12 Great Hikes in Banff National Park - Hiking Alberta

 

Choosing a dozen great day hikes from hundreds of possibilities in Banff National Park is somewhat akin to choosing which fish in the barrel one would prefer to shoot.

 

Parker Ridge, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The following day hikes are among the best in Banff National Park.  They range from relatively easy to somewhat aggressive based on skill set and experience.  More aggressive hikes are plentiful, as well as multiple-day, backpacking missions, and will be readily identified in popular hiking guides.  Always check in with Parks Canada for current conditions and potential restrictions.  Click on the red links below to reference the relevant blog post.

 


1.   Larch Valley


 

The hike from Moraine Lake, near Lake Louise Village, through Larch Valley to Sentinel Pass, wedged between Pinnacle Mountain and Mount Temple for the spectacular view into Paradise Valley, is one of the most popular in Banff National ParkWOW!  The Larch Valley hike is most popular, and crowded, in the third week of September when larch trees reach their peak in the transition from green to gold.

 

Larch Valley, Sentinel Pass, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 


2.   Eiffel Lakes


 

The hike to Eiffel Lakes is a left turn at the fork where the Larch Valley trail junction, and the bench, occupy the top of the uphill hike from Moraine Lake.  The Eiffel Lakes hike is spectacular and easy above Moraine Lake in the Valley of the Ten Peaks.  There is an outstanding extension past Eiffel Lakes which passes through a fascinating area of massive boulders and beyond over the long, rocky ramp to Wenkchemna Pass and inspiring vistas beyond.

 

Eiffel Lakes, Wenkchemna Pass, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 


3.   Bourgeau Lake


 

Bourgeau Lake is a small and pristine sub-alpine lake surrounded by awe-inspiring mountain summits.  From Bourgeau Lake there is an option to continue beyond the lake and up past spectacular waterfalls and 'the notch' to spectacular, sweeping vistas from Harvey Pass.  For the truly masochistic, an additional option from Harvey Pass provides the opportunity to bag two summits on the same day prior to returning to the trail-head via the same route taken.

 

Bourgeau Lake, Harvey Pass, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 


4.   Bow Glacier Falls


 

The hike to Bow Glacier Falls from Bow Lake at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada is an ethereal experience through diverse and fascinating terrain on the approach along river, and past canyons and ancient glacial moraines to the waterfalls emanating from the Bow GlacierSpectacular hiking!

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 


5.   Chephren Lake


 

The trail-head for Chephren Lake resides near the entrance to Waterfowl Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park.  Nearby, the slightly more rugged and equally spectacular hike to Cirque Lake can be achieved on the same day for a full day of incredible hiking experience within Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada along one of the greatest and breathtakingly scenic rides on the planet.

 

Chephren Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 


6.   Consolation Lakes


 

The popular hike to Consolation Lakes begins from the Moraine Lake parking area above Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.  The well-maintained trail offers a wide variety of terrain beneath the close proximity of majestic, glaciated, towering mountains.  The first Consolation Lake is surrounded by massive fields of talus and scree.  Access to the second Consolation Lake, at the far end, requires quality hiking footwear and is a bit more adventuresome along the far side of the first lake.  Near the trail-head there is an option to visit the forever-memorable views of Moraine Lake in the Valley of the Ten Peaks from the lookout atop The Rockpile.

 

Consolation Lakes, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 


7.   Plain of Six Glaciers


 

The classic view of the Plain of Six Glaciers from Chateau Lake Louise is world renowned.  To view this terrain up close and personal is an awesome experience.  The glaciated mountains and rugged scree fields, where white rivers loaded with glacial dust feed the turquoise waters of Lake Louise, are accessible by well-maintained trail to the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse.  From the tea house the trail to the base of the glaciers is short but more rustic with mild exposure and the need for warmer clothing.

 

Plain of Six Glaciers, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 


8.   Helen Lake


 

Parking for the hike to Helen Lake is opposite the viewpoint for Crowfoot Glacier along the Icefields Parkway a short distance south of Num-Ti-Jah Lodge on the shore of Bow Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.  This popular and scenic hike offers a wide variety of rugged Rocky Mountain scenery and multiple options for exploring higher elevations.

 

Helen Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 


9.   Johnston Canyon


 

Johnston Canyon is a popular year round hiking and ice climbing destination along Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A) between Lake Louise and Castle Junction.  The popular Banff National Park attraction hosts its own accommodation at Johnston Canyon Resort.  There are two major waterfalls and several minor falls and rapids along the narrow, picturesque canyon where the walkway is often metal ramp bolted onto the canyon wall.  The Johnston Canyon hike is an amazing experience, in short distance and minor elevation, within the capability of most people.  There is an option to continue further to the Ink Pots and the incredible mountain views which surround the colorful spring-fed ponds.

