Top 10 Trails in Banff National Park
Are you all set to immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring splendour of Canada's first national park and the hikes that come along with it? Have you got your trusty hiking boots on and your camera primed to snap some breathtaking shots? Well then, let's get cracking! Don your hats, slather on some sunscreen and grab your hiking poles, for we are about to embark on an epic adventure that you'll remember for a lifetime through Banff hiking trails!
Let's dive into the top 10 trails in Banff. From easy strolls through the woods to challenging round-trip hikes up steep mountains, there's something for everyone on the best Banff hikes. So grab your sense of adventure, and your park pass and let's go!
Trail #1 - The Plain of Six Glaciers
Hike Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 2,361 m (7,746 ft)
Are you ready to hike the Plain of Six Glaciers? Just remember to bring your sense of humour and some sturdy shoes, because this trail is no joke. It's like the stair-master of hiking trails, with steep inclines and rocky terrain that will make you feel like you're in a Rocky Balboa training montage.
But don't worry, the views are worth it. As you hike through the alpine valley, you'll see wildflowers, meadows, and if you're lucky, some furry friends like grizzly bears and moose. Just don't get too close, or you might end up on an episode of "When Animals Attack Hikers."
When you finally make it to the charming Plain of Six Glaciers tea house, brace yourself for a gastronomic delight that puts Starbucks to shame. This heavenly spot offers a variety of homemade treats that will make your taste buds dance with joy. From scrumptious scones to hearty soups, and from delectable sandwiches to comforting tea, there's something to please every palate. Plus, with a stomach full of these delicious delights, you'll have all the fuel you need to take on the challenging final leg of this round-trip hike.
The glaciers are like giant frozen slushies that are so impressive, you'll wonder why they aren't the main attraction in Disney's Frozen movie. And the surrounding mountains are so majestic, they make you feel like you're hobnobbing with Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. Get your camera ready and prepare to be amazed, because this is a view that'll be worth sharing on all your social media profiles!
Are you ready to show off your adventurous side to your family and friends? Well then, it's time to channel your inner Bear Grylls and conquer the Plain of Six Glaciers trail! Don't forget to take lots of pictures to prove that you're not just a couch potato - you're a mountain conqueror! So, lace up those boots, pack a snack or two, and let's hit the trail!
Trail #2 - The Big Beehive
Hike Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 2,270 m (7,448 ft)
Are you ready to tackle the Big Beehive, the towering mountain peak in Canada's oldest national park? Well, strap on your hiking boots and get ready to climb to the top of this beastly mountain. But don't worry, the stunning views and feeling of accomplishment are totally worth it (just don't forget to bring some oxygen tanks and a Sherpa to carry your stuff).
The trail to the Big Beehive is no joke. It's about 10 km round-trip and considered a moderate to difficult hike. The inclines are steep and challenging, and the rocky terrain can be a bit of a buzzkill. But don't let that stop you from buzzing your way to the top.
As you trudge up the trail, you'll be enveloped by lush trees and the tranquil melody of a babbling brook. But don't get too lost in nature's serenade, because soon enough you'll come face-to-face with the Big Beehive. It's a behemoth of a mountain, like a honeycomb on steroids. And the views from the top are so awe-inspiring, you'll be questioning whether you're actually in the real world or on a psychedelic trip. Just make sure to snap some pics so you can prove to your friends that you weren't just dreaming up this epic adventure.
Once you finally reach the top of the Big Beehive, you'll feel like you've conquered the world (or at least this part of the national parks in Canada). The panoramic views are breathtaking, with mountains, glaciers, and lakes stretching as far as the eye can see. It's like a giant Instagram filter, but even better.
But be warned, the hike back down can be just as challenging as rock and ice climbing too. Your legs might feel like jello and your lungs might feel like they're on fire. But the feeling of accomplishment is worth it. You can proudly tell everyone that you climbed the Big Beehive and saw some of the most stunning views in Canada. Just don't forget to mention the oxygen tanks and Sherpa.
So, if you're ready for a challenge and some amazing views, then the Big Beehive hike is for you. Just make sure to bring your hiking buddies, a good sense of humour, and some extra honey for energy (or maybe just a Snickers bar).
