15 Epic Hikes in Banff National Park, Canada

Hiking in Banff National Park is one of the best ways to experience the park’s stunning scenery and wildlife. With hundreds of trails to choose from, it can be intimidating just trying to decide on one — which is exactly why we put together this list of the best hikes in Banff. 

Mount Bourgeau Banff Canada

Banff National Park, nestled deep within the Canadian Rockies, is one of the most naturally beautiful destinations in the world. Surrounded by countless mountain peaks and thousands upon thousands of miles of forest, this unique region will take your breath away at every turn. 

To best enjoy its epic mountain scenery and wildlife, consider tackling one of the best hikes in Banff. From popular trails following the shores of one of the most famous lakes in the world to tranquil ones frequented mostly by wildlife and wildflowers, we’ve rounded up 15 of the best Banff hikes. 

Insider tip: the park experiences heavy snow in winter and spring and major roads close seasonally. For the best (and safest!) access, visit between mid-June and early October. 

1. Moraine Lake Shoreline

Banff National Park Canada
  • Distance: 3.2 miles (5.14 kilometers), out-and-back
  • Elevation: 902 feet (275 meters)
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy
  • View Trail Notes

The Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail proves an easy hike doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, this is one of the prettiest hikes in Banff! Despite Moraine Lake’s wild popularity, most tourists overlook this trail; instead, they stop for photos before moving onto their next destination (a shame, because this trail has some seriously epic views!). 

If you want to make a day of it during the summer, you can rent canoes and there’s a cafe open seasonally. 

2. Parker Ridge to Saskatchewan Glacier

Parker Ridge to Saskatchewan Glacier (Walter H)
Image by Walter H via Alltrails
  • Distance: 3.3 miles (5.4 kilometers), out-and-back
  • Elevation: 820 feet (250 meters)
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate
  • View Trail Notes

Parker Ridge is one of the least challenging, yet best hikes in Banff. It starts on the west side of the spectacular Icefields Parkway, a few miles from the Banff-Jasper border, and features a wide-open pathway to Saskatchewan Glacier with expansive views across the valley on most of the trek. 

This trail is also known for being blanketed in colorful wildflowers in the summer. Couple that with its views of Mount Athabasca, Andromeda, and Cirrus Mountain, and it’s easy to understand why it’s so popular!

3. Bow Glacier Falls

Bow Glacier Falls (Heidi Kuhn)
Image by Heidi Kuhn via Alltrails
  • Distance: 5.5 miles (8.9 kilometers), out-and-back
  • Elevation: 977 feet (298 meters)
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate
  • View Trail Notes

If you only have time to check out one of the best hikes in Banff, Bow Glacier Falls doesn’t disappoint! Running right along the shores of ice-blue Bow Lake, this is easily one of the most picturesque areas in the entire park (which is saying a LOT!). 

The trail is scenic the entire length, and includes interesting features that make it seem shorter than it really is. After the lake, you’ll climb an old wooden staircase and there’s also a small, manageable rock scramble toward the end. Notably, this is one of the only hikes in Banff that permits leashed dogs. 

4. Johnston Canyon to Upper Falls

Johnston Canyon to Upper Falls (Mathieu Coté)
Image by Mathieu Coté via Alltrails
  • Distance: 3.17 miles (5.1 kilometers), out-and-back
  • Elevation: 859 feet (262 meters)
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate
  • View Trail Notes 

Johnston Canyon is, in our opinion, one of the best hikes in Banff because it can be done in any season (not exactly common here!). In fact, it’s equally beautiful in summer and winter! The frozen waterfall is breathtaking in the winter, while the falls thunder at their peak in the summer.

There are two options: take the short route to the lower falls, then turn back, or continue from the lower falls to the upper. It’s worth the hike to the upper falls, as the 100-foot height is pretty impressive! Plus, the trail follows Johnston Creek and crosses a unique metal walkway built into the canyon walls. 

5. Lake Agnes Tea House Trail

Lake Agnes Teahouse Banff Canada
  • Distance: 4.6 miles (7.4 kilometers), out-and-back
  • Elevation: 1,427 feet (435 meters)
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate
  • View Trail Notes

The Lake Agnes Tea House Trail is one of the most iconic hikes in Banff, not to mention one of our personal favorites! 

The trail starts from the famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and climbs steadily uphill through the forest. Along the way, you’ll pass Mirror Lake and a small waterfall at Lake Agnes before coming to historic Lake Agnes Tea House, built in 1901. Here, you can enjoy some light snacks (it’s open June through October) before making your way back. 