 

Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 


10.   Lake Agnes Tea House


 

The Lake Agnes Teahouse is a world-renowned attraction on the shore of picturesque Lake Agnes above Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.  The moderately inclined trail gains elevation through forest past Mirror Lake at the base of Big Beehive prior to a series of stairs leading to the teahouse and the magnificent, crystal-clear waters of Lake Agnes surrounded by dramatic towering mountain peaks.  The scenery is indelibly memorable.

 

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 


11.   Rockbound Lake


 

The hike to Rockbound Lake begins near Castle Mountain Chalets on the other side of Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A) between Castle Junction and Lake Louise.  The evenly graded trail delivers hikers to pristine, emerald Tower Lake before a short stiff uphill climb to Rockbound Lake beneath majestic cliffs of Castle Mountain.  For a longer day the hike can continue on a circuit around and above Rockbound Lake prior to returning via the same route taken. 

 

Rockbound Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 


12.   Parker Ridge


 

Parker Ridge is one of the shortest hikes to ascend from forest into alpine terrain from the Icefields Parkway north of Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.  Year round, warm layers will be required to enjoy the magnificent, breathtaking views of Saskatchewan Glacier emanating from the Columbia Icefield where the delineation point along the Icefields Parkway occurs between Banff National Park and Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada.

Viewing the rugged valley which contains the winding 5+ kilometer (3.2 mile +) long glacier from the top of the breezy ridge is a forever memorable experience.  There are many more short, scenic and world class hiking options in the immediate area.

 

Parker Ridge, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

This collection of hikes is a mere sampling of magnificent natural treasures within Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.  There are wilderness opportunities for everyone at all skill and experience levels as well as a plethora of more touristy options.  

Shopping opportunities, a wide range of accommodation from camping to luxury hotels and fine dining opportunities complement additional alternatives at more urban centers in Calgary, Canmore, the Town of Banff, Lake Louise Village and the Municipality of Jasper

Banff National Park is a world-class travel opportunity every person should experience at least once within a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Thank you for sharing! Have done a few of these hikes already, can't wait to explore them all. Was up at Bourgeau Lake a few weeks ago. Stunning in the winter!

You are welcome.  Thank you for your comment, Melisa.

Fantastic post! Which one do I start with I ask myself?

Thank you, Helen.  Good question.  Weather and your point of accommodation will likely help to provide an answer.  Each hike is unique and worthy of attention.  Stanley Falls is another that comes to mind.  There are virtually endless opportunities.  Might be wise to warm up with the shorter, less elevation options and work your way up.  Often, I will do a full day gut cruncher then follow up the next day with a couple of short, easy hikes.  Excellent footwear and layers for every weather condition are required.

We just hiked to the lower falls in Johnson Canyon this past weekend and it was still super icy! What do you recommend for this time of year?

At this time of year, essential gear includes gaiters and cleats over quality hiking boots.  Staying closer to Calgary on the east side of the front range will likely yield more opportunities to enjoy a safe hike.  Ice will be an issue everywhere in protected areas so you will be wise to get a pair of micro spikes or something similar to stick feet onto the trail.  They should last for several seasons of hiking.  Cleats are pretty much essential at this time of the year to reduce the chance of accident and injury.  Thank you for your comment, Candace.  Happy trails and stay safe.

Hey Barry. In doing a hike from shark mountai. Trail head to Bryant creek cabin, then heading up over Allenby pass to the Banff cave and basin. I'm wondering if you think I could bring my dog with me? I'm just curious if there is enough water stops along the way that my dog will stay hydrated?

I do not know the answer to your question, Mike.

Hi Barry, Have you done Bow Peak? Is there a lot of exposure? Where is the trailhead? Thank you, Karen

Many times over several years but not in the past decade, Karen.  The definition of exposure can vary by individual.  Search on Bow Peak by Bob Spirko to get a good description and guide reference.  Perform detailed due diligence.  Consider previous experience, personal gear and preferences.  If it looks like something you should try, have a go at it with the resolution to achieve some growth beyond existing experience.  Evaluate the potential for descent before making every ascent step.  No harm in giving it a try.  Always wise to take some experience with you.  Minimum group of three is sensible.  In event of injury, one to stay, one to go.  Let someone know where you are going with expected return times and instructions if you don't. Carry  Spot or Inreach.  Standard mountain protocol.  There is no shame in making two or three attempts to complete the mission.  Good luck.  If you choose to embrace the challenge, have fun and stay safe.

Hi Barry...thank you for this article. My wife and I will be in Banff next month and had a few days there. I wanted to get your opinion on hikes you'd recommend in the 5 - 10 mile range that are easier to intermediate. We hike and workout regularly but don't want anything extremely difficult since we plan on hiking 3 days in a row. Looking for hikes with amazing views, (ex. Chephren Lake looked especially amazing with the blue water layered by the towering mountain range in the background) and perhaps trails that aren't so remote that we will be the only ones in it. (I wanted to worry less about coming across a grizzly and lessen the chance of an encounter although overly crowded is also less than ideal.). All recommendations are welcome! Thank you!

