Located in the heart of the magnificent Canadian Rockies, Banff is home to every type of alpine wonder you can imagine – towering mountain peaks, shimmering alpine lakes, gushing waterfalls, massive glaciers, diverse wildlife, and some of the best views you’ll ever see. With a seemingly never-ending list of incredible hikes in Banff of all difficulty levels, deciding which to do can be overwhelming! In this article, we’ve rounded up 16 of the best hikes in Banff National Park, including a few can’t-miss trails in Banff’s neighbor, Yoho National Park. The list starts with easy hikes in Banff, with trail difficulty getting progressively more challenging throughout the article.

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About Banff National Park

Established in 1885, Banff National Park is Canada’s first national park and remains the most visited to this day. Banff National Park is located in Alberta, Canada, about 2 hours from Calgary and just minutes from Canmore. The small town of Banff is located inside the park, and is another popular home base for exploring the area.

Spanning over 6,600 square kilometers, Banff National Park is home to some of the most stunning sections of the Canadian Rockies. Beautiful alpine lakes, teal rivers, snow-capped mountains, and expansive glaciers punctuate the scenery in Banff and make for jaw-dropping views and an impressive list of incredible hikes.

Entrance to Banff National Park costs $10.50 per person per day. Unlike in the United States, entrance fees are paid per person, rather than per vehicle. Alternatively, you can purchase a Parks Canada Discovery Pass for $72.25 per person, which grants you access to all Canadian National Parks for one year.

View of Mount Victoria from the Big Beehive, one of the best hikes in Banff

About Yoho National Park

Yoho National Park is Banff’s lesser well-known neighbor, offering plenty of awesome hikes and similar scenery. Because the parks are so close together, we’ve included a few hikes from Yoho on this list. The term “Yoho” comes from the Cree word for amazement or awe, a fitting description for one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been. 

Combined with Banff National Park to the east, Kootenay National Park to the south, and Jasper National Park to the north, Yoho is part of the larger Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site, a bucket list area for any mountain lover!

Always remember to leave no trace!

Please do your part to help preserve the beautiful landscapes and fragile ecosystems found in Idaho for generations to come. A few key things to remember include:

  • Always stay on the trail. Going off-trail damages the plants and accelerates erosion.
  • Store your food properly – this is bear country! Never leave food unattended and avoid leaving behind crumbs or food waste.
  • Additionally, never feed the animals, no matter how cute… this includes squirrels, marmots, pikas, chipmunks etc. You may think you’re doing them a favor, but human food is dangerous for wild animals and can shorten their lifespan.
  • Pack out all trash and waste. Be respectful of the area and others. Don’t leave behind your food or trash.
  • Be considerate of others. That means keeping your dog on leash and your noise levels low.
  • Be prepared and do your research. Some of the hikes on this list are quite challenging. Know what you’re getting into and don’t attempt a hike you aren’t prepared. Remember that most areas don’t have cell service, so you are responsible for your own safety.

Remember to Leave No Trace. Pack out what you pack in, stay on trail, be well-prepared, leave nothing behind, take only photos and memories with you, treat the area with respect and help preserve this beautiful spot for generations to come.

17 Best Hikes in Banff: Easy to Hard

Without further ado, here are 16 of our favorite hikes in Banff National Park, ranging from easy to hard.

Easy hikes in Banff

Moderate hikes in Banff

Hard Hikes in Banff

Lake Louise at sunrise, before starting the hike to Big Beehive
Lake Louise at sunrise, one of the best easy hikes in Banff

Map of the best hikes in Banff

The map below displays the locations of the trailheads for each of the best hikes in Banff, as well as key landmarks for each hike. Note that some hikes share the same trailhead.

  • To view more details about each location, click on the marker on the map.
  • To save this map for future use, click the star next to the title. From your phone, open the Google Maps app and click the “saved” tab, followed by the “Maps” icon. From your Gmail account, navigate to Maps –> “Saved” –> “My Maps” –> “Maps” tab.
  • To email this map to yourself, click the three dots in the upper right corner.

