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10 Best Hikes in Banff National Park: Top Trails You Can’t Miss

When you think of Canada, you’re immediately drawn to the great outdoors.

Canada is blessed with some of the best natural wonders, many of which can be seen in screensavers and postcards.

These amazing wonders include Jasper National Park, Yoho National Park, Glacier National Park, and Banff National Park — all located within a few hour’s drive from each other.

Mother nature is full of sights and sounds to be explored and enjoyed.

However, when it comes to picturesque destinations, Banff National Park takes the cake, and exploring it will be the focus of this guide.

One of the best ways to experience a great national park is through hiking, where you can fully immerse yourself in nature and appreciate the beauty at your own pace.

While hiking in Banff, you’ll trek across beautiful landscapes surrounded by the Canadian Rockies and the bluest alpine lakes.

Truly, it is one of the best ways to discover the area and experience the great outdoors in their gorgeous nature reserve.

This guide includes a mix of casual nature walks to difficult hikes that should only be attempted if you’re fit and well prepared.

Below are a few of the best hikes in Banff National Park you must visit.

ONE

Plain of Six Glaciers Trail

– Image Credit: Flickr

Nothing worth having comes easy, this is true of the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail.

It’s rated as a difficult hike but the views are definitely worth it!

This trail is one of the simplest to find and takes you through varying scenery, including views of a breathtaking valley right by Lake Louise.

After traversing about 5.3 km (3.3 mi), you will arrive at a tea house that overlooks all six of the striking glaciers that this trail gets its name from.

The trail is very well maintained, but be sure to wear proper hiking shoes as it can get quite steep in some areas.

Start your hike at the Fairmont Château Lake Louise and follow the shore to the valley.

About the Trail

Trail Difficulty

Hard

Trail Length

10.6 km (6.6 mi) round trip

Elevation Gain

591 m

Pet-Friendly

  • Allowed On Leash
TWO

Trails at Lake Agnes

– Lake Agnes, Banff

The Lake Agnes Tea House hike is an out-and-back trail and if you’re looking for a peaceful hike, look elsewhere as this one is pretty popular.

Your trek will be about 7.6 km (4.7 mi) round trip and takes about 1.5 hours one-way.

The trail is a moderate hike and most of the trip is uphill.

The reward is well worth it though! You can rest and catch your breath at the quaint tea house perched at the top.

Keep in mind, Lake Agnes Tea House operates seasonally and is generally open for business from June to October.

lake agnes tea house

– Image Credit: Flickr

Other sites to see nearby are the two Beehive trails.

The Little Beehive is approximately a 1 km (.62 mi) route of moderate, uphill hiking.

It has lookouts overseeing Lake Louise and Bow Valley, the Big Beehive, and Mirror Lake.

The hike to the Big Beehive is a strenuous difficult hike at about 1.6 km (1 mi) in length and you’ll be rewarded with striking views along the way.

About the Trail

Trail Difficulty

Moderate

Trail Length

7.6 km (4.7 mi) round trip

Elevation Gain

424 m

Pet-Friendly

  • Allowed On Leash
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THREE

Moraine Lake Shoreline & Rockpile Trail

– Viewpoint at Moraine Lake

One of the easy Banff hiking trails and only taking 50 minutes round trip, nearly anyone can do the 3 km (1.9 mi) shoreline hike.

One of the best bang for your energy hikes, requiring little investment and offers many different views of the stunning Lake Moraine.

Because of the easy factor, it tends to get busy really fast so try to make it to the lake early to beat the crowds.

You can also hike up the Rockpile Trail loop (0.8 km / 0.5 mi) for a different look at the lake.

About the Trail

Trail Difficulty

Easy

Trail Length

Shoreline Trail: 3 km (1.9 mi) round trip

Rockpile Trail: 0.8 km (0.5 mi) round trip

Elevation Gain

Minimal

Pet-Friendly

  • Allowed On Leash
FOUR

Sentinel Pass via Larch Valley Trail

– Image Credit: Flickr

The Larch Valley Trail is a difficult hike that starts out with some steep switchbacks, but once you make it out of the forest you’ll have a dazzling 360-degree view of the mountains.

This out-and-back trail is 10.9 km (6.8 mi) long and takes about 4 hours to complete — plenty of time to see the beautiful backcountry and admire the Valley of the Ten Peaks that overlook Moraine Lake.

Be prepared for snow in the last stretch of the hike, even in the summer months.

You can visit the surreal Paradise Valley and Grand Sentinel, where the needles of the Larch trees turn to dazzling gold in autumn.

Read the Parks Canada seasonal restrictions because this journey requires a minimum of four hikers per group during certain seasons.

About the Trail

Trail Difficulty

Hard

Trail Length

10.9 km (6.8 mi) round trip

Elevation Gain

792 m

Pet-Friendly

  • Allowed On Leash
FIVE

Johnston Canyon Hike & the Ink Pots

– Image Credit: Flickr

Lower Falls & Upper Falls Hike

One of the best easy hikes in Banff, this trail is only 5 km (3.1 mi) long round trip from the parking area and will take you an hour to get to the Upper Falls.

If you’re only planning to hike to the Lower Falls, it only takes about 30 minutes.

