Rushing rivers, snow-capped peaks, alpine meadows, and glacially-carved cirques make the wilderness surrounding the town of Banff a popular destination with hikers. Trails lace the Banff area, ranging from low-elevation strolls along boardwalks to more strenuous full-day outings that lead seasoned hikers to some of the best alpine passes the Rocky Mountains have to offer. Choose a trail and enjoy the wonders of Banff National Park.

Guidebooks and topographic maps are available at the Banff Visitor Centre, 224 Banff Avenue, and retail outlets in the town of Banff. Cell phone coverage is not reliable throughout the national park.


Safety

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.

Snowy Trails

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.
Trail Etiquette

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.

Tips

  • 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.

More information

Trail Ratings

Easy

  • Suitable for those with little or no trail experience.
  • Flat to gently rolling with no obstacles.
  • Little or no elevation gain or loss.

Moderate

  • Suitable for those with basic trail experience.
  • Gently rolling with short, steep sections and infrequent obstacles.
  • Moderate elevation gain or loss.

Difficult

  • Suitable only for those with trail experience.
  • Long, steep sections with frequent obstacles.
  • Major elevation gain or loss.
Estimated time to complete these trails ranges depending on trail distances, fitness levels, weather and trail conditions.
Public Transit and Shuttle Services

Trails identified with a bus symbol indicate that the trailhead is accessible by Roam Public Transit and/or private shuttle service:

Trail Distance Time (Round Trip)
 Fenland Trail 2.1 km loop 40 minutes
 Marsh Loop 2.8 km loop 1 hour
 Sundance Canyon 3.7 km one way plus 1.6 km loop 3 hours
 Spray River East (from trailhead) 5.7 km one way 3 to 4 hours
 Spray River West (from Spray River bridge) 5.6 km one way
 Tunnel Campground Loop 6.4 km one way 1.5 hours
 Stewart Canyon 1.5 km one way 1 hour
 Johnson Lake 2.8 km one way 1 hour
 Sunshine Meadows 10 km of trails 4 to 5 hours
 Johnston Canyon (to Lower Falls) 1.2 km one way 1 hour
 Johnston Canyon (to Upper Falls) 2.5 km one way 2 hours
 Ink Pots 5.7 km one way 4 hours
 Silverton Falls 0.9 km one way 40 minutes
 Boom Lake 5.1 km one way 3 to 4 hours
 Sulphur Mountain 5.5 km one way 4 hours
 Tunnel Mountain Summit 2.4 km one way 2 hour
 Surprise Corner to Hoodoos Viewpoint 4.8 km one way 3 hours
 Stoney Squaw 2.1 km one way 1.5 hours
 Cascade Amphitheatre 7.7 km one way 6 hours
 C-Level Cirque 3.9 km one way 3 hours
 Healy Pass 8.8 km one way 6 to 7 hours
 Bourgeau Lake 7.5 km one way 6 hours
 Harvey Pass 9.7 km one way 6 to 7 hours
 Rockbound Lake 8.4 km one way 6 to 7 hours
 Castle Lookout 3.7 km one way 3 hours
 Vista Lake 1.4 km one way 1.5 hours
 Arnica Lake 5 km one way 5 hours
 Twin Lakes 8 km one way 6 to 7 hours
 Stanley Glacier 4.2 km one way 3 hours
 Aylmer Lookout 11.8 km one way 7 to 8 hours
 Aylmer Pass 13.5 km one way 8 to 9 hours
 Cory Pass Loop 13 km one way 6 hours

 Easy trails

 Fenland Trail

2.1 km loop
No elevation gain
40 minute round trip
Trailhead: Fenland Trail parking area, west off Mt. Norquay Road
On foot: Trailhead is a 20 minute/1.5 km walk from downtown Banff

Learn about the local ecosystem on this self-guided interpretive trail through old-growth spruce. This short loop is a pleasant escape from the bustle of town.

