Welcome back guys and gals! You might have read my blog about 10 Days in Western Canada, but for this post, I wanted to hone in and talk specifically about hiking in Banff. It’s such an amazing national park that I thought it deserved its own post! I am going to give you a rundown of the best hikes in Banff and why you can’t miss them when you’re in the Canadian Rockies.
What is Banff National Park and When To Go
Banff is a national park in Western Canada located in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. It covers over 6,600 square kilometers and is home to dazzling ice fields, ancient glaciers, and dense forests. There are so many stunning views, both from the side of the highway and from almost every hike.
The best time to visit Banff National Park for hiking would be in the summer months. There are undoubtedly more crowds in summer due to the weather, but some of the more challenging trails aren’t too crowded. You can also hike in the winter, but extra gear, safety training, and trail knowledge are required.
Easy Hiking Trails in Banff
Let’s get the blood flowing with some of the easy day hikes in Banff. These hikes are good for all ages and fitness levels and offer some amazing views with minimal effort. Win-win!
One of the can’t-miss easy hikes is Johnston Canyon. Johnston Canyon is a popular hike in Banff, so make sure to get there early if you want to avoid at least some of the crowds. It is about a 3-mile hike round trip and I would recommend planning about 2 hours to enjoy this hike. This hike is so popular because the longer part of it will take you back to the Ink Pots. The Ink Pots are beautiful pools of water that are blue, green, yellow, and turquoise in color.
If you’re checking out this trail, you’ll definitely want to make it back to the Ink Pots. The good news is, there aren’t any uphills to get there and there are stunning canyon views throughout the hike. The whole hike is about 7.5 miles of easy walking. I would allow a maximum of 4 hours for this hike if you want to take your time.
A short hike, but goodie, is the Moraine Lake Trail. It’s only about a mile but will take you to a gorgeous alpine lake that is turquoise in color. This one gets pretty crowded because of its length and proximity to Lake Louise, but it’s worth the view of the lake. It will probably take you under an hour so you might as well check it out if you are in the area.
Lake Agnes is another one that’s good for all ages. There is a gradual uphill climb, but nothing too strenuous. The bonus is that at the end of the hike is Lake Agnes Tea House where you can get some coffee, tea, and snacks and enjoy the view of the lake. (Tip: The Tea House is cash only). This hike is about 5-miles and I would recommend allowing 3 hours to relax and enjoy the area.
Also in the immediate area is Little and Big Beehive hikes. Big Beehive is a short half-a-mile hike from the tea house to the top of the mountain. It’s short but steep! Little Beehive is also short and uphill, but not as steep. If you’re there, you might as well check out these two hikes within a hike.
Moderate Hiking Trails in Banff
Close to Lake Agnes is The Plain of Six Glaciers Trail. The Plain of Six Glaciers trail is one of the most beautiful in the park, with stunning views of massive glaciers and jagged mountain peaks throughout. It’s about 9-miles in length, but it’s not too difficult.
On your way down you can stop by Abbott’s Pass for some more breathtaking views. I would allow for 5-6 hours for this hike so you don’t feel rushed. I would also recommend getting out early to avoid the crowds.
My favorite hike is Lake Minnewanka, which is a full day hike totaling about 10-miles. The hike itself isn’t difficult, it’s just a long hike. For the most part, you are walking along the lake. There is a lot of wildlife to see, including bears. For this hike, it’s recommended to have 4 or more people and carry bear spray, just in case. This hike is not very strenuous and very enjoyable.
More Challenging Hiking Trails in Banff
The hiking trails in this section are a little bit more difficult. I recommend a higher fitness level and to consider the ages of the group for an enjoyable completion as they tend to be longer.
Helen Lake is about an 8-mile hike, round trip. You do have an elevation gain of about 2,000 feet, which is noticeable. I wouldn’t say this hike is incredibly hard, just long. I would recommend 5 hours if you’re not in a rush. You can also climb Cirque Peak while you’re out there for some amazing views of the turquoise lakes. I recommend starting this hike early as well, but the length protects it from the crowds.
Sulphur Mountain is an awesome hike. I absolutely loved this one because of the challenge of ascending so steeply at the top. Sulphur Mountain has a gondola that goes to the top, which is great if you have some people in your group that don’t want to hike the strenuous switchbacks. Once at the top, you have the views of the entire valley and you are overlooking the town of Banff, which puts the area into perspective.
For some other harder hikes, check out Larch Valley. You can get to Sentinel Pass via Larch Valley Trail and the views are stunning. The trail is well-maintained throughout the entire hike and opens up to the panoramic views of the valley once you’re above the tree line. This hike is on the longer side; it’s about 7 miles and I would recommend planning for at least 4-5 hours if you’re not in a rush. There is an elevation gain on this one of 2,500 feet so keep that in mind!
You can also take Larch Valley Trail to Eiffel Lake which is also a beautiful hike to Eiffel Lake. This hike is about 7-miles as well. These higher elevation hikes can be quite snowy, even into the summer, so just be prepared to hike over some snowy patches or turn around if the snow gets too deep or uncomfortable.
Banff National Park has some of Western Canada’s most breathtaking hikes and stunning views from the peaks of the Rocky Mountains. I highly recommend exploring any of these hikes just to get the full experience of the park. The good news is, you don’t have to do any hard hiking to see some amazing views.