The Banff National Park is one of the oldest national parks of Canada. Established in 1885, it is cradled in the Rocky Mountains. It is about 110-180 kilometers west of Calgary in the province of Alberta. The park encompasses a 6,641 square kilometers of mountain terrain. It is dotted with glaciers and ice fields, dense coniferous forest, and alpine landscapes.
Hiking in the Banff National Park is every traveler’s dream adventure. The ethereal pastels of the atmosphere around there of the glacial lakes, evergreen forests, diverse wildlife, and the Canadian Rockies, are bound to take your breath away. The beauty of the wilderness has attracted tourists from all over the world. The bird’s eye viewpoints of the park open up the mesmerizing landscape of untouched beauty. The best way to experience the true essence of the park is to take the hiking trails.
Hiking Trails in and around Banff National Park:
Johnston Canyon Trail: This most popular trail is among the easier ones in the national park. It stretches from 2.7 to 5.8 kilometers taking up about 2 to 4 hours. The out and back trail is dotted with tons of waterfalls and Ink Pots line the ending of the trail, creating an out worldly scene.
The attractions on this trail are numerous, waterfalls meeting narrow stone gorges and the raging turquoise river following it, is one of the many mesmerizing views of the Cliffside trail. This unique trail consists of a series of hanging metal bridges that avail you a better view of the canyon. The hike is popular among the solo hikers, couples and families alike.
You can take either of the two popular routes. The shorter route will take you right up to the Lower Falls and the longer route will extend all the way through the Upper Falls leading to the colorful Ink Pots of the natural pools of the park.
There is a designated Johnston Canyon parking lot from where you can simply follow the signs past the shops towards the entrance of the trail. The trail is extremely popular and is often crowded, starting the hike early will get you some much-required solitude to enjoy the surroundings and get you more time to relax.
Moraine Lake Trail: This trail is also another easy one comprising of only 1.6 kilometers that takes about 30 to 45 minutes to cover. Another out and back trail, the highlight is the view of Moraine Lake from various points. The turquoise water with the snowy mountain peaks bordering it, mark one of the iconic views of the famous park.
The best short hike in the National Park is famous for its various picturesque views. Moraine Lake is close to the famed Lake Louise and has other trails around the water-body to hike. It is a convenient one-day trip and the trail is well-connected to other routes which can be added to the hike for the enthusiasts. Early hikes are recommended to avoid too much crowd, especially during summer and spring.
You can reach Lake Louise from the main road by following the signs to Moraine Lake. Once you park in the lot, you can start hiking to the rock-pile.
Hoodoos Hiking Trail: This trail covers 3 to 4.6 kilometers. Also, an out and back trail, it takes about 1.5 to 3 hours to cover the entirety of the hike. The Bow alley and the strange hoodoo rock formations are the highlights of the route.
The Hoodoo rock formation is unique to the park. The viewpoint availed by the rock formations is magical. Being close to the town, the trail is extremely popular. The visuals of the Bow Valley are by no means paralleled to that of any other views offered by the Banff National Park. The Surprise Corner is one of the most beautiful viewpoints of the park and it avails the hikers a stunning bird’s eye view of the expansion of the park.
The view of the Rocky Mountains, the Bow River flowing and the evergreen forests surrounding the whole scene gives the trail its majestic aura that has been attractive to tourists all over the world.
Two Jack Lake: The lakeside trail takes about 30 to 60 minutes. The short trail is one of the most beautiful and underrated one in the national park. The peaceful glistening ribbon of the trail is located just off the main Trans-Canada Highway. It was lined with hiking trails moving away from the main route around the perimeter of it.
The astounding Mount Rundle forms the backdrop of the view, with a few other rocky peaks in the distance. The glassy waters of the lake reflect the surroundings perfectly. It is an easy morning hike. You can camp in the Two Jack Lakeside campground and enjoy the essence of what nature has to offer.
The epic sunsets and impeccable scope for stargazing are chief attractions for the tourists. During fall and winter, you can catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis above the trees on clear nights.
Lake Agnes: The 7 kilometers out and the back trail takes about 2 to 3 hours to cover. The highlight of this easy trail is the mesmerizing little alpine lake and a teahouse that comes with an outstanding view.