 Marsh Loop

2.8 km loop
Minimal elevation gain
1 hour round trip
Trailhead: Cave and Basin National Historic Site
On foot: Trailhead is a 30 minute/2 km walk from downtown Banff

Roam Route 4

This trail encircles a wetland filled from hot springs flowing out of the lower slopes of Sulphur Mountain. Due to heavy horse use, the Marsh Loop tends to be muddy after rain. For a family-friendly stroll, take the 1.1 km Lower Boardwalk over pristine marshland and bubbling thermal waters.

 Sundance Canyon

3.7 km one way from trailhead plus 1.6 km moderate loop
Elevation gain 155 m, elevation loss 60 m
3 hour round trip
Trailhead: Cave and Basin National Historic Site
On foot: Trailhead is a 30 minute/2 km walk from downtown Banff

Roam Route 4

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

 Spray River East and West

5.7 km one way from Spray River East trailhead (Golf Course Road) to Spray River bridge
Elevation gain 135 m, elevation loss 80 m

5.6 km one way from Spray River bridge to Spray River West trailhead
Elevation gain 70 m, elevation loss 105 m

3 to 4 hour round trip
Trailhead: Spray River East trailhead on the Golf Course Road
On foot: Trailhead is a 30 minute/2.2 km walk from downtown Banff

Often done as a loop, these two lengthy but relatively easy forested trails are popular with hikers, cyclists and horseback riders. They traverse rolling terrain along either side of the Spray River. A short interpretive walk around the Fairmont Banff Springs links the east and west trailheads via a small scenic bridge.

 Tunnel Campground Loop

6.4 km loop
Elevation gain 70 m
1.5 hour round trip
Trailhead: Start at the Hidden Ridge Resort Roam transit stop
On foot: Trailhead is a 35 minute/2.5 km walk from downtown Banff

Roam Route 2

This lightly forested trail can be joined at any number of points from within the campground. There is no designated parking lot—walk or take Roam public transit from downtown to access this trail.

 Stewart Canyon

1.5 km one way
Minimal elevation gain
1 hour round trip
Trailhead: Lake Minnewanka Day-use Area

Roam Route 6

From the day-use area, this low elevation trail follows the Lake Minnewanka reservoir shoreline to a bridge spanning the walls of Stewart Canyon. Lake Minnewanka reservoir is popular and the parking lot fills during the summer. Take Roam Public transit or visit Banff Now for parking information.

 Johnson Lake

2.8 km loop
Minimal elevation gain
1 hour round trip
Trailhead: Johnson Lake Day-use Area

Roam Route 6

This circuit around the lake crosses open slopes, passes some of Alberta’s oldest Douglas fir trees, and detours around a shallow bay where waterfowl often rest. This hike offers views of Cascade Mountain and Mount Rundle.

 Sunshine Meadows

10 km of trails
Elevation gain 200 m
4 to 5 hour round trip
Trailhead: Sunshine Village, accessible by a fee-based gondola from the Sunshine Village parking lot from early July to early of September

Sunshine Shuttle

The most popular trail in this network crests the Continental Divide and descends to a viewpoint at Rock Isle Lake. From there, you can hike the slightly more challenging Grizzly-Larix Lakes Loop, continue on the Twin Cairns-Meadow Park trail or hike up to Standish viewpoint. Detailed trail maps are available through Sunshine Village.

 Johnston Canyon / Ink Pots

1.2 km one way to the Lower Falls from trailhead
Elevation gain 50 m
1 hour round trip

2.5 km one way to the Upper Falls from trailhead
Elevation gain 120 m
2 hour round trip

5.7 km one way to the Ink Pots from trailhead
Elevation gain 330 m, elevation loss 140 m
4 hour round trip

Trailhead: Johnston Canyon Day-use Area

Roam Route 9

Travel in the depths of the canyon on wide trails and narrow bridges with railings that lead to the Lower Falls and to the spectacular 30 metre-high Upper Falls. For a unique perspective, continue 265 m further to the viewpoint at the top of the upper falls. Beyond the falls, a trail continues up and over a forested ridge to a meadow where water bubbles from deep below the Earth’s surface into shallow pools called the Ink Pots. The Johnston Canyon area is popular and parking is limited. Take Roam Public transit or visit Banff Now for parking information.