Trail #3 - The Sentinel Pass
Hike Difficulty: Difficult
Elevation Gain: 2,611 m (8,564 ft)
The Sentinel Pass Trail in beautiful Banff National Park is the perfect way to work off all those poutine calories. It's an incredible hike that takes you on a journey through some of the most breathtaking scenery in Canada, and it's sure to leave you with a sense of accomplishment (and maybe a few sore muscles).
The trail starts at the Moraine Lake parking lot, where you'll be greeted by the sparkling turquoise waters of Lake Moraine. You can hang out at Moraine Lake and get ready. Don't be fooled by the natural beauty of Moraine Lake though, because the trail ahead is a real workout. Think of it as a stair-stepper on high mode, with steep inclines and rocky terrain that will test even the fittest of hikers.
Are you ready for a hike that will make you break a sweat and maybe even shed a tear? The Sentinel Pass Trail is waiting for you! As you climb higher, the scenery becomes more and more breathtaking. Fields of wildflowers surround you, and you'll feel like you're in the middle of a Disney movie. But be on the lookout for some local wildlife - you don't want to mistake a chipmunk for a bear and end up sprinting back down the trail like a cartoon character.
As you approach the top, the view gets even better than the time you caught your crush's eye across the cafeteria. You'll be surrounded by mountains and valleys as far as your eyes can wander, and you'll feel like a king or queen of the world (or at least like you've got the best seat in Canada). It's the perfect spot to take some awe-inspiring shots and make all your friends regret not coming along.
But the best part of the Sentinel Pass Trail is the feeling of accomplishment you get when you reach the summit. You'll feel like you can conquer anything (even a whole plate of poutine). And the descent back down the trail is a great way to cool down and take in the scenery from a different angle.
Overall, the Sentinel Pass Trail is a must-do for anyone who loves a good challenge and some seriously stunning mountain views too. So, lace up your hiking boots, pack some snacks (and maybe some bear spray), and get ready for an adventure you won't forget!
Trail #4 - The Johnston Canyon
Hike Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Gain: 1,135 m (3,724 ft)
The Johnston Canyon Trail hike in Canada's first national park is an absolute hoot! It's like a nature walk on the next level, with more waterfalls and scenic views than you can shake a stick at. It's the perfect place to channel your inner adventurer and capture some epic selfies to show off to your friends.
The trail starts at the Johnston Canyon Lodge, where you can fill up on caffeine to give you that extra boost of energy you'll need to make it through the day hikes. But be warned - you might need to make a pit stop or two along the way, so bring some TP just in case.
As you make your way through the forest, keep your eyes peeled for some of the local wildlife. You might spot a curious squirrel or even a majestic elk. But don't get too close - those antlers can pack a serious punch.
Once you reach the canyon, the real fun begins. You'll feel like you're in an action movie as you navigate the narrow paths and sturdy bridges, dodging the spray from the waterfalls as you go. Just make sure you don't slip and fall - you don't want to end up in the drink!
The Lower Falls are a natural highlight of the trail, and you'll definitely want to stop and snap some pics. Strike your best pose and watch as the mist from the waterfall gives you a natural filter that would make Instagram jealous.
Are you ready to push yourself to the limit? If so, keep trekking towards the Upper Falls, but don't say I didn't warn you. This trail is not for the faint of heart, so make sure you've got your big kid pants on before hiking toward Upper Falls.
The view from the top is absolutely insane though, so it's worth the effort. Just be prepared for your legs to feel like they've been put through a blender by the time you're done.
Overall, the Johnston Canyon hike is a blast and a half. Just remember to pack some snacks, water, and maybe some trail mix for those moments when you need a little extra fuel. And don't forget the TP - nature calls, even when you're on an adventure!
Trail #5 - The Sulphur Mountain
Hike Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 2,451 m (8,041 ft)
Alright, hold on to your hats (and maybe your pants), because we're about to talk about the Sulphur Mountain Trail! This hike will take you up, up, and away, so be prepared for some breathtaking views and a little bit of sweat. And if you're lucky, you might even see some wildlife along the way - just try not to mistake a rock for a grizzly bear, unless you want to be the next viral video on YouTube.