Easy hikes in Banff

We’ll start off our list with the best easy hikes in Banff. These short but sweet treks are a great way to ease your way into hiking in Banff, and offer stunning views with little effort!

1. Lake Louise Lakeshore

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 3 miles
  • Elevation gain | Mostly flat
  • Epic-ness rating | 6
  • Difficulty | Easy

Find this hike on AllTrails: Lake Louise Lakefront Trail

The Lake Louise Lakeshore trail runs nearly a mile and a half along the edge of the lake, for an easy 3-mile roundtrip hike at one of the most beautiful locations in Banff National Park.

Lake Louise is one of the most popular spots within Banff National Park, so you can expect to share the trail with many other hikers. Furthermore, parking is extremely early, so you’ll need to arrive early or take the shuttle from the Lake Louise Ski Area. But don’t let the large crowds and parking challenges deter you – Lake Louise is super popular for a reason!

The teal blue waters, colored by sediments carried into the lake from glacial runoff, form the perfect foreground for the towering rocky mountains in the distance. Despite the crowds and generally touristy nature of the area, it really is one of the most beautiful lakes we’ve ever seen!

2. Moraine Rock Pile

view of Moraine Lake from the rock pile, one of the best easy hikes in Banff

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 0.5 miles
  • Elevation gain | 50 feet
  • Epic-ness rating | 7
  • Difficulty | Easy

Find this hike on AllTrails: Moraine Lake Viewpoint

With snowy jagged peaks that tower over teal waters, Moraine Lake is one of the most iconic gems of the Canadian Rockies. Similar to Lake Louise, the vibrant shade of its waters is caused by small particles in the glacial runoff that feeds the lake.

The Rock Pile is perhaps the most popular viewpoint at Moraine Lake and the location of the “insta-famous” shot you’ve likely seen, like the one below. It’s one of the most popular easy hikes in Banff, so prepare to share the trail!

Getting to the Rock Pile requires a short half-mile roundtrip hike with slight elevation gain. We highly recommend hiking the Moraine Rock Pile at sunrise for a stunning show as the sun lights up the jagged peaks opposite the lake.

3. Johnston Canyon Upper Falls

Upper Johnston Falls

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 3.2 miles
  • Elevation gain | 850 feet
  • Epic-ness rating | 4
  • Difficulty | Easy

Find this hike on AllTrails: Johnston Canyon to Upper Falls

We’ll be honest, we thought that Johnston Canyon was a bit crowded and overrated. Nonetheless, it’s a solid option if you are looking for a short and easy hike near Banff. The trail is a paved path that clings to the walls of Johnston Canyon, often crossing bridges that lead over the vibrant teal waters of Johnston Creek.

Johnston Canyon features two lovely waterfalls. The Lower Falls are located about three-quarters of a mile from the trailhead for a 1.5-mile roundtrip hike. To extend your hike, continue an extra half a mile to the Upper Falls. You also have the option to extend your hike even further to visit the Ink Pots, a collection of bright mineral springs about 2 miles past the Upper Falls.

Remember that Johnston Canyon is an extremely popular hike, so expect to share the trail. Although there are two fairly large parking lots, spots fill up by mid-morning during the peak season. If you want to hike Johnston Canyon, we’d recommend going either early or later in the day.

4. Takkakaw Falls

Quick Stats

  • Hiking distance | 0.8 miles
  • Elevation gain | 120 feet
  • Epic-ness rating | 5
  • Difficulty | Easy

Find this hike on AllTrails: Takkakaw Falls Trail

Located in Yoho National Park, Takkakaw Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in Canada, dropping an incredible 1200 feet! Takkakaw Falls is easily accessible, and the enormous cascades can even be seen from the parking lot. To get up close to impressive falls, embark on an easy 0.8-mile roundtrip stroll.

