Turquoise rivers, cascading waterfalls and beautiful wildflowers are just some of the things that make the Canadian Rockies a great place to hike in summer. We have some of the finest, most meticulously maintained and rewarding hiking trails in the entire world. There is a lifetime of options!
If you're visiting for a few days and want to get some hiking in, but are wondering how to make it happen, read on. Hiking doesn't have to take all day, and doesn't have to require extreme fitness — hiking is for everybody!
If your time is limited or you don’t want to do anything too strenuous, these 7 easy hikes are a great way to experience Banff’s natural beauty.
Easily accessible from the downtown area, Tunnel Mountain is Banff's smallest summit and boasts all-encompassing views of the town site, surrounding mountain peaks and the Bow River. With moderately-steep switchbacks through the forested mountainside that lead to a wide view atop a knoll, a round-trip should only take 1-2 hours, leaving you with the rest of the day to explore the area. This short 4.2 km hike is the perfect way to spend the morning.
You can get to Sundance Canyon either by following Cave Avenue from the Cave and Basin National Historic Site (3.9 km), or by taking Marsh Loop — a pretty 1.6 km trail that follows the Bow River and joins with Sundance Trail. Once there, you can follow the short, slightly steep trail up through the water-filled canyon and loop back down the other side through the forest. Sundance Canyon is a spectacular spot and has great views of the mountain peaks in the distance from the top of the canyon. It's also a cool spot on a hot day. If you’re starting from the downtown area, allow 3-5 hours to complete (roundtrip).
Johnston Canyon Lower/Upper Falls
Johnston Canyon is one of Banff’s most beautiful spots, however it can get incredibly busy during the day so it’s best to hike in the evening or early morning to avoid the crowds. You can either walk to the Lower Falls (1.1 km) along the boardwalk though the canyon, or take the trail which switchbacks up to the Upper Falls (2.7 km). When taking the Upper Falls trail, you can continue on to the viewpoint at the top of the falls for sweeping views of the area.
Surprise Corner to Hoodoos
This is a relatively easy trail following the Bow River and around Tunnel Mountain. In the final stages of the trail, you’ll be treated to fantastic views across the Bow Valley, Mount Rundle and the Hoodoos themselves — thin spires of rock protruding from the ground formed from years of erosion. There are lots of elk in this area, so keep your distance at all times.
A nice little hike through lichen-covered trees brings you to the summit of Stoney Squaw, one of the highest, most easily-reached viewpoints in Banff. Only a 4.2 km roundtrip, the trail descends through a dense forest of spruce and pine trees and can be reached from the Mount Norquay Ski Resort parking area.
This trail is a little longer, at 10 km (roundtrip), but it has a gradual elevation through a picturesque forest, opening up to the beautiful Boom Lake, surrounded by mountains. A round trip takes around 3-4 hours and is the perfect spot for a family picnic.
Sunshine Meadows is one of the most photographed landscapes in Banff due to its wide open views of the snow-capped mountains nearby and stunning wildflowers. A bus takes you up into the alpine zone, eliminating any difficult climbing. This trail is only 3.6 km roundtrip and has minimal elevation – it's more of a leisurely walk than a hike. You can opt to continue onto the Grizzly-Larix Lakes Loop (4.9 km) as it’s a great way to explore the area.