Watch the sunset on a riverside stroll or feel the breath of glaciers in the alpine. Take your pick of over 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles) of maintained trails. Many of the park’s most famous hikes are easily accessible from the Town of Banff and the village of Lake Louise.
When to go
Prime hiking season runs July through mid-September. Until late June, many passes are still snow-bound and may be subject to avalanche hazard. Trails tend to be muddier at this time and the best hiking is at lower elevations or on drier, south facing slopes around the Town of Banff. By the middle of July, most alpine passes are snow-free.
Safety is your responsibility. There are always hazards associated with outdoor recreation. Even short trips from the town of Banff can have serious consequences. Minimize your risk by planning ahead.
- Check the weather forecast, current trail conditions, warnings and closures or visit a Parks Canada visitor centre.
- Be prepared for emergencies and changes in weather. Mountain weather changes quickly and it can snow any month of the year. Dress in layers, bring extra food and warm clothing.
- Study descriptions and maps before heading out. Always choose a trail suitable for the least experienced member in your group.
- Bring your own water. Surface water may be contaminated and unsafe for drinking.
- Carry a first aid kit and bear spray.
- Tell a reliable person where you are going, when you will be back, and who to call if you do not return: Banff Dispatch – 403-762-1470.
- Ticks carrying Lyme disease may be present in the park. It is important to check yourself and your pet after hiking.
- Avoid wearing earbuds or headphones. Be alert at all times.
- In case of EMERGENCY, call 911 or satellite phone: 403-762-4506. Cell phone coverage is not reliable throughout the national park.
Snow can remain on some trails well into the summer. When trails are snow covered, route finding can be difficult and travel through deep snow or on hard snow and ice can be unsafe. Be prepared and check trail conditions before heading out.
Seasonal Avalanche Risk
Trails above tree line (2 000 m) may be exposed to avalanche hazard at any time of the year and especially from November through June. Steep slopes that are snow covered have the potential to avalanche. For more information on the avalanche hazard, visit a Parks Canada visitor centre or check the Mountain Safety section.
Recommended Packing List
- Trail guide and map
- Full water bottle or thermos
- High energy food
- Bear spray
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- First aid kit
- Headlamp or flashlight with spare batteries
- Hat and gloves
- Hiking poles
- Rain/wind jacket
- Extra warm clothing in case of an emergency
- Cell phone or satellite emergency communication device.
Show courtesy to fellow trail users!
- Leave what you find —it is the law. Natural and cultural resources such as rocks, fossils, artifacts, horns, antlers, wildflowers and nests are protected by law and must be left undisturbed for others to discover and enjoy.
- Dispose of human waste at least 100 m from any water source. Bury solid human waste in a hole 15 cm deep. Pack out your toilet paper.
- To prevent damage to vegetation, stay on designated trails at all times.
- Trails are used by a variety of outdoor enthusiasts. Be sure to yield to others.
- Leave no trace. Pack out everything you pack in.
Wildlife and People
Banff National Park is home to wildlife including elk, wolves, cougars, grizzly bears and black bears. To successfully raise their young and sustain a healthy population, wildlife need access to as much quality habitat with as few human surprises as possible.
Be aware of possible encounters with wildlife in all areas of the park, including paved trails and roads.
- Always carry bear spray, ensure it is accessible, and know how to use it before heading out. Bear spray is available at the Banff Visitor Centre, 224 Banff Avenue, and retail outlets in the town of Banff.
- Make noise. Being quiet puts you at risk for sudden wildlife encounters. Be alert through shrubby areas and when approaching blind corners. Travel in tight groups and always be aware of your surroundings.
- Report bear, cougar, wolf and coyote sightings and encounters to Parks Canada Dispatch when it is safe to do so: 403-762-1470.
- Keep dogs on leash and under control at all times.