Psst! If you’re making your way around Canada, you’ll want to check out these incredible Vancouver hikes as well!

6. Plain of Six Glaciers

Plain of Six Glaciers Banff Canada 1
  • Distance: 9 miles (14.6 kilometers), out-and-back
  • Elevation: 1,522 feet (464 meters)
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate
  • View Trail Notes

Another trail leading to Lake Agnes, Plain of Six Glaciers is well-known as one of the most scenic hikes in Banff. Note: many hikers turn back at Lake Agnes, so the distance listed here may not apply to your route. 

Whether you complete the full route or create your own, the views are spectacular, with Lake Louise, Victoria Glacier, and wildlife including caribou and bighorn sheep. Once you pass the lake, the trail gets substantially more difficult and steep. Both the Lake Agnes Teahouse and Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House are in this area, open in the summer. 

Fun fact: the Six Glaciers Tea House has been owned by the same family since 1959 and, in an effort to preserve its history, still doesn’t have electricity to this day. Everything is prepared on propane stoves!

7. Lake Annette via Paradise Valley Trail 

Lake Annette via Paradise Valley Trail (James Therien)
Image by James Therien via Alltrails
  • Distance: 7 miles (11.4 kilometers), out-and-back
  • Elevation: 1,286 feet (392 meters)
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate
  • View Trail Notes

In researching this trail, you’ll quickly find that it’s constantly referred to as one of the most underrated hikes in Banff. It’s a stunner, with soaring mountain ranges, hanging glaciers, and sparkling Paradise Creek, all leading to green-hued Lake Annette.

You’ll cross the creek several times, and a few densely-forested sections provide welcome shade on hot summer days. When you reach Lake Annette, relax and take in the views or hike further into Paradise Valley. Doing so makes the entire hike 12.8 miles (20.6 kilometers).

8. Helen Lake

Helen Lake (Kiana M.)
Image by Kiana M. via Alltrails
  • Distance: 7.2 miles (11.6 kilometers), out-and-back
  • Elevation: 1,771 feet (540 meters)
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate
  • View Trail Notes

A less-traveled trail in the park, Helen Lake is rated as moderate but widely considered one of the easier hikes in Banff. The varied terrain crosses meadows filled with glacier lilies, lakes, and dense forest before arriving at Helen Lake. 

You’ll also cross several creeks and depending on recent rain levels, the water may be deeper than you expect! Helen Lake is exceptionally scenic on calm days when the mountains reflect on the mirror-still surface. 

9. Sentinel Pass via Larch Valley Trail

Sentinel Pass via Larch Valley Trail (James Thistle)
Image by James Thistle via Alltrails
  • Distance: 6.9 miles (11.1 kilometers), out-and-back
  • Elevation: 2,621 feet (799 meters)
  • Difficulty Rating: Challenging
  • View Trail Notes

If you want to see spectacular fall foliage (and you’re up for a fairly challenging trek), put this Banff hike at the top of your list. The larch trees turn a solid, beautiful golden color!

The first section of this trail is relatively flat and easy, but the switchbacks present quickly as it begins to climb. Take plenty of time to rest on the way up and keep your eyes open for surprise views of milky-blue Moraine Lake! At the summit of Sentinel Pass, above the treeline, enjoy one of the best views in Banff, which includes all 10 of the park’s peaks. 

The Moraine Lake parking lot fills up quickly almost every day and the park closes the road, forcing people to take the shuttle. It runs hourly and advanced reservations are highly recommended. Read more about the Moraine Lake shuttle

10. Cascade Amphitheatre

Cascade Amphitheatre (Susan Lewis)
Image by Susan Lewis via Alltrails
  • Distance: 8.6 miles (13.8 kilometers), out-and-back
  • Elevation: 3,031 feet (924 meters)
  • Difficulty Rating: Challenging
  • View Trail Notes

Cascade Amphitheatre, while difficult, is one of the best hikes in Banff National Park. The trail starts from behind the Mystic Chairlift at Mount Norquay and follows a mostly-forested area until you reach the natural amphitheatre. The first mile or so is deceivingly easy — don’t be fooled.

From the amphitheatre, you can attempt to summit storied Cascade Mountain, but be warned that it’s a difficult task, recommended only for those with previous scrambling/climbing experience. 