Reaching the Lower Falls is a considerably easy hike by the river and the Upper Falls is well-maintained with several viewpoints.

If you continue hiking past the Upper Falls, you’ll get to the Ink Pots.

About the Trail

Trail Difficulty

Easy

Trail Length

5 km (3.1 mi) round trip

Elevation Gain

120 m

Pet-Friendly

  • Allowed On Leash
Johnston Canyon Ink Pots

– Image Credit: Flickr

Ink Pots Hike

The moderate-difficulty hike to the Ink Pots takes about 4 hours round trip from the Johnston Canyon trailhead.

Even though it is harder compared to the Lower and Upper Falls hike, it’s far less congested and possibly the best part of the Johnston Canyon Trail.

The Pots are located just over a forested ridge that opens up into a meadow, surrounded by the picturesque Canadian Rockies.

About the Trail

Trail Difficulty

Moderate

Trail Length

11.4 km (7 mi) round trip

Elevation Gain

330 m

Pet-Friendly

  • Allowed On Leash
SIX

Sulphur Mountain Trail

– Sulphur Mountain Viewpoint

The Sulphur Mountain Trail runs along the Banff Gondola and ends at Sanson Peak.

It’s a moderate hike and takes 4 hours round trip through never-ending incline and switchbacks.

The view from the gondola ride is undoubtedly spectacular, but hiking up Sulphur Mountain is a great way to get some exercise and save some money.

If you’re short on time, you can always take the gondola back down the mountain, cutting the hike down to 2 hours.

Once you make it to where to gondola ends, spend some time at the observation deck and grab a bite at the restaurant, Sky Bistro.

If you hike that extra half kilometer to Sanson Peak, be prepared for snow!

About the Trail

Trail Difficulty

Moderate

Trail Length

6 km (3.7 mi) one way

Elevation Gain

655 m

Pet-Friendly

  • Allowed On Leash(not on gondola)
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SEVEN

Cory Pass Loop

– Image Credit: Flickr

Cory Pass is a difficult 13 km (8 mi) loop and is one of the top hikes in Banff, taking approximately 6 hours to complete.

You’ll need a lot of leg strength and determination to reach one of the most rewarding scenes in Banff.

The trail is well maintained with a nice variety of terrain, but be warned it gets quite steep!

Stop for a picnic and admire Mount Louis in the backdrop.

Once you’re ready to leave, the hike back down the other side of the incline is much less stressful.

About the Trail

Trail Difficulty

Hard

Trail Length

13 km (8 mi) round trip

Elevation Gain

915 m

Pet-Friendly

  • Allowed On Leash
EIGHT

Cascade Amphitheatre Trail

– Image Credit: Flickr

Sitting just north of Banff is the popular Cascade Amphitheatre hike.

The trail starts off at a leisurely pace but increases in difficulty as you climb.

Unfortunately, there’s not much of a view until you reach the top, which can make the trek a bit long.

When you emerge from the forested zigzagging trail, you’ll be greeted with amazing views of the wildflower meadow and limestone cliffs.

If you’re equipped with the proper gear, you can continue up to the summit of Cascade Mountain.

About the Trail

Trail Difficulty

Hard

Trail Length

15.4 km (9.6 mi) round trip

Elevation Gain

640 m

Pet-Friendly

  • Allowed On Leash
NINE

Two Jack Lake Loop

– Image Credit: Flickr

Located next to the famous Lake Minnewanka is the lesser know Two Jack Lake, and is equally as beautiful.

If you want to get some fresh mountain air and stretch your legs, this is the perfect hike trail for you since not much effort is needed.

When it comes to Banff hikes this is one of the easiest as it’s more of a stroll than an actual trek.

The lake is gorgeous and great for taking a dip to cool off — the perfect location for a family day trip.

During the winter, the lake freezes over and makes it an ideal spot for skating!

If you’re in it for the perfect snap, try to come by in the early morning hours — the lake is blanketed by a dreamy layer of fog!

About the Trail

Trail Difficulty

Easy

Trail Length

6.4 km (4 mi) round trip

Elevation Gain

180 m

Pet-Friendly

  • Allowed On Leash
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TEN

Bourgeau Lake & Harvey Pass

– Image Credit: Flickr

The hike to Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass is a difficult hike, approximately 19.4 km (12 mi) in length and takes about 7 hours to complete.

It has a steep incline through spruce and pine trees, transforming into meadows lining the shores of Bourgeau Lake.

From the lake, hike another 2.2 km (1.4 mi) to get to Harvey Pass and you’ll be rewarded with dramatic views of Mount Assiniboine.

About the Trail

Trail Difficulty

Hard

Trail Length

19.4 km (12 mi) round trip

Elevation Gain

1020 m

Pet-Friendly

  • Allowed On Leash

Conclusion

It’s no surprise that one of the greatest national parks in the world is home to some of the world’s best hiking trails.

If you’ve never been here, your visit to Banff National Park is overdue!

With a mix-up of trail difficulties ranging from challenging to breezy, there is something for everyone.

Doesn’t matter if you’re a total newbie or an avid hiker, Banff offers endless scenic landscapes that can inspire everyone, even you!

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