 Silverton Falls

0.9 km one way
Elevation gain 90 m
40 minute round trip
Trailhead: Rockbound Lake parking area

Roam route 8S to Castle Mountain Campground

Branching off the Rockbound Lake trail at 300 metres, this short hike ends at the base of a waterfall that cascades over a series of narrow ledges surrounded by forest.

 Boom Lake

5.1 km one way
Elevation gain 175 m
3 to 4 hour round trip
Trailhead: Boom Lake Day-use Area

This gradual and easy ascent leads hikers through a picturesque forest to a large alpine lake surrounded by mountains. The lakeshore is a great picnic spot.

  Moderate Trails

 Sulphur Mountain 

5.5 km to top of gondola, plus 0.5 km to Sanson Peak
Elevation gain 655 m
4 hour round trip
Trailhead: Banff Upper Hot Springs parking area

Roam Route 1

Switchbacks on the slopes of Sulphur Mountain provide a steady uphill hike to a summit renowned for its expansive mountain views. At the top, enjoy the 0.5 km boardwalk along the ridge ending at Sanson Peak. Here, you will find the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site and the 1903 weather observatory. From the boardwalk, return on the same trail to the parking lot. Alternatively, take an old fire road known as the Sulphur Mountain Westside Trail (5.4 km) to Sundance Trail, ending at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site (2.6 km). Please note that if you choose to go down to the westside trail, you will need to find your own transportation back to the Sulphur Mountain trailhead. The Banff Upper Hot Springs is popular and the parking lot fills during the summer. Take Roam Public transit or visit Banff Now for parking information.

 Tunnel Mountain Summit

2.4 km one way
Elevation gain 260 m
2 hour round trip
Trailhead: Lower parking area on St. Julien Road
On foot: Trailhead is a 15 minute/1 km walk from downtown Banff

Roam Route 7

Accessible from downtown Banff, this trail switchbacks to a low summit with sweeping views across the town, Bow Valley and Mount Rundle rising dramatically to the south.

 Surprise Corner to Hoodoos Viewpoint

4.8 km one way
Elevation gain 115 m, elevation loss 90 m
3 hour round trip
Trailhead: Surprise Corner, east end of Buffalo Street
On foot: Trailhead is a 20 minute/1.6 km walk from downtown Banff

Roam Route 7

This pleasant trail passes below the steep cliffs of Tunnel Mountain and meanders along the Bow River. Be aware of the many branching trails that form part of the Tunnel Mountain biking trails network. Always stay on the most southeast trail. As the final section of trail ascends, views open up across the Bow Valley to Mount Rundle. In summer, Roam Public Transit route 2 provides an easy option for returning to town from nearby Tunnel Mountain campground.

 Stoney Squaw

2.1 km one way
Elevation gain 190 m
1.5 hour round trip
Trailhead: Kiosk at the south end of Mount Norquay ski area parking lot

Norquay Shuttle

The summit of Stoney Squaw offers views of Cascade Mountain and the Bow Valley below. Along the way, the trail passes through a forest of trees covered in wispy lichen.

 Cascade Amphitheatre

7.7 km one way
Elevation gain 640 m, elevation loss 150 m 
6 hour round trip
Trailhead: Kiosk at the south end of Mount Norquay ski area parking lot

Norquay Shuttle

Allow a full day to reach this hanging valley that is carpeted with wildflowers in July and August. From the amphitheatre, experienced scramblers with proper equipment can attempt the summit of Cascade Mountain. Get route finding information in the Scrambler’s Guide to Cascade Mountain or at a Parks Canada visitor centre.