11. Cory & Edith Pass

Cory & Edith Pass (Mehtab Kanda)
Image by Mehtab Kanda
  • Distance: 7.9-mile (12.7 kilometer) loop
  • Elevation: 3,723 feet (1,135 meters)
  • Difficulty Rating: Challenging
  • View Trail Notes

One of the most challenging but certainly best hikes in Banff is the Cory and Edith Pass Loop. With a substantial elevation gain and a section requiring technical rock scrambling, it isn’t for the faint of heart, but man is it rewarding. Because of the effort involved, you won’t encounter crowds!

We recommend ascending the Cory Pass side and descending via Edith Pass. This route gives you head-on views of Mount Cory, plus puts the steepest, most challenging section toward the beginning, preventing you from tackling it when you’re exhausted. You will have to scramble and climb over large boulders, but the sense of accomplishment at the end makes it worthwhile. 

12. Bourgeau Lake Trail

Mount Bourgeau Banff Canada
  • Distance: 8.6 miles (13.8 kilometers), out-and-back
  • Elevation: 3,150 feet (960 meters)
  • Difficulty Rating: Challenging
  • View Trail Notes

In all our travels, we’ve learned to go where the locals go. Bourgeau Lake Trail is considered the locals’ favorite and proving that, you won’t find any crowds here. The trail has a bit of everything that makes the Canadian Rockies magical, including sweeping views, alpine lakes, waterfalls, and wildlife. 

Although rated “hard,” we firmly believe that applies solely to the portion beyond Bourgeau Lake, en route to Harvey Pass. Continuing on adds another 1.5 miles and the pass is covered in snow-pack and ice year-round (likely the reason it’s “hard!”).

13. Fairview Mountain

Fairview Mountain (Joshua Hoogland)
Image by Joshua Hoogland via Alltrails
  • Distance: 6 miles (9.7 kilometers), out-and-back
  • Elevation: 3,320 feet (1,012 meters)
  • Difficulty Rating: Challenging
  • View Trail Notes

We could argue that any trail starting from Lake Louise is one of the best hikes in Banff. Fairview Mountain, though, has a real advantage in that it’s often overlooked in favor of less challenging hikes in the area.

The steep ascent is what makes Fairview Mountain so demanding. You’ll spend a solid hour climbing, crossing several frustrating false summits along the way. Once there, the 360-degree views are incredible and you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world. 

14. Sulphur Mountain Trail

Sulphur Mountain Trail (Will Stebbing)
Image by Will Stebbing via Alltrails
  • Distance: 6.7 miles (10.9 kilometers), out-and-back
  • Elevation: 2,480 feet (756 meters)
  • Difficulty Rating: Challenging
  • View Trail Notes

If you’re looking for a less-trafficked hike in Banff National Park, Sulphur Mountain is it. The trailhead begins from the Banff Gondola parking area. Pro tip: it’s much easier to start from the top of the Banff Gondola (park and then ride up!).  

The significant elevation gain is what earns Sulphur Mountain a “challenging” rating. You’ll also climb and scramble steep scree-covered slopes. Reaching the summit is worth the challenge, as the views across Banff and the Sundance Mountain Range are amazing! 

15. Healy Pass

Healy Pass (Kathleen Day)
Image by Kathleen Day via Alltrails
  • Distance: 11.4 miles (18.3 kilometers), out-and-back
  • Elevation: 2,919 feet (890 meters)
  • Difficulty Rating: Challenging
  • View Trail Notes

One of the best hikes in Banff thanks to the postcard-perfect scenery (especially during fall color change!), Healy Pass deserves a spot on your itinerary. It’s “hard” rating is undoubtedly due to the length of the trail and overall elevation gain, because it’s actually quite manageable. You’ll need some endurance, sure, but if you hike regularly, you’ll be just fine. 

Most of the trail is through a well-canopied forest, but it opens up on the final approach to Healy Pass, offering sweeping mountain and lake views. Because of the stunning colors, we recommend it in either summer, when the valley is bursting with colorful wildflowers, or fall, when the golden larch trees appear to be on fire.

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What to pack for hiking in Banff National Park

There are a few items we take on every hike with us, no matter how far or challenging the trail we plan to tackle.

Hiking Packing List | Go Wander Wild
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Hikes in Banff | Go Wander Wild
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We want to hear from you!

Which of these hikes in Banff National Park has you most excited to lace up your hiking boots?? Have you done any of the Banff hikes on this list? Was your experience like? Leave your comment below and let us know!

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