Having tea and delicious cookies, while enjoying the view of the secluded glacier lake, is an experience of a lifetime for hikers. The trail is right next to Lake Louise is a fairly short hike. It has amazing view of the lake and an almost flat uphill climb that is suited for all levels of hikers. This trail is also extremely popular among the tourists, so heading up there as early as possible is recommended to get the best of the place.
The alpine tea house is situated at the end of the trail where you can relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the place. To get to the trail, you could park in the Lake Louise parking lot before passing through the front of the Chateau Lake Louise. You could walk around the right side of the lake and find the trailhead on the edge of the forest. Summer is the peak season for the tourists to visit here, so be cautious of the time when you are booking your trip.
Cascade Amphitheatre: Among the moderate hikes of the Banff National Park, Cascade Amphitheatre is about 12.4 kilometers and it takes about 3.5 to 6 hours to cover it completely. The highlight of the out and back trail has to be the amazing views of the Rockies.
The place is popular among the tourists in the winter months when they can come and ski there. But summer months are also popular among the hikers. With its unique rock formations and views, the appeal of the trail is pretty popular among the tourists. The challenging trails can prove difficult for the beginners, but the stunning view makes up for it.
The rocky surroundings of the forest trail with the bubbling streams accompanying the hikers add to the adventurous elements of the route. The tranquillity of the woods is a calming effect on the city-dwellers. the Amphitheatre is in itself a green valley that is surrounded by the towering Canadian Rocky Mountains which actually give it a natural amphitheater structure.
To get to the trail, you can follow the Trans-Canada highway to Mount Norquay Skit Resort. You can avail parking there and walk to the trailhead a few meters ahead.
Chephren Lake Hiking Trail: The distance covered on the out and back trail is about 7.9 kilometers which take 3 to 5 hours. The highlight of the trail has to be the picturesque lake view.
The tranquillity and seclusion of the trail attract the hikers who seek closer to nature hike to experience all that the park has to offer. This lesser-known hike right beside the Icefields Parkway in Banff is set amidst the beautiful forest and winding paths that lead to an incredible view of the mountains at the background of the teal alpine lake.
This hike is especially popular among photographers all around the world as the stark mountains and the teal blue lake provides a contrasting mesmerizing frame. The downside of the hike is that the trail can be a little unkempt due to its lack of hikers on it.
To get to the trailhead, you can take the Trans-Canada highway for Waterfowl Lakes Campground and turn to the dead-end within the campsite. You can add Cirque Lake to your route for a full day hike to two picturesque lakes.
Plain of Six Glaciers: This hike is of 15.1 kilometers and takes about 4 to 6 hours to cover. The attraction of the trail has to be the Plain of Six Glaciers tea house and Abbot Pass, both of which avail mesmerizing views of the landscape surrounding it.
It is one of the most popular trails among the hikers and is compared to Lake Agnes trail for its beauty. The rocky landscape with winding paths takes the hikers from the shores of Lake Louise to the deep flora and fauna of the Rocky Mountains. If you have limited time for hiking, we suggest this trail to make the best out of your experience of the park.
Towering glaciers, craggy mountain peaks, and mountain pass through the wilderness add to the charm of the place. The tea house serves hot beverages with a spectacular view from its seating area.
You can park in the Lake Louise parking lot and pass the Chateau Lake Louise to reach the trailhead. The breath-taking views in the deep forest of the trail are a much-required respite for the hikers.
Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass: The trail is of 20.4 kilometers which take about 6.5 to 9 hours to cover. This spectacular trail covers a little of everything and the views are just a picturesque with the characteristic mountain and lake overview.
It is definitely a challenging one, but the day hike brings to the hikers the best of all things that the park has to offer. Tranquil lakes, panoramic views of alpine tree and green forest dot the trail at a few meters’ distances. Though it is quite a hike, for the true adventurous spirit, this long trail is most definitely worthwhile.
The possibility of spotting wildlife on this trail is also extremely high. You get the views of both Bourgeau and Harvey Lake and the option of climbing Mount Bourgeau. You can park in the lot of Bourgeau Lake off the Trans-Canada Highway and then follow the signs to the beginning point of the route.
Healy Pass: It is a 19-kilometer loop trail which takes about 5 to 7 hours to cover. The attraction is the spectacular view of the National Park.
The calm and quiet forest with rolling hills of alpine trees and cold creeks are breath-taking. The Egypt Lake nearby also adds to the popularity of the trail. The gradual incline of the trail is accessible for all hikers, so the distance plays a role in making the trek a difficult one.
