Hiking in Banff National Park
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
The trail system in Banff National Park allows you to access the heart of the Canadian Rockies. The scenery is spectacular and you can see wildlife such as birds, squirrels, deer, and sheep along many of the trails. Make noise as you travel the trails, so you don't surprise a bear or other large animal. Also, prepare for any and all weather conditions by dressing in layers and bringing at least ½ gallon of drinking water along per person on all full-day hikes. Get a trail map at the information center. Some of the more popular trails have bathrooms or outhouses at the trailhead. Dogs should be leashed at all times.
Surprise Corner to Hoodoos. This 4.8-km (3-mile) trail feels as if it is a world away from the busy townsite. It begins with a view of a waterfall on Bow River and then leads through meadows and forests and past sheer cliffs, ending at the hoodoos in the east part of Banff Townsite. Easy. Trailhead at the Bow Falls Overlook on Tunnel Mountain Dr.
Discovery Trail and Marsh Trail. On a hillside above the Cave and Basin Centennial Centre, this 0.8-km (½-mile) boardwalk takes you past the vent of the cave to a spring flowing out of the hillside. Interpretive signage explains the geology and history of the Cave and Basin. Follow the Marsh Trail to get a good view of the lush vegetation that is fed by the mineral water and to see the birdlife. Along the boardwalk are telescopes, benches, and interpretive signage as well as a bird blind on the marsh itself. Wheelchairs have limited access to the boardwalk. Easy. Trailhead at the parking lot of Cave and Basin National Historic Site.
Fenland Trail. It will take about an hour round-trip to walk the 2-km (1-mile) trail that slowly changes from marsh to dense forest. Watch for beavers, muskrat, and waterfowl. The trail is popular with joggers and cyclists. Easy. Trailhead at Forty Mile Picnic Area.
Boom Lake Trail. This 5-km (3.2-mile) hike climbs through a forest of pine, fir, and spruce. Surrounded by mountains and glaciers, the waters of the lake are crystal clear. The trail will take a half day round-trip. Moderate. Trailhead off Hwy. 93 S, 7 km (4½-mi) west of Castle Junction.
Castle Lookout Trail. Outstanding views of Castle Mountain and the mountains above the Bow River Valley are the highlight of this 3.7-km (2.3-mile) one-way trail that is somewhat steep. Moderate. Trailhead off Hwy. 1A at the parking lot on the north side of Bow Valley Pkwy., 5 km (3.1 mi) west of Castle Junction.
Johnston Canyon Trail. Rushing water has carved a path through this limestone canyon that is a must-see stop. The first 1.1 km (0.7 miles) is a paved walkway that leads to the 33-foot Lower Falls. From here a slightly more rugged 2.7-km (1¾-mile) trail leads to the almost-100-foot Upper Falls and a 5-km (3-mile) trail to the Ink Pots. The Ink Pots are six green pools filled with springwater. It will take four to five hours to complete the return trip. Trails begin off Highway 1A. Moderate. Trailhead at the Johnston Canyon parking lot.
Lake Agnes Teahouse Trail. Winding north of Lake Louise, this 7-km (4½-mile) trail has stunning views of Lake Agnes and Mirror Lake. The trail passes through an old-growth forest and comes up the right side of a waterfall before ending at a teahouse where you can stop for dessert. It will take four hours or more to make the return trip along this trail. Follow Lake Louise Shoreline Trail in front of the Fairmont Château Lake Louise up to the Teahouse Trail. Moderate.
Cory Pass Loop Trail. This 13-km (8-mile) hike is one of the park's most difficult and takes about six hours to do; it is recommended only for experienced hikers who are able to trace a difficult route. Hikers are rewarded with awesome views. The return route loops around Mt. Edith and descends the Edith Pass Trail. Difficult. Trailhead at Fireside picnic area, eastern end of Bow Valley Pkwy.
Sulphur Mountain Summit Trail. This well-maintained trail crisscrosses underneath the gondola on Sulphur Mountain and climbs from the parking lot to the summit. You may choose to hike up and take the gondola down, but you should check schedules first. A restaurant and cafeteria are located at the summit along with a viewing platform and interpretive signage. It will take four hours to hike the trail round-trip. Difficult. Trailhead at the corner of the Upper Hot Springs parking lot closest to the pool, Banff National Park, AB.
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