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  • Writer's pictureIne Vandenwyngaert

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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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

tunnel mountain best family friendly hike near banff
View of 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 rockpile best easy hike near banff

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 hike near Banff
Johnston Canyon Lower Falls

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!

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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 one of the best hikes near banff

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 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.

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Best medium hikes near Banff and Canmore

As we’ve got the top easy hikes near Banff covered, we’ll now highlight the best medium hikes. These hikes are generally longer in distance as well as higher in elevation. As such, a medium fitness level is required. But, don’t let this scare you! We’ve seen many kids as well as seniors along these trails. Perseverance and a bit of mental preparation are usually all it takes.

7. Big Beehive and the Agnes Lake Teahouse (hike with the best view of Lake Louise!)

Length: 10.3 km (6.4 mi)

Duration: 4-5 hours

Elevation gain: 647m (2122ft)

Best time to go: June to September (the road leading to the trailhead closes seasonally)

Distance from Banff/Canmore: 45 minute drive from Banff / 1-hour drive from Canmore

Big Beehive Lake Louise best hike

The Big Beehive trail was one of our favorite hikes near Banff for good reason! Not only does it offer the most impressive view of Lake Louise, but it also takes you along multiple lakes and viewpoints. From the little Mirror Lake to a waterfall, Lake Agnes, the famous teahouse, and to the final viewpoint from the Big Beehive. While the trail up until Lake Agnes and the teahouse was very busy, the final (most rewarding) push to the summit was relatively quiet. From the summit, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the world-famous Lake Louise, which looks electric blue from up above!

8. Iceline Trail

Length: 14.2km (8.8 mi)

Duration: 6-8 hours

Elevation gain: 864m (2834ft)

Best time to go: June to September

Distance from Banff/Canmore: 1-hour drive from Banff / 1 hour 15 minute drive from Canmore

best hikes banff iceline trail
One of the many views

The Iceline Trail blew us away simply because we had set no expectations prior to the hike. It was only afterward when we found out that this was one of the hidden gem hikes in the Canadian Rockies! The trail starts from the parking lot of the impressive Takakkaw Falls and climbs to a high bench with epic views of the glacier-clad summits towering above the Yoho valley. Most of the hike is above the treeline and traverses rugged terrain of rocks, tiny lakes, and glaciers. Finally, the trail drops to the meadows, with wildflowers, trees, and more lakes. This hike can be done as out-and-back (the easier route!) or as a loop trail, which adds about 6km (2.3mi) to the total distance. Both options are great and will take your breath away!

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9. Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass (the best fall hike near Banff!)

Length: 9.2km (5.7 mi) to Larch Valley, an additional 3km (1.8mi) to Sentinel Pass

Duration: 3-4 hours

Elevation gain: 544m (1784ft), an additional 180m (590ft) to Sentinel Pass

Best time to go: June until October (the road to the parking lot is seasonally closed)

Distance from Banff/Canmore: 45 minute drive from Banff or 1-hour drive from Canmore

best fall hike banff

The Larch Valley hike starts at the enchanting Moraine Lake, making for a perfect combination of both the lake views and the glacial views in the area! The tracks start from the eastern side of the lake and wind through a pretty dense forest. But it’s only when you reach the valley when it starts to get really interesting. With views of the famous Ten Peaks, evergreen conifers, and the mesmerizing Larch trees, you’ll realize how magical this hike is. Especially in fall, when the larches turn vivid yellow, you’ll feel like you’re in a fairytale. The gentle path eventually takes you to two small lakes at the base of Mount Temple and Sentinel Pass. From here, you can continue your way up to the pass for some more spectacular mountain views. But keep in mind that this adds another 3km (1.8mi) to the trip!

10. South Pocaterra Ridge

Length: 9.3km (5.7mi)

Duration: 4-5 hours

Elevation gain: 745m (2444ft)

Best time to go: June to October

Distance from Banff/Canmore: 1 hour 30 minute drive from Banff / 1 hour 15 minute drive from Canmore

south pocaterra hike banff

South Pocaterra Ridge is one of the most underrated and hidden gem hikes near Banff and Canmore. The trail winds for the most part through a colorful valley filled with wildflowers and a shallow river. You may also see wildlife like bighorn sheep and bears. It’s very peaceful and enjoyable, making for the perfect family or group hike. The final part of the ridge is demanding and very steep, but the 360° views from the top are well worth the short hard push at the end. Enjoy endless views of the surrounding mountain peaks in the Kananaskis Valley before heading back! This trail is another gorgeous fall hike as the valley is then filled with warmly colored larch trees.

11. C Level Cirque

Length: 12.1km (7.5mi)

Duration: 5-6 hours

Elevation gain: 755 m (2477ft)

Best time to go: May to October

Distance from Banff/Canmore: 15 minute drive from Banff / 25 minute drive from Canmore

c level cirque hike banff
View of Minnewanka Lake

C Level Cirque is one of the best hikes in the Banff-Canmore vicinity! Not only does it offer breathtaking views of the immense Lake Minnewanka, but it also passes old mine buildings and shaft holes. This makes for an interesting hike all the way through! And while the first 4km is a steady uphill through the forest, the final 2km are out in the open with views down the Bow Valley to Mount Rundle and Canmore! If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot wildlife such as mountain goats, marmots, pikas, and bears. We encountered a black bear on the trail right at the beginning of the trail.

12. Galatea Lakes

Length: 16.9km (10.5mi)

Duration: 6-8 hours

Elevation gain: 870 m (2854ft)

Best time to go: June to October

Distance from Banff/Canmore: 1-hour drive from Banff / 45 minute drive from Canmore

galatea hike banff
Upper Galatea Lake

Another local favorite is the Galatea Lakes hike. This trail is absolutely spectacular and takes in three distinct lakes: Lillian Lake, Lower Galatea Lake, and Upper Galatea Lake. The first bit to Lilian Lake winds through the forest and follows the Galatea Creek. This path has been destroyed during the floods of 2013 and you’ll still pass flood debris along the way, such as uprooted trees and piles of branches. But once you reach Lillian Lake you’ll be rewarded with outstanding views. The circuit around Lower Galatea and Upper Galatea Lake is totally worth the effort! We camped at Lillian Lake and broke the