 C-Level Cirque

3.9 km one way
Elevation gain 455 m
3 hour round trip
Trailhead: Upper Bankhead Day-use Area

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

 Healy Pass

8.8 km one way
Elevation gain 655 m
6 to 7 hour round trip
Trailhead: Sunshine Village parking area behind the main gondola building

Sunshine Shuttle

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

 Bourgeau Lake / Harvey Pass

7.5 km one way from trailhead to Bourgeau Lake
Elevation gain 725 m
6 hour round trip

9.7 km one way from trailhead to Harvey Pass
Elevation gain 1020 m
6 to 7 hour round trip

Trailhead: Bourgeau Lake parking area

A steady climb through lush forest and across mountain streams lead to Bourgeau Lake which is enclosed in a glacially carved amphitheatre. From the lake, a 2.2 km more difficult trail continues upward to Harvey Pass where exceptional views extend to snowcapped peaks along the Continental Divide. Parking is limited at the Bourgeau Lake parking area. Try carpooling and plan to arrive early.

 Rockbound Lake

8.4 km one way
Elevation gain 760 m
6 to 7 hour round trip
Trailhead: Rockbound Lake parking area

Roam Route 8S to Castle Mountain Campground

A long steady climb through a mixed forest leads behind the distinctive cliffs of Castle Mountain to open meadows and flower-fringed Tower Lake, 7.5 km from the trailhead. The trail then climbs a low cliff band and emerges in a glacial cirque filled by Rockbound Lake.

 Castle Lookout

3.7 km one way
Elevation gain 550 m
3 hour round trip
Trailhead: Castle Lookout parking area

In the mid-20th century, numerous fire towers were erected around Banff National Park where spotters could detect flames from afar. This trail ends where a tower once stood. From here, enjoy the sweeping views of the Bow Valley.

 Vista Lake / Arnica Lake / Twin Lakes

1.4 km one way from trailhead to Vista Lake
Elevation loss 120 m
1.5 hour round trip

5 km one way from trailhead to Arnica Lake
Elevation gain 580 m, elevation loss 120 m
5 hour round trip

8 km one way from trailhead to Lower Twin Lake
Elevation gain 715 m, elevation loss 315 m
6 to 7 hour round trip

Trailhead: Vista Lake viewpoint on Highway 93 South, on the east side of the road. Parking is not indicated on the highway.

Lose elevation to Vista Lake before you gain it en route to Arnica Lake; the views and variety make this destination worth the ups and downs. Hike under a canopy of larch trees and through a mosaic of wildflowers while the Continental Divide guides you to Arnica and Twin lakes.

 Stanley Glacier

4.2 km one way
Elevation gain 365 m
3 hour round trip
Trailhead: Stanley Glacier parking area in Kootenay National Park

This popular trail climbs a regenerating forest of lodgepole pines, willows and wildflowers before it opens up to clear views of Stanley Glacier and small waterfalls.

 Difficult Trails

 Aylmer Lookout / Aylmer Pass

11.8 km one way from trailhead to Aylmer Lookout
Elevation gain 560 m
7 to 8 hour round trip

13.5 km one way from trailhead to Aylmer Pass
Elevation gain 805 m
8 to 9 hour round trip

Trailhead: Lake Minnewanka Day-use Area

Roam Route 6

From the day-use area, follow the Lake Minnewanka reservoir shoreline for 7.8 km to the Aylmer Pass junction, then embark on a steady 2.3 km climb to a second junction. At this intersection, either follow signs and continue onto Aylmer Pass (3.4 km one way), or take an out-and-back trip to Aylmer Lookout (1.7 km one way). Aylmer Lookout Trail climbs to a decommissioned fire lookout with a front-row seat of Lake Minnewanka reservoir and the surrounding mountains. Aylmer Pass opens to wide meadows of wildflowers and views of the slate-grey Palliser Range. Bear warnings, restrictions and closures are common throughout summer. Get current trail information. Lake Minnewanka reservoir is popular and the parking lot fills during the summer. Take Roam Public transit or visit Banff Now for parking information.

 Cory Pass Loop

13 km loop
Elevation gain 915 m
6 hour round trip
Trailhead: Fireside Day-use Area

The unobstructed view of Mount Louis, an imposing limestone monolith, is worth the strenuous uphill trek to Cory Pass. Rather than returning via the same route, energetic hikers have the option of descending into the Gargoyle Valley before returning to the trailhead via Edith Pass. Route finding can be challenging beyond Cory Pass.