Hiking in Banff National Park, Canada

Seeking outdoor adventure on your summer Canadian road trip? There’s hardly a better place to start your vacation than hiking in Banff National Park! Situated in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is among the most beautiful places to go in Alberta and one of the most popular outdoor destinations in Canada.

Although this Alberta mountain town is a superb place to visit all year round, Banff hits its stride in summer as its hiking season gets into full swing. The assortment of hiking trails in Banff National Park seems endless. You’ll find everything from hikes ranging from easy walks to glacial lakes like Lake Moraine or Peyto Lake to more moderate and advanced treks to vertiginous summits like Sulphur Mountain or The Big Beehive.

Looking to explore Alberta’s vast wilderness? Get your outdoor getaway started with this complete guide to the best hiking trails in Banff National Park, Alberta!

Top hiking trails in Banff National Park

Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots

Among the top places to visit in Banff, Johnston Canyon is as impressive a natural destination as any in Alberta. For hikers, the Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots Trail is a fantastic place to experience the canyon in its full glory.

Johnston Canyon

The Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots Trail is famous for its majestic waterfalls. As you power along the 11.7-kilometre return trip, you’ll slip by the canyon’s famous Lower Falls (1.2 km) and Upper Falls (2.7 km) before stumbling upon the Ink Pots.

Showing off the geological wonders of Banff and the Canadian Rockies, the Ink Pots are a series of five colourful hot springs set to a magnificent Rocky Mountain backdrop.

The road to the Johnston Canyon parking lot and trailhead is closed to public vehicles from May 1st to June 25th and September 1st to 30th.

  • Distance: 11.7 kilometres (return)
  • Time: 5 to 6 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

PRO TIP: Fuel up with a delicious lunch at the Blackswift Bistro, located at the base of the canyon on the Bow Valley Parkway.

Parker Ridge

Located along the world-renowned Icefields Parkway near the edge of Jasper National Park, the Parker Ridge Trail is one of the quickest hikes in Banff, rollin’ in at just 5 kilometres return. Don’t let the shorter distance fool you, though: This steep but relatively easy hike unleashes some of Banff’s most spellbinding alpine scenery!

Parker Ridge

When you finally reach Parker Ridge, you’ll witness the majestic Saskatchewan Glacier melting into a bright turquoise pool at the head of the Saskatchewan River.

One of the most popular times to climb along the Parker Ridge Trail is in the morning to catch a dramatic sunrise bathing the mountains in soft light.

  • Distance: 5.1 kilometres (return)
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Sulphur Mountain

One of the most accessible hikes on this list, the Sulphur Mountain Trail is a favourite for visitors and locals year-round. Snaking up to the summit of the namesake mountain, this 5.5-kilometre-long trail negotiates a series of switchbacks up through forests and alongside alpine scenery to a lofty attitude of 2,451 metres.

Sulphur Mountain

Reaching the summit of Sulphur Mountain, you’ll be treated to majestic views over the Bow Valley. On Sulphur Mountain, there’s also a handful of things to check out, including a restaurant, gift shop, weather station, and the Cosmic Ray Station, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

If you’re tired after the hike up Sulphur Mountain, you can ride the Banff Gondola back down to the base of the mountain. The downward trip on the gondola is free after 7 pm year-round.

  • Distance: 5.5 kilometres (one-way)
  • Time: 90 minutes to 3 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Tunnel Mountain

Even more accessible than Sulphur Mountain, the Tunnel Mountain Trail starts a short 15-minute walk from the centre of Banff Town. This easy 4.5-kilometre-return hiking trail moves up 266 metres along a series of gradual switchbacks. The Tunnel Mountain Trail leads to the summit of its namesake mountain, where you’ll get to enjoy incredible views over the town of Banff, the Bow Valley, Rundle Mountain, and the Vermillion Lakes.

Tunnel Mountain

As this day hike is relatively short and not overly steep, the Tunnel Mountain Trail is a great choice for less experienced hikers or families travelling to Banff with kids.