5. Lake Minnewanka Lakeshore

Quick Stats

  • Hiking distance | 1+ miles
  • Elevation gain | Depends on how far you go (mostly flat with some hills)
  • Epic-ness rating | 3
  • Difficulty | Easy to moderate

Find this hike on AllTrails: Lake Minnewanka Lakeside Trail

If you’re looking for a quick, convenient spot to stretch your legs near the town of Banff, check out Lake Minnewanka Lakeshore.

The lakeshore trail continues for about 15 miles to the opposite end of the narrow lake, but of course, you can choose to walk as far as you’d like before turning back. While most of the trail is fairly flat, there is a brief steep section right after mile one.

For more of an adventure, climb up to Aylmer Lookout, a spur trail off the Lakeshore Trail. The hike up to Aylmer Lookout is steep, gaining about 3500 feet of elevation, but the lookout features stunning views of Lake Minnewanka below.

6. Laughing Falls

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 5.2 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1050 feet
  • Epic-ness rating | 3
  • Difficulty | Easy to moderate

Find this hike on AllTrails: Laughing Falls

Another awesome waterfall hike in Yoho National Park, Laughing Falls is much quieter and less crowded than its nearby neighbor, Takakkaw Falls. The hike to Laughing Falls starts from the same trailhead as Takakkaw Falls, making it a great way to extend your hike.

The 5-mile hike features a mostly gentle incline, with one very steep section before reaching the falls. As such, we’d rank this hike as somewhere between easy and moderate in difficulty.

Laughing Falls is located on the Little Yoho River, which joins the roaring Yoho River shortly after. The silty teal blue color of the water, fueled by glacial runoff, make the area particularly scenic. The hike to Laughing Falls is great not only for the waterfall but also for the beautiful views of Yoho Valley and Takakkaw Falls in the distance along the way.

Moderate hikes in Banff

Next up, for those looking for a bit more of a challenge, we’ve got five awesome moderate hikes in Banff to share with you!

7. Lake Agnes & Tea House

Lake Agnes Tea House

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 4.6 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1400 feet
  • Epic-ness rating | 6
  • Difficulty | Easy to moderate

Find this hike on AllTrails: Lake Agnes Trail

Just a short distance from the shores of Lake Louise lies Lake Agnes, another beautiful little alpine lake nestled below almost castle-like granite peaks.

Accessible via a 2.3-mile hike from Lake Louise, Lake Agnes is one of the best easy to moderate hikes in Banff. It allows you to get away from the heavy crowds of Lake Louise without requiring a ton of effort.

Along the way to Lake Agnes, you’ll pass by another smaller lake appropriately known as Mirror Lake. Because the lake is surrounded by a thick forest of pine trees, the water is often very calm, creating the ideal conditions for a picture-perfect mirror reflection onto the lake.

What makes the Lake Agnes hike truly unique is the historic tea house on its shores. The tea house is a locally owned business that has been serving tea to hikers since 1905. They really do serve just tea and a few small snacks. The tea house is cash only, and lines during the peak season can be very long so expect to wait.

8. Helen Lake

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 7.2 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1800 feet
  • Epic-ness rating | 5
  • Difficulty | Moderate

Find this hike on AllTrails: Helen Lake Trail

Located off the Icefields Parkway, Helen Lake is certainly on the best hikes in Banff National Park! This moderate 7.2 mile hike gains about 1800 feet of elevation before leveling off through a beautiful open alpine meadow as you approach the lake.

The mountain you see just beyond Helen Lake is Cirque Peak. For those looking for a serious adventure, Cirque Peak can be reached via an extremely steep trail that continues beyond Helen Lake. The view looking away from Helen Lake features incredible views looking across the alpine meadow and down Bow Valley towards Mount Hector.

Tip | Start your hike early in the morning to catch the glossy, still waters you see in the photo below. The reflection of Cirque Peak onto Helen Lake is stunning!