But don't worry, the views are worth the effort. You'll feel like you're on top of the world (or at least on top of hikes in Banff National Park anyway) when you reach the summit. And if you're feeling really adventurous, you can take the gondola down instead of hiking back down. Just make sure you don't drop your camera on the way - the photos from the top are sure to make all your friends jealous.
As you approach the location of the Sulphur Mountain Hot Springs, you may notice a distinct aroma reminiscent of rotten eggs. But don't let that discourage you from taking a dip in the toasty waters this summer. You'll be able to see bow river valley from the top as well as trans-Canada highway 1. Not to mention how surprisingly small Banff town is from up there! Just make sure to keep track of time, or you might end up turning into a prune.
Trail #6 - The Cascade Amphitheatre
Hike Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 2,058 m (6,752 ft)
Picture this: the Cascade Amphitheatre is like a pint-sized version of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, minus the oompa loompas and everlasting gobstoppers. Instead of chocolate rivers, you'll be greeted with streams cascading down the rocky mountains, creating a natural wonderland that'll have you questioning whether you're in the real world or a scene from Avatar. The trail to reach this natural spectacle begins at the parking lot near the Mt. Norquay Ski Resort, where you'll embark on a journey through dense forests and lush greenery.
Don't forget to bring your tree-hugging gloves because, with so many trees around, it's the perfect place to get in touch with your inner arborist.
Get ready for a view that will make your jaw drop harder than a cartoon anvil. The trail to Cascade Amphitheatre leads up to a view that'll make you feel like you're on top of the world. You'll be treated to an Instagram-worthy sight of the surrounding mountain peaks, with Cascade Mountain, Mount Aylmer, and the Banff skyline serving as the perfect backdrop for your next profile picture. You'll be tempted to stay forever and just soak in the view, but unfortunately, there's no room service up here, so you'll have to go back down eventually.
Are you feeling like a real-life Indiana Jones? Well, get ready to channel your inner adventurer because the Rockbound Lake Trail is waiting for you. This trail is not for the faint of heart, as it requires some scrambling over rocks. But hey, who needs a gym membership when you can get a full-body workout while taking in some jaw-dropping views? The trail eventually leads to Rockbound Lake, a picture-perfect alpine lake nestled in a valley surrounded by towering mountains. It's the perfect place to take a dip and feel like a mermaid or merman, but watch out for the fishy locals who might judge your swimming skills. Overall, Cascade Amphitheatre is a must-visit for any hiker or nature enthusiast, and if you're feeling daring, make sure to take on the Rockbound Lake Trail for some extra bragging rights.
Trail #7 - The Cory Pass
Hike Difficulty: Difficult
Elevation Gain: 2,622 m (8,602 ft)
Cory Pass is like a gym for nature lovers - it's a workout that's both challenging and rewarding. The trail is about 8.7 kilometres long, which is like walking from your couch to the fridge and back 871 times! But instead of snacks, you get breathtaking views of towering mountains and turquoise lakes.
Starting at the Fireside Picnic Area, you'll hike through forests so dense that even the squirrels and visitors have to carry a flashlight. As you climb higher, you'll feel like a superhero ascending to new heights, with views of Mount Louis and the Three Sisters peaks that are better than any superhero movie.
The trail can get a bit tricky at the Cory Pass itself, which is like a tightrope walk between two rocky mountains. One misstep and you'll be experiencing a skydiving adventure you never signed up for. It's an exciting hike not for the faint-hearted, but it's totally worth it for the epic views.
At the top of the pass, you'll feel like you're on top of the world, or at least the town of Banff, National Park. Take a moment to soak in the views and snap some selfies - they'll make your social media followers totally jealous.
As you descend down the trail, you'll feel like you're in a different world, with vibrant wildflowers and cute critters like marmots and pikas to keep you company. It's like a Disney movie, but without the singing animals (although you can sing if you want, we won't judge).
Overall, the Cory Pass hike is like a rollercoaster ride, with ups and downs that'll leave you breathless (both from the hike and the views). It's an easy hike and a must-do for anyone who wants to experience the beauty and history of Banff National Park and burn off some calories at the same time. Just don't forget to bring some snacks for the hike back!