Well, Jason.  August will be busy.  You will need a map and guide and some current advice from the Park Canada Visitor Center.  Chephren Lake and Helen Lake are good experiences.  You should know bear aware skills and carry bear spray.  Hiking in a group is mandatory on some trails. Moraine Lake, Sentinel Pass and Paradise Valley are worth the time.  You will need to be a long way off popular trails to avoid crowds in the summertime.  Due to the number of variables and dynamics, I cannot make specific recommendations for people I do not know.  Advance research and due diligence are best done by those familiar with their own experience, preferences and dislikes.  Hope your trip is a major success.  Parks Canada can size you up quickly, ask a few questions and provide some valuable, current and appropriate advice.  Anything I do will be a shot in the dark.

I plan on being there October 8-15 are there going to be a lot of trails closed at this time? Fishing?

There is no way to predict conditions accurately in advance. Recommend you do your due diligence on the Banff National Park website then check in with them on arrival. Probably ice and snow at higher elevations.  Hope your visit is a success.

I am currently staying in Canmore and on Thursday I will have a full day to enjoy nice hike. My only problem is that my family will take the car that day to Calgary, will not have a car and I'll be by myself. What would you recommend Or where can I approach to join an awesome hiking tour or something like that.

Not a clue, Richard.  Far too many unknowns.  Check in with the Canmore Alberta Canada Visitor Centre along the TransCanada Highway at the west end of Canmore.  They will be able to size you up and potentially provide some worthwhile advice specific to your particular situation.  Good luck.

Hi Barry, We will be in Banff NP end of April. Can you tell us if we will be able to do any of these hikes. If there is still too much snow around at that time of year are there any hikes you can recommend. We are experienced hikers having holidayed and hiked in the European Alps, Andes and New Zealand, but we have never been to the Rockies nor this part of the Northern Hemisphere any advice would be appreciated. Thanks Sarah

Thank you for your comment, Sarah.  The short answer is 'Yes'.  However, it is possible some trails may be inaccessible due to weather.  It is likely there will be substantial snow remaining in late April particularly in forests or sheltered areas.  I suggest you acquire a Gem Trek Map for the area and do a bit of research.  You will need to layer your clothing.  It is possible you will need snowshoes or ice cleats over your quality hiking boots for the choice of the day.  Your best reference will be Parks Canada Visitor Centres who will provide present conditions, assess your ability to hike the specific trail and advise you of the gear.  Please review your trip and expected weather with them.  As you know, mountain weather can shift quickly and unexpectedly.  These are all popular trails which are accessed year round.  Each season is unique.  Your trip will be in the Spring and special gear may be required to keep you safe.  There are also guided options which may be worth considering.  Have a wonderful and forever memorable adventure.

Thank you for these great ideas. We want to do a day trip/hike from Calgary on Saturday.. any suggestions as to which would be nice with 2 small dogs :):) Thank you kindly

Jana, thanks for your comment.  Ground cover snow may be an issue for most if not all of these classic hikes in Banff National Park.  Without knowing your experience level or knowing how well you are equipped it would be irresponsible for me to make recommendations.  Your best bet is to stop into the Visitor Centre on the west side of Canmore or the Parks Visitor Center in Banff to help with recommendations for an open trail.  They can assess your specific situation.  I have no specific knowledge about hiking with dogs but they will be able to advise you on that issue as well.  Have a great day!

Dear Barry, We are spending 3 and half days/3 nights in Banff/ Lake Louise at the end of May (last weekend of May). We are sleeping the first night in Banff, second in Lake Louise and the last at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, returning to Banff/Calgary after. My whole family travels (kids are 13 and 11, great shape, wife and I avid experienced hikers) - What would you recommend to do, out of these hikes? They all look amazing, btw. Conversely, if there are other day hikes that you haven't listed, please suggest. Many many thanks, Barry Cheers, DanP.

Trail conditions will be a factor at the end of May.  In a very short time span you may be limited to what is open and doable.  You do not say where you have hiked in the past.  The gear you need here may be a bit more rugged for the terrain.  From Num-Ti- Jah the obvious choice would be Bow Falls or there are several short hauls along the Icefields Parkway.  Again you may be limited to lower elevation hikes that are navigable.  Your accommodation will be helpful and if you order the pertinent Gem Trek Maps from Maptown in Calgary, they will provide excellent suggestions in combination with Parks Canada Visitor Centers and local intelligence at the time of your specific visit.  Your trip will undoubtedly be memorable.  The suggestions in this post are good ones but you are early in the season and everyone has individual preferences based on past experience.  Have a great adventure.