9. Plain of Six Glaciers

View of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise from the Plain of 6 Glaciers Trail

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 7.2 to 9 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1100 to 1900 feet
  • Epic-ness rating | 6
  • Difficulty | Moderate

Find this hike on AllTrails: Plain of 6 Glaciers Trail

If you want to visit one of Banff’s famous tea houses with a bit fewer crowds than Lake Agnes, check out the Plain of Six Glaciers trail. This hike follows along the Lake Louise Lakeshore until reaching the opposite end of the lake, where you’ll be treated to an awesome view of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise across the teal waters.

The Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse is located about 3.7 miles from the Lake Louise trailhead and hotel. This teahouse offers similar amenities to the Lake Agnes Teahouse and is often slightly less crowded. The trail to the teahouse features lovely up-close views of Mount Victoria and the Victoria Glacier. You can also choose to continue about 1 mile past the teahouse, but note that the trail becomes steeper and more difficult to follow.

Note: Do not attempt this hike during the winter, as the area is at high risk of avalanches.

Hard hikes in Banff

And lastly, for those looking for a real adventure, below we’ve detailed 4 of the best challenging hikes in Banff and Yoho.

10. Big Beehive

view of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise from the big beehive hike
View of Lake Louise from the Big Beehive

Quick Stats

  • Hiking distance | 6.8 miles
  • Elevation gain | 2,545 feet
  • Epic-ness rating | 7.5
  • Difficulty | Moderate to hard

Find this hike on AllTrails: The Big Beehive

If you want to find the best view of Lake Louise in Banff National Park, look no further than the Big Beehive hike! The moderate to hard 7-mile hike up to Big Beehive brings provides an epic bird’s-eye view of the teal-colored water below. We think the Lake Louise is even more impressive from above!

Big Beehive is an easy extension to the Lake Agnes hike. It’s located only about 1 mile past Lake Agnes, but adds an extra 1000 feet of elevation gain, so it’s no walk in the park. Nonetheless, we think Big Beehive is one of the best hikes in Banff, and is definitely worth going the extra mile!

Big Beehive is essentially a large ridge that stretches out from the mountains towards Lake Agnes and Lake Louise. From the top, you’ll be treated to incredible views looking down over Lake Louise to one side and Lake Agnes to the other side.

Want to learn more about hiking to Big Beehive? We’ve got a full guide complete with everything you need to know to plan your hike here:

11. Bourgeau Lake

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 8.6 miles
  • Elevation gain | 3100 feet
  • Epic-ness rating | 7
  • Difficulty | Hard

Find this hike on AllTrails: Bourgeau Lake Trail

Bourgeau Lake is one of the best easily accessible challenging hikes in Banff National Park. The trailhead is located just 18 minutes from the town of Banff, making it a convenient option.

The 8.6-mile roundtrip hike leads up to a beautiful, vibrant blue alpine lake tucked at the base of a large granite cliff. Reaching the lake is no easy task, totaling about 3100 feet of elevation gain. Bourgeau Lake tends to be less crowded than other popular hikes in Banff, so it’s possible to find some solitude along the lakeshore.

For an even bigger adventure, you can extend the hike to Bourgeau by continuing up to Harvey Pass and/or Mount Bourgeau – keep reading for more details.

12. Harvey Pass & Borgeau Peak

Quick Stats

  • Hiking distance | 11 miles to Harvey Pass, 14 miles to Bourgeau Peak
  • Elevation gain | 4200 feet to Harvey Pass, 5700 feet to Bourgeau Peak
  • Epic-ness rating | 8
  • Difficulty | Hard

Find this hike on AllTrails: Mount Bourgeau Trail

While Bourgeau Lake is beautiful in its own right, the view from Harvey Pass is certainly the highlight of the hike. If you’re planning to hike to Bourgeau Lake, we’d highly recommend continuing the extra mile and a half to Harvey Pass.

