalk trail that departs from the top of the gondola along a ridge ending at Sanson Peak and you will find more great views, remnants of the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site, and the 1903 weather observatory.  

C-Level Cirque

Length: 4.2 km one way
Hiking time: 3 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 455 m
Trailhead: Upper Bankhead day-use area, off Lake Minnewanka Road.

Description: Hike past concrete foundations and vents from the abandoned Bankhead mining operation to a massive glacially-carved cirque in the cool northern face of Cascade Mountain.

Tunnel Mountain Summit

Length: 2.4 km one way
Hiking time: 2 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 260 m
Trailhead: St. Julien Road (take Wolf Street east from Banff Avenue) 

Description: Accessible from downtown Banff, the switch-backing trail to this low summit provides sweeping views across the town and Bow Valley, with Mount Rundle rising dramatically to the south. The trail can be icy October through April (cleats recommended).

Surprise Corner to Hoodoos

Length: 4.8 km one way
Hiking time: 3 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 90 m
Trailhead: Surprise Corner, east end of Buffalo Street

Description: You can drive to the hoodoos, but don’t. Instead, take this pleasant trail that passes below the steep cliffs of Tunnel Mountain and meanders along the Bow River. As the final section of trail ascends, views open up across the Bow Valley to Mount Rundle. In summer, the Roam bus provides an easy option for returning to town.

Stoney Squaw

Length: 2.1 km one way 
Hiking time: 1.5 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 190 m
Trailhead: Mount Norquay ski area parking

Description: The best-known view of Cascade Mountain is from Banff Avenue,but for a close-up experience, plan on hiking to the summit of Stoney Squaw, across the valley from the town. Along the way, the trail passes through a forest of trees covered in wispy lichen.

Cascade Amphitheatre

Length: 6.6 km one way
Hiking time: 6 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 640 m
Trailhead: Mount Norquay ski area parking

Description: One of the longer hikes close to town, allow a full day to reach this hanging valley that is carpeted with wildflowers in July and August. Pick up the Scrambler’s Guide to Cascade Mountain for information on the route to the summit.

Ink Pots

Length: 5.4 km one way (from parking area)
Hiking time: 4 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 330 m
Trailhead: Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A), 22 km west of Town of Banff

Description: Beyond Johnston Canyon, a lightly travelled trail continues up and over a forested ridge to emerge in an open meadow where warm water bubbles up from deep below the Earth’s surface into shallow pools.

Healy Pass

Length: 9 km one way 
Hiking time: 6 to 7 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 655 m
Trailhead: Sunshine Village parking lot behind the main gondola station

Description: This trail follows sparkling Healy Creek to its source amid open meadows above the treeline. Wildflowers bloom profusely from mid-July to late August, and in late September scattered alpine larch turn a magnificent golden yellow.

Bourgeau Lake / Harvey Pass

Length: 7.2 km one way  
Hiking time: 6 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 725 m
Trailhead: Trans-Canada Highway, 13 km west of Town of Banff

Description: A steady climb through lush forest and across rushing mountain streams leads to Bourgeau Lake, the closest subalpine lake to the town of Banff. A glacially-carved amphitheatre provides a dramatic backdrop to the lake, with large boulders providing the perfect perch for a picnic lunch. Although most hikers make Bourgeau Lake their final destination, a 2.2 km slightly more difficult trail continues upwards to Harvey Pass, from where exceptional views extend to snow-capped peaks along the Continental Divide.

Rockbound Lake

Length: 8.4 km one way 
Hiking time: 6 to 7 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 760 m 
Trailhead: Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A), 0.2 km east of Castle Junction

Description: A long, steady climb through a mixed forest leads behind the distinctive cliffs of Castle Mountain to open meadows and flower-fringed Tower Lake, 7.7 km from the trailhead. The trail then climbs a low cliff band and emerges in a glacial cirque filled by Rockbound Lake.

Sulphur Mountain

Length: 5.5 km to top of gondola, plus 0.5 km to Sanson Peak
Hiking time: 4 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 655 m 
Trailhead: Upper Hot Springs, Mountain Avenue

Description: The switchbacks on the slopes of Sulphur Mountain provide a steady grade for the hike to a summit renowned for its breathtaking mountain views. Take a 0.5 km side trip on the boardwalk trail that departs from the top of the gondola along a ridge ending at Sanson Peak and you will find more great views, remnants of the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site, and the 1903 weather observatory. 


Difficult trails 

Trail Distance Time (return) Elevation (m) Description
Cory Pass Loop 13 km loop 6 hours 915

The strenuous uphill trek to Cory Pass from the Bow Valley Parkway takes around two hours. It is worthwhile for the unobstructed view of Mount Louis, an imposing limestone monolith that rises from the forested valley floor far below. Rather than returning to the trailhead from the pass, energetic hikers have the option of descending into the Gargoyle Valley before returning to their vehicles via Edith Pass. Route finding can be challenging
beyond Cory Pass.

Aylmer Lookout / Aylmer Pass 11.8 km
one way
7 to 8 hours 560 From the day-use area, follow the Lake Minnewanka shoreline to the Stewart Canyon trail. At the canyon, the trail to Aylmer Lookout follows the western shoreline before beginning a steady 3.8 km climb to the site of a decommissioned fire lookout. From the end of the trail, the panorama extends in all directions, with the lake itself, over 500 metres below, an intense blue colour. An optional hike is to backtrack 1.7 km from the lookout and the Aylmer Pass trail that spurs upwards for 3.4 km to open meadows of wildflowers and views to the slate-grey Palliser Range.

Cory Pass Loop

Length: 13 km loop
Hiking time: 6 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 915 m
Trailhead: Fireside day-use area, off the Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A)

Description: The strenuous uphill trek to Cory Pass from the Bow Valley Parkway takes around two hours. It is worthwhile for the unobstructed view of Mount Louis, an imposing limestone monolith that rises from the forested valley floor far below. Rather than returning to the trailhead from the pass, energetic hikers have the option of descending into the Gargoyle Valley before returning to their vehicles via Edith Pass. Route finding can be challenging
beyond Cory Pass.

Aylmer Lookout / Aylmer Pass

Length: 11.8 km one way
Hiking time: 7 to 8 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 560 m
Trailhead: Lake Minnewanka day-use area, off Lake Minnewanka Road 

Description: From the day-use area, follow the Lake Minnewanka shoreline to the Stewart Canyon trail. At the canyon, the trail to Aylmer Lookout follows the western shoreline before beginning a steady 3.8 km climb to the site of a decommissioned fire lookout. From the end of the trail, the panorama extends in all directions, with the lake itself, over 500 metres below, an intense blue colour. An optional hike is to backtrack 1.7 km from the lookout and the Aylmer Pass trail that spurs upwards for 3.4 km to open meadows of wildflowers and views to the slate-grey Palliser Range.