20 best hikes near Banff and Canmore
Updated: Sep 17, 2022
Looking for the best Banff hikes? In this article, we share our 20 favorite hikes around the alpine towns of Banff and Canmore, including all the details you need to start your own adventure. After two summers hiking the entire area, our top picks include the best scenery: from jagged peaks to turquoise blue lakes and fields of wildflowers. We’ve got them all covered!
We categorized the best hikes near Banff and Canmore into 3 categories: easy, medium, and challenging. This is to suit every fitness and comfort level. Whether you are traveling with kids or with your friends, you’ll find hikes here that suit everyone’s needs. Banff and Canmore offer hundreds of jaw-dropping hikes, but some aren’t as accessible and require more experience in the mountains. We want you to have the best experience possible with a great balance of reward versus effort. At the end of the article, we also share our 5 favorite ones!
Check out our video on the best hikes in Banff specifically for a visual look at all our favorite routes. We also have specific videos for other hikes later in this blog post.
Make sure you are prepared before you go! Download our ultimate Rockies packing list complete with everything you need to stay safe in the wildest place in Canada. Also, check out our hiking gear and camping gear article to make sure you've got everything you need for your hiking trip!
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Best easy hikes near Banff and Canmore
The hikes below are considered easy as they are short and have very little elevation gain. However, as the area around Banff and Canmore is very mountainous and rugged, there aren’t that many easy ones with great views!
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Made by: Lonely Planet
1. Tunnel Mountain (the most family-friendly hike in Banff!)
Length: 4.5km (2.79mi)
Duration: 1.5-2 hours
Elevation gain: 266m (741ft)
Best time to go: All-year-round accessible but best from June to October
Distance from Banff/Canmore: Tunnel Mountain is right in the town of Banff
This out-and-back trail is located right in the town of Banff! It’s the smallest summit around, with switchbacks up the forested side of the mountain. This makes it the perfect hike for families with kids. It’s easy, safe, and straightforward, with clear signs along the way. From the summit, you’ll be rewarded with 360° views of the town, the icy-blue Bow River, the mesmerizing Vermilion Lakes in the distance, and the beautiful surrounding peaks. The best times to hike are the summer, spring, and fall. In the winter, the trail is usually covered in snow and ice so should only be attempted with ice cleats!
2. Moraine Lakeshore and Rockpile hike
Length: 3km (1.86mi)
Duration: 1 hour
Elevation gain: 106m (348ft)
Best time to go: June until October (the road to get there is usually closed until late April/early May)
Distance from Banff/Canmore: Moraine Lake is situated in the town of Lake Louise, which is a 45 minute drive from Banff or 1-hour drive from Canmore
Moraine Lake is the most iconic lake in all of Canada and you’ll soon understand why. Not only does it have the most impressive mountain backdrop and turquoise color of all lakes, but it is also very accessible during the summer. You can park your car right next to the lake, allowing you to spend all your time at this beautiful lake itself! And while the very short Rockpile Hike offers the best view of the lake, the lakeshore trail shows you its grandeur and different perspectives. So take in both angles by combining these trails and you’ll be left speechless.
3. Upper Grassi Lakes Loop
Length: 4.3km (2.6mi)
Duration: 2 hours
Elevation gain: 233 m (764ft)
Best time to go: All-year-round, but the lakes are frozen during the winter! May to November is the best time to go.
Distance from Banff/Canmore: 30 mins drive from Banff / 15 mins from the center of Canmore
The Grassi Lakes Trail is one of the most picturesque hikes near Banff and Canmore. A short and easy route takes you up a gentle incline to the magnificent turquoise lakes. On the way, you'll encounter a beautiful waterfall, the Rundle Forebay Reservoir, and a panorama view of Canmore and the Bow Valley. It's no wonder that this hike is a true local favorite! You'll also often see climbers at the Grassi Lakes as the rock walls surrounding the lake are excellent for beginner and intermediate climbers. This adds an extra layer of fun to the trail! The lakes are best visited during mid-day as the sunrays shine right onto the lake. By the late afternoon, the sun disappears behind the limestone walls and mountains.
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4. Johnston Canyon to the Upper Falls
Length: 2.7km (1.7mi)
Duration: 1 hour
Elevation gain: 215 m (700ft)
Best time to go: All-year-round, the waterfalls are frozen during winter and you can go for ice walking in the canyon!
Distance from Banff/Canmore: 30 mins drive from Banff / 40 mins from Canmore
Johnston Canyon is another highlight in the Canadian Rockies! It’s one of the busiest hikes near Banff and Canmore and thus can be overwhelming if you don’t like crowds. However, it’s also a unique sight in the Rockies as you’re literally hiking inside the canyon thanks to canyon-clinging catwalks. You’ll follow the river in the canyon and see two waterfalls: the lower falls and the 30m upper falls. And if you’re up for it, you can continue your hike to the Ink Pots where you will find vivid blue and green pools that are cold-water springs. This adds another 6 km to the hike (out-and-back), but is absolutely worth it!
5. Emerald Lake Loop
Length: 5.1km (3.16mi)
Duration: 2 hours
Elevation gain: 115m (377ft)
Best time to go: May until October, the other months the lake will be frozen!
Distance from Banff/Canmore: 1-hour drive from Banff / 1 hour 20 mins from Canmore
Emerald Lake is the pearl of Yoho National Park, located about an hour outside of Banff. It’s one of the most accessible lakes and trails in the Canadian Rockies, making it an excellent choice if you have limited time. This gentle, lakeshore trail is surrounded by epic mountain and glacier views and, of course, the breathtaking Emerald Lake itself. Follow the level, gravel path around the peaceful lake and take in all the scenic views! This is another very family-friendly hike.
6. Barrier Lake Lookout hike
Length: 7.2 km (4.5mi)
Duration: 2-3 hours
Elevation gain: 400m (1312ft)
Best time to go: March until November, but also accessible during winter with ice cleats!
Distance from Banff/Canmore: 40 mins drive from Banff / 25 mins drive from Canmore
Barrier Lake Lookout hike is a local’s favorite, but not as popular among tourists. This is because it is located in Kananaskis, outside the borders of Banff National Park there is a lack of information on AllTrails/online. We followed this trail via Maps.me and also were guided by the signs along the trail, which we found pretty straightforward! After parking at the Barrier Lake Trail Parking Lot, follow the trail that goes to the right of the lake. You’ll soon find yourself in trees on an old logging road (shared with mountain bikers!). Follow the switchbacks up and you’ll be soon rewarded with an impressive view of Barrier Lake and the surrounding mountains.