  • Distance: 4.3 kilometres (return)
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

Lake Agnes

Another relatively easy hike in Banff National Park, the Lake Agnes Trail scales up 466 metres towards the historic Lake Agnes Tea House. Built on the shores of Lake Agnes in 1901, this world-famous teahouse offers fantastic lakeside views and a relaxing refuge for hikers looking to rest their weary legs.

Lake Agnes

The Lake Agnes Trail starts near the legendary Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and climbs towards Mirror Lake. As you walk along the trail, you’ll get to enjoy incredible views over Lake Louise and towards the Nokhu Crags.

Looking for a more challenging hike in the area? Continue along the northern shores of Lake Agnes along The Big Beehive Trail. The trail ascends the Big Beehive mountain. The Big Beehive Trail is about 3.4 kilometres return from the teahouse and has 520 metres in elevation gain.

  • Distance: 7.4 kilometres (return)
  • Time: 2 to 3 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Plain of Six Glaciers

One of the most famous places to go hiking in Banff National Park and among the best hiking trails in Lake Louise, the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail offers some of the most breathtaking mountain views in the area. (And as you know, that’s not a small statement—at all!)

Plain of Six Glaciers

The Plain of Six Glaciers Trail is one of the top things to see in Lake Louise, famous for its views of the legendary Chateau Lake Louise hotel. Where the hike truly shines, however, is in witnessing the glacial icefields cascading from the mountainside into the crystalline waters of Lake Louise.

Keep in mind that this 14.6-kilometre-return hiking trail is often busy in the high of summer tourist season and is moderately difficult. Fortunately for hikers, there’s a teahouse about 1.5 kilometres short of the trail-end. It’s a great place to stop for a break.

  • Distance: 14.6 kilometres (return)
  • Time: 4 to 5 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Larch Valley & Sentinel Pass

If you visit Banff in autumn, don’t miss out on Larch Valley & Sentinel Pass. This moderately difficult hike starts at the Moraine Lake parking lot. The trail winds through a series of switchbacks and dense forest before settling down towards the beautiful Larch Valley.

Larch Valley

In September and November, the valley’s distinctive larch trees turn from green to bright yellow and orange to create a scene like none other in the Banff & Lake Louise area.

After reaching the end of the Larch Valley trail, it’s another 1.5 kilometres to Sentinel Pass. The Sentinel Pass Trail climbs about 180 metres in elevation through a series of switchbacks. The trail ends with spectacular views over Paradise Valley.

  • Distance: 10.9 kilometres (return)
  • Time: 3 to 5 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

The Big Beehive

From the Lake Agnes Tea House, walk along the northern and eastern lakeshore towards The Big Beehive Trail. Not to be confused with the easier Little Beehive Trail closer to the tea house, The Big Beehive Trail is a moderately challenging hiking trail. It negotiates a series of steep switchbacks towards the summit of its namesake mountain.

View from Big Beehive

When you reach the top of The Big Beehive, you’ll marvel at spectacular views over Lake Louise, including the legendary Fairmont Lake Louise Hotel. The “official” trail is 10.3 kilometres long, there and back from the hotel. The hike to the summit, however, is only 1.5 kilometres past the end of the Lake Agnes Trail. I’ll add only about an hour to the return trip.

  • Distance: 10.3 kilometres (return)
  • Time: 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Moraine Lake

Hands down, Moraine Lake is one of Canada’s most spectacular outdoor gems. Gaze upon this iconic glacial lake from every angle, with its ever-changing blue and green hues. What you’ll discover is nothing short of breathtaking!

The Rockpile Trail and The Lakeshore Trail are the two main hikes at Moraine Lake. They’re among the easiest Banff National Park hiking trails. The trails range from less than 1 kilometre to just 2.6 kilometres with relatively little elevation gain.

Moraine Lake

The biggest challenge to hiking at Moraine Lake is avoiding the crowds. In the height of Banff’s tourist season, you’ll need to arrive early in the morning to snag one of the very limited parking spots here. And, yes, we do mean very early. Like 5:30 am to 6:30 am early. (Apologies to all the night owls!)

Visiting in the fall shoulder season before Moraine Lake freezes for the winter and spring is a good compromise.

NOTE: As of 2023, the road to Moraine Lake is closed to private vehicles year-round. Park Canada shuttles, public transit, and commercial buses ply the road between June to mid-October. If you want to visit outside of these months, like in winter, the lake is accessible only via a (likely quite chilly) walk from Lake Louise.

PRO TIP: If you want to drive to the lake without public shuttles, book a night at the Moraine Lake Lodge. Guests of the hotel are able to use the old public road and parking lot!

  • Distance: 0.8 kilometres (Rockpile Trail) to 2.6 kilometres (Shoreline Trail)
  • Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy

Helen Lake

If you’ve got an Icefields Parkway itinerary in the works, set aside half a day for a hike to Helen Lake. This moderate to difficult hiking trail begins just south of Bow Lake across from the Crowfoot Glacier viewpoint. The trail is set along the famous Icefields Parkway about 38 kilometres north of Lake Louise.

Helen Lake

Once you’ve hobbled through the first few kilometres of heavily tree-rooted forest paths, the trail opens up to a lovely wide meadow. Soon, your efforts will be rewarded with incredible views of the Bow Valley. And the vistas get even better the closer you get to Helen Lake.

When you finally reach Helen Lake, add a little more pep to the hike with an extra scramble to the top of the ridge around the lake. From the lake, you can also continue your hike with a challenging scramble up Cirque Peak or a hike towards Dolomite Pass.

  • Distance: 12.6 kilometres (return)
  • Time: 3 to 4 hours
  • Difficult: Moderate to Difficult

Bourgeau Lake & Harvey Pass

One of the longer day hikes in Banff National Park, the trail to Bourgeau Lake & Harvey Pass won’t be for everyone. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for adventure and have a day to spare in Banff, this outdoor paradise makes for a wonderful addition to your itinerary.

The first part of the trek to Bourgeau Lake powers through about 7.5 kilometres of long switchbacks that carve through a lovely forest. On the journey, you’ll weave around and about Wolverine Creek. You’ll cross Wolverine Creek a few times before the trail opens and steepens for the final ascent to the lake.

Harvey Pass

You can end your hike at the emerald-hued Bourgeau Lake. If you’ve got some gas left in the tank, though, follow the rugged trail to Harvey Lake and Harvey Pass.

You’ll reach the lovely Harvey Lake two kilometres later. From here, it’s just half a kilometre to Harvey Pass, where you’ll enjoy stunning views over the Canadian Rockies, including Mount Assiniboine.

  • Distance: 20.4 kilometres (return)
  • Time: 6 to 8 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

Peyto Lake & Bow Summit

There’s one more dazzling lake to add to your Banff hiking wishlist: Peyto Lake. Perched perfectly at 1,800-metre elevation in the Waputik Valley, Peyto Lake is a blue-green wonder accessible via one of Banff’s most family-friendly trails.

Peyto Lake

Many first-time visitors stick to the short trek from the Bow Summit parking lot to the first Peyto Lake Viewpoint. There’s more to see just beyond, though. Less than half a kilometre up Bow Summit from the often-crowded wooden platform, you’ll find another viewpoint with even more spectacular views of Peyto Lake and the surrounding Rocky Mountains.

  • Distance: 2.7 kilometres (return)
  • Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy

When to go hiking in Banff

While you’re able to hike all year round, the best time of the year to go to Banff for hiking is between June and August. In the summer months, the weather is at its finest, with plenty of warm sunny days with blue skies.


The only drawback of travelling to Banff in summer is the crowds. With the destination’s immense popularity with local, national, and international visitors, the hiking trails around Banff National Park can become severely overcrowded at times during peak season.

If you don’t mind slightly cooler temperatures, the shoulder seasons of spring and fall are great alternatives. You’ll need to bundle up a little more for your hike, especially if you’re travelling to Banff in autumn. But you’ll be able to enjoy a little more serenity along with cheaper prices & better availability at the top hotels in Banff.

One thing to keep in mind when visiting Banff in spring, however, is that the glacial lakes—like Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and Peyto Lake—are still frozen, often into June.


Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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