On a clear day, you can see the towering triangular-shaped Assiniboine Peak from Harvey Pass, along with sweeping views of the surrounding Canadian Rockies.

From Harvey Pass, it’s also possible to continue for another mile and a half to the top of Mount Bourgeau. Note that this section of the trail is extremely steep, gaining nearly 1500 feet in just over a mile, and requires some rock scrambling. Be sure to get a very early start if you plan to tackle Mount Bourgeau to ensure you’re off the peak before afternoon thunderstorms roll in.

13. Devil’s Thumb

View of Lake Louise and Lake Agnes from Devil’s Thumb

Quick Stats

  • Hiking distance | 8 miles
  • Elevation gain | 3000 feet
  • Epic-ness rating | 9
  • Difficulty | Hard

Find this hike on AllTrails: Devil’s Thumb via Lake Agnes Trail

While the views of Lake Louise from the Big Beehive are amazing, from Devil’s Thumb you have a birds eye view of both Lake Louise and Lake Agnes. The two different shades of water side by side are quite incredible. While Devil’s Thumb is only about a 3/4 mile detour from the trail to Big Beehive, getting there is a challenge. The trail is very steep, narrow, and often poorly marked.

Be aware that this trail is suited for experienced hikers only and features a few sections that are incredibly steep with loose dirt and rocks. Only attempt this hike if you are fully prepared and physically fit. The climb up to Devil’s Thumb is about 3/4 miles each way but includes about 600 feet of elevation gain.

14. Cirque Peak

Quick Stats

  • Hiking distance | 10 miles
  • Elevation gain | 3700 feet
  • Epic-ness rating | 9.5
  • Difficulty | Hard

Find this hike on AllTrails: Cirque Peak via Helen Lake

If you’re up for an intense challenge and want to experience one of the best views in Banff, keep reading. It’s possible to summit the mountain that towers over Helen Lake, called Cirque Peak.

On paper, the hike to Cirque Peak doesn’t sound that hard. But we can promise you that, in fact, summiting Cirque Peak is a serious challenge. It’s all fun and games until you pass Helen Lake, where you begin a steep and unrelenting climb up to the peak. The final quarter mile involves scrambling and climbing a steep scree field – not for those with a fear of heights!

Nonetheless, the views from Cirque Peak are some of the best we’ve ever seen, and we really mean that. Your hard work will be treated with 360-degree panoramic views of snow-capped peaks, ice fields, grassy meadows, and vibrant alpine lakes that look like mere ponds far below.

15. Iceline Trail

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 9.3 miles
  • Elevation gain | 2800 feet
  • Epic-ness rating | 8
  • Difficulty | Hard

Find this hike on AllTrails: Iceline Summit

Although located in Yoho National Park, the Iceline Trail is a can’t-miss hike while visiting Banff for those willing to put some miles under their boots. This hike will get you up close to several glaciers and features sweeping views of the Yoho Valley.

Heading clockwise from the parking area, you will begin with a steep incline up to the Iceline, a rocky shelf along the edge of a series of receding glaciers, scattering with little alpine lakes in the brightest shade of teal you’ve ever seen.

At the end of the Iceline Trail, turn back the way you came for a 9.3 mile round trip out and back hike. Alternatively, you can turn the hike into a longer loop by continuing along the Little Yoho Valley Trail. Keep reading below to learn more.

16. Iceline Trail & Little Yoho Valley

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 13.5 miles
  • Elevation gain | 3,500 feet
  • Epic-ness rating | 9
  • Difficulty | Hard

Find this hike on AllTrails: Iceline, Yoho Valley & Little Yoho Valley

I am not exaggerating when I say that the Iceline Trail & Little Yoho Valley is my favorite day hike of all time.

If I’m being honest, none of my photos can even begin to capture the sheer beauty of this place. It’s a beauty you just have to see for yourself to believe. If you have time for only one long full day hike in the area, this is certainly the one we would recommend.