Barry, Great webpage. I wrote you an email as well. All the hikes you detail are generally to lakes or lookout points. Are there summit hikes in Banff NP?

Kevin, there are many summits in Banff National Park which can be hiked.  Trail conditions can be substantially different than trails in the American Southwest and some scrambling may be required.  It is best to use hiking guides and local maps to plan your hike.  These can be ordered online from Maptown in Calgary. Be sure to consult with Parks Canada prior to your hike.  Solid gear is important here. Weather can be volatile at altitude.  Thank you for your king words.  Enjoy your visit and stay safe.

Barry, Thanks for putting this information together. We plan to spend a week in first week of August in Banff-Jasper-Watertown area. We are moderate hikers and have done fair amount of backpacking in the US. We can do 15-16 mile round trip kind of hikes. Could you recommend 2 hikes that you think are must do in each Banff/Jasper/watertown. Especially a hike that could be combined with an overnight back country camping. Many Thanks Reena

Thanks for your comment, Reena.  I do not provide individual specific recommendations but if you obtain a guide book for the area or obtain the Banff - Jasper Gem Trek Maps from MapTown.com in Calgary, these are invaluable resources to help you plan the hikes to your specific needs.  Check with Parks Canada at the time of your hike for weather and trail conditions.  I have no idea which specific hikes will suit you best with the gear you have but those resources will help you make a quality, individual and specific decision.  Enjoy your adventure.

I am going to be in the southern section of Banff NP the first week in May 2017. Given the early date (mud, snow, etc.) what trails do you recommend?

Thank you for your comment, Ted.  Trail conditions can vary dramatically with weather in the shoulder seasons.  The trails you choose will need to be done at the time.  It will depend on your gear, previous experiences and specific preferences.  Suggest you obtain a guide book and/or Gem Trek map to assist in choosing.  At the time it is important to check trail conditions and forecast weather with Parks Canada before gearing up for the day.  Hope your experience is a good one.

Thanks so much for all these wonderful tips. By any chance do you have any idea which among these are open for hiking maybe around late May/early June? Just trying to figure out logistics and be reasonable with expectations.

I cannot predict weather.  The snow pack in 2017 is still quite substantial and the start of the hiking season in the mountains has been extended by 2 or 3 weeks.  You will want to consider the lowest elevations hikes first and be equipped to deal with wet and or icy conditions.  Check Parks Canada trail reports on their websites.  The weather situation can be very dynamic so planning with contingency is a good idea. If the original plan cannot be achieved, at least you will have an alternate objective to consider.  Good luck.  We all deal with this consistently.

I am taking a group of teens (14) and adults(6) to Banff/Calgary for a mission trip in two weeks. I would like to do two days of hiking and don't know where to start. Our group (unfortunately) are not big hikers but I would like two hikes that would last for 4 hours. Suggestions?? Help??

Missy, it will depend on a lot of factors. You will likely want to provide the young people with a bit of minimum requirements for gear.  The place you are staying overnight may be an excellent source of information. There are plenty of opportunities in the area but I would need a lot more information before I would be comfortable making recommendations.  You can contact me at hiking@hikingwithbarry.com or even better, drop by at Norseman Ski Hike and Climb on 37th Street near MRC on a Monday or Friday when I am normally there.  On any day there are knowledgeable people at Norseman who can help you with recommendations. There are several questions and we can discuss the nature of the group, the mission and review some possibilities with maps and hiking guides.

hi barry, i'm from usa. have hiked glacier nat park 5 times am experienced with that side, going to banff in mid july would love your input on hikes to do and any advise you might have, we are staying at hidden ridge in banff and will have a car. we usually do backcountry camping but are unfamiliar with the canadian side except waterton which we have been to each glacier trip. please help if you can. thanks liz

Well Liz, I am sure you are referring to Glacier National Park in Montana and not Glacier National Park at Rogers Pass in British Columbia.  All including Waterton Lakes National Park are awesome.  It is likely you have the gear you need for Canadian trails in Banff.  The selection in this post would be worthy candidates. There are special experiences in the Lake Louise area and Yoho National Park to the west in British Columbia offers some outstanding hiking opportunities. If you choose the Iceline option you may be able to take advantage of Alpine Club of Canada hut experiences. Check out the Via Ferrata on Mount Norquay.  Reservations can be challenging. You do not mention the length of your stay. Ten years would be about right.  I suggest you lean on resources at Hidden Ridge and Parks Canada to select options suitable for the moment.  They will help service your personal preferences and will have the best opportunity to match your skills and experience with suitable objectives and availability.  Good luck. Stay safe and enjoy a wonderful experience. Get yourself a Gem Trek Map from Maptown in Calgary.  It will be an invaluable resource for planning and execution. Order by mail.

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