Trail #8 - The Sunshine Meadows
Hike Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 2,220 m (7,280 ft)
The Sunshine Meadows trail in Banff is like a stroll through a fairytale land, except instead of talking animals, you get to chat with friendly hikers and take in some of the most stunning alpine views the national parks of Canada region have to offer. This 8-kilometre hiking trail takes you through fields of wildflowers, past crystal-clear lakes, and up to elevations that will make you feel like you're on top of the world (or at least on top of the Canadian Rockies region).
The trail begins at the Sunshine Village Ski Resort, which is like a winter wonderland without the snow (or the annoying carolers). You'll take a gondola ride up to the trailhead, which is like a rollercoaster without the screaming (unless you're scared of heights, in which case there might be some screaming involved).
Once you arrive at the trailhead, you'll be met with a rush of excitement. The beauty that awaits you is beyond words. Picture this: a trail lined with the most vibrant wildflowers you've ever seen, bursting with shades of pink, purple, yellow, and white. It's like walking through a living bouquet, but instead of carrying it in your arms, you've got a trusty backpack on your back. Keep your eyes peeled, and you might even be lucky enough to spot some of the local wildlife. From mountain goats to bighorn sheep, and even some sly squirrels who have a talent for snatching trail mix when you're not looking.
Trail #9 - The Larch Valley
Hike Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 2,135 m (7,005 ft)
The Larch Valley trail is like nature's version of a Golden Corral buffet - everything is golden and delicious! It's a 5.5-kilometre round-trip trek that can be done in the fall when the larch trees turn into something that would make King Midas jealous. Yes, King Midas would be jealous of these larch trees. You'll feel like you're walking in a giant golden fantasy land, except there are no dragons or unicorns (we think).
The trailhead is located next to Moraine Lake, which is like a shopping mall during Black Friday, except everyone in town is trying to score a spot for their car instead of a deal. Make sure you arrive early or you'll have to take parker ridge trail two miles away (not really, but it feels like it since parker ridge trail is a bit further than starting at Moraine Lake but yeah starting at Helen lake from parker ridge is acceptable I guess).
By the way, starting in summer 2023 you won't be able to take your car to the Moraine Lake parking lot, if you want to get to Moraine Lake or parker ridge you'll need to take a park shuttle, the reason behind this change is due to the traffic made by the cars looking for parking at Moraine Lake. Hopefully, this can be a new chapter to the Moraine Lake experience.
The hike is rated as moderate to difficult, but don't worry, it's a relatively easy hike, not like running a marathon or climbing Mount Everest. There are some steep sections, but the views will take your breath away (or maybe it's the altitude, who knows). Make sure you take a selfie at the scenic overlook on this popular hike but don't fall off the cliff trying to get the perfect shot (not that we've ever done that).
As you continue hiking through paradise valley (paradise valley is such a fitting name), you'll feel like you're in a Bob Ross painting, with happy little trees all around you. You might even spot a bear or two hanging out in paradise valley, but don't worry, they're just there for the photo op. The Larch Valley itself is like a picnic paradise, with plenty of spots to relax and take in the scenery. Just watch out for the squirrels, they can be real thieves.
Overall, the Larch Valley trail is like nature's version of a Disney World ride - thrilling, colourful, and unforgettable. It's a must-do for anyone visiting Banff National Park in the fall, or for anyone who just wants to experience nature's version of a golden shower (okay, maybe that's taking it too far). Just remember to bring snacks and a sense of humour, and you'll have the time of your life!
Trail #10 - The Lake Minnewanka
Hike Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Gain: 1,536 m (5,039 ft)
The Lake Minnewanka trail is like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, but instead of turning to page 47 to find out if you got eaten by a dragon, you just keep walking and hope for the best. It's a 17-kilometre round-trip hike that will take you around the largest lake in Banff National Park. The trail offers breathtaking views of the lake, the surrounding mountains, and if you're lucky, a glimpse of the elusive Bigfoot (or a friendly moose).
The trailhead is located at the eastern side of the Lake Minnewanka parking lot, which is like a game of highway musical chairs, except with cars instead of chairs, and instead of music, everyone's honking at each other. Make sure you get there early, or you'll have to park in the next province over.