The trail is a loop that begins in Yoho Valley, and includes Takakkaw Falls, the Iceline, Little Yoho Valley, and Laughing Falls. Heading clockwise from the parking lot, your legs will immediately be put to work as you climb up to the Iceline Trail. After crossing the Iceline, the trail drops below the treeline again as you head into Little Yoho Valley.

As you drop into the valley, you’re treated to a remarkable view of Isolated Peak, a jagged peak that stands high above the other mountains and looks like it belongs in the Teton Range. Eventually, the Little Yoho Valley connects with Yoho Valley, you’ll pass by Laughing Falls before continuing through the valley and back to the trailhead.

What to pack for hiking in Banff

Below is a list of important items to make sure you pack for hiking in Banff!

  • Bear Spray (Counter Assault)| Banff National Park and the surrounding mountains are home to grizzly bears, so carrying bear spray when you’re hiking is a must!
  • GPS Device (Garmin InReach Mini) | Most of the trails in Banff have NO cell service, so we’d recommend carrying a GPS device for peace of mind just in case of an emergency.
  • Camera | I always carry my Nikon Z6 for hiking in Banff, and it’s totally worth the extra weight.
  • Bug Spray | Especially if you plan to hang out by any of the lakes for a while, bug spray is a must! The mosquitos here are brutal and they will bite right through your layers.
  • Bathing suit | If you’re visiting during the summer taking a plunge into one of the alpine lakes feels amazing after a long hike!
  • Microspikes | You can expect snow at the higher elevations well into late June and early July. If you are planning to hike in Banff during the early summer, you may need microspikes.
  • Hiking poles (Hers: Black Diamond Distance Z poles, His: Black Diamond Distance FLZ poles ) | Many of the trails in the Banff are steep! Poles help take some of the weight off your knees going downhill and make the uphills just a tad easier.
  • Backpack with bladder (Hers: CamelBak Helena 20L, His: Camelback Rim Runner 22L) | We both use a similar Camelback backpack for day hiking (Sarah has the women’s version, Matt’s is unisex) – they’re comfortable, lightweight and just big enough to hold the essentials without weighing you down. Plus they both come with a 2L bladder.
  • Hiking boots (Hers: Danner Mountain 600s, His: Salomon Ultra 4 Mid GTX) | We’d highly recommend wearing hiking boots for better traction and foot support.
  • Pullovers (Hers: Smartwool Merino Quarter Zip, His: Smartwool Merino Quarter Zip) | These Smartwool quarter zips are so warm and comfortable – perfect to keep you comfortable on a chilly morning in Banff.
  • Long sleeve base layers (Hers: Smartwool All Season Baselayer) | When you’re hiking in Banff, layers are so important – you’ll work up a sweat while moving, but once you sit down to relax at the lake, it can get pretty chilly especially in the early summer/fall.
  • Down Jacket (Hers: Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody Women’s Down Hoodie, His: Cotopaxi Fuego) | If you hate being cold (like me), the Arc’teryx Down Hoodie is the jacket for you! With 850 fill down, it’s incredibly lightweight, high quality and totally worth the extra warmth. The Cotopaxi Fuego is also a great option – at 800 fill down, it’s not quite as warm but comes in at a lower price point.

Other useful resources

Looking for more to do near Banff? We think you may also find the following useful:

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For all things Canada: Canada Travel Guide

Questions about the best hikes in Banff National Park? What hikes would you add to this list? Lets us know in the comments section below!

Sarah Vaughan

Hello! I'm Sarah, one half of the couple behind Two Outliers! In 2023, I quit my job as a Data Scientist to travel around the world on an epic 15-month journey in search of the world's greatest hikes and outdoor adventures. Matt and I started Two Outliers in 2021 as a place for visitors to find concise, accurate, and honest information to plan their own adventures. We hope our experiences inspire you to hit the trail! Happy Hiking! Sarah


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