The trail is mostly covered with trees but once you cross it to the rocky peak area, the stunning view is bound to inspire awe.
To reach the trailhead, you can follow the signs to Sunshine Village from the Trans-Canada Highway and take the marked pathway near the building.
The trails listed here range from easy to moderate, thus, suited for beginners and hikers with family or tourists on a short time constraint. The views afforded by these trails are by no means any less than the difficult trails. While the difficult ones will take you higher up in the mountains and avail bird’s eye view of the whole lake, the moderate ones compile the attractions of the lakes and mountain views into one. Some of the best, though difficult trails are listed below for more enthusiastic explorers.
• Helen Lake and Cirque Peak Trail
• Aylmer Lookout via Lake Minnewanka
• Cascade Mountain Trail
• Mount Rundle Trail
Essentials for Hiking in Banff National Park:
The number of tourists has increased in the park in the last couple of years. As the park can accommodate both the beginners out for an adventure and the experienced hiker looking for spectacular views, the popularity of the park has skyrocketed. While planning a hike in the park, it is wise to be conscious of the extreme conditions, risks, and challenges that you can face in the alpine national park.
• You can hike in Banff all year round, though the best time is from spring to fall.
• As part of the extreme conditions that Banff faces, the trails can be icy all year round, even in summer. Hence, it is advised that you visit prepared.
• Wildlife spotting is also a phenomenon that occurs all year round in the park.
• Despite what you believe, Banff is not that secluded from the rest of the world, there is, in fact, a posh little town in the middle if the park where you can find anything, and everything required for the hike. You can also get cell service in parts of the park, however, the situation in the mountains is risky and storing your data offline and carrying all essentials with you is recommended.
Do I need hiking boots for Banff?
Ideally, you need hiking boots for every hike for the special grips that they provide. Through the waterproof texture of the shoes, your feet are protected and you are provided with a comfortable footing that is useful for both purposes of safety and ease. As Banff National Park has its share of some steep hikes as well as moderate and easy ones, you are advised to bring your hiking boots along to enjoy the panoramic views from the trails and peaks.
What hikes are in Banff?
There are numerous hiking trails in Banff. Among them Johnston Canyon Trail, Moraine Lake Trail, Hoodoos Hiking Trail, Two Jack Lake Trail, Lake Agnes Trail, Cascade Amphitheatre Trail, Chephren Lake Hiking Trail, Plain of Six Glaciers Trail, Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass, and Healy Pass are exceptional for their views and the path leading up to the peaks and viewpoints.
How long do you need in Banff National Park?
Each trail takes average 5 hours to cover with both shorter trails that take as little as half an hour to 60 minutes to trails that take 9 hours to complete. Depending on how much time you have at hand, you can opt for multiple trails and explore the beauty the landscape and acquaint yourself with nature better. In case you do not have much time in your hand, you can opt for the shorter routes and experience the charm of Banff in a compact manner.
Is Jasper or Banff better?
Both the parks have natural beauty and plenty of wildlife and are only different in the area they cover. Jasper is larger than Banff despite being less popular than Banff. As Banff observes more tourists throughout the year, it is more accommodating to the requirements of the visitors. Banff is easier to reach though Jasper has rail route. If you are looking to ski your weekend away, Banff is definitely the place to be as it has ideal locale for skiing. Jasper has the drawback of closing down half the attractions in winter while Banff stays fully operational throughout. Due to all the perks Banff provides, it is somewhat more crowded than Jasper. Being close to Calgary, Banff is your perfect getaway destination when you are craving for some peace and quiet. With that being said, neither is superior to the other, in fact, one makes up for what the other lacks between Jasper and Banff, and if you can make time, you are recommended to put both on your itinerary.
What is the best time to go to Banff?
The park is open throughout the year and you can experience the different weathers there in their beauty. But to experience the maximum of the attractions that Banff has to offer, the best time to visit would be between Spring to Fall.
Is it good to go to Banff in October? Can you hike in Banff in October?
You can visit Banff in October. Some of the trails freeze over in October and some of the trails are icy throughout the year. If you visit Banff in October, you should go in prepared for the harsh cold, but hiking is most definitely doable in October.
Can you walk around Lake Louise?
Yes, you can. The flat trail is perfect for strolls as you take in the view of the lake surrounded by mountains and see the sky reflected in the lake. The walk is famous among the tourists for its mesmerizing views.