As you continue hiking, you'll feel like you're on an episode of National Geographic, except instead of being narrated by David Attenborough, you're narrating it yourself in your head. You might even spot a grizzly bear, but don't worry, they're just there to say hello and take a selfie with you (as long as you don't offer them your granola bar).
The Devil's Gap is like a natural version of a funhouse mirror, except instead of distorting your reflection, it distorts your sense of perspective. It's a narrow pass between two rocky mountains, that offers stunning views and a mild sense of vertigo. You'll feel like a goat, nimbly scrambling up and down the rocky terrain.
After passing through the Devil's Gap, the hiking trail then starts to descend towards the eastern end of the lake. You'll feel like you're in an Indiana Jones movie, except instead of a whip, you've got hiking poles, and instead of a treasure, you're searching for the perfect Insta shot.
You'll pass through town and by some historic buildings that the visitors that used to be part of a mining town that was flooded when the lake was dammed in the 1940s. It's like stepping back in time, except you're wearing your hiking gear and boots instead of penny loafers.
Once you reach the eastern end of the lake, you can either turn back or continue on to explore the area around the Stewart Canyon Bridge. The bridge offers great views of the canyon and the waterfalls that flow through it, making you feel like you're in a real-life version of Splash Mountain (minus the flume ride).
Overall, the Lake Minnewanka trail is like a nature-themed amusement park - exciting, exhilarating, and full of unexpected twists and turns. It's a must-do for anyone visiting Banff National Park, or anyone who wants to experience a rollercoaster ride without paying for a ticket. Just remember to bring your sense of humour, your best hiking boots, and maybe a spare granola bar for the grizzly bears.
So there you have it - the top 10 best hikes around the town of Banff, National Park. Whether you're an experienced hiker or a beginner, there's a trail on this list for you.
Tips for Hiking in Banff National Park
Yo, listen up fellow adventurers! Now that we've covered the top 10 trails for easy hikes and day hikes in Banff National Park, it's time to talk about some tips for hiking like a pro. Even if you're an amateur hiker, it's important to be prepared before hitting the trails.
Pack like a boss
Before you head out, make sure you have everything you need. Water? Check. Snacks? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Bug spray? Check. Oh, and don't forget your map, compass, and first-aid kit. We don't want you getting lost or injured out there!
Some hikes in Banff National Park have a gondola so prepare for that as well!
Dress like a boss
The winter weather in Banff can be cray-cray, so you gotta dress for success. Layers are key, people! Don't forget your waterproof jacket, sturdy hiking or snow boots, and shades to protect your eyes from the blazing sun. Hikes in Banff National Park require special attire sometimes.
Check trail conditions
Don't let the Canadian Rockies weather catch you off guard! It can be moodier than your ex after a bad breakup. So before you visit Banff National Park, make sure to check the trail conditions and weather forecast.
You don't want to end up in a downpour with nothing but a trash bag to cover yourself! So, pack wisely and be ready to face any surprises that the Canadian Rockies might throw at you.
Watch out for wild creatures
Banff National Park is home to some fierce beasts, like grizzly bears, black bears, mountain goats, and elk. So be on your guard and carry some bear spray, y'all. Please don't cheap out on bear spray.
Also, if you're feeling lonely out there, try making some noise on the trail. Animals love a good sing-along.
Don't be a jerk
Leave No Trace, folks! Don't litter, stay on designated trails, and respect other hikers and wildlife. And please, for the love of the Canadian Rockies, don't feed the animals. They have their own snacks.
Know your limits
Don't be a hero, know your limits. If you're a newbie, start with a relatively easy hike and work your way up. And if you're feeling tired or unwell during a hike in Banff National Park, it's okay to call it quits. We won't judge. Well, maybe a little bit. But we'll still love you.
Banff National Park is a hiker's paradise, with stunning scenery and trails for all skill levels. Whether you're looking for a challenging hike or a leisurely stroll through an alpine meadow, there's something for everyone in Banff. And while the trails and national parks themselves are serious business, it's important to remember to have fun and not take yourself too seriously.
Who knows, you might even encounter a giant bee or bigfoot along the way. Happy hiking and stay tuned for our top hikes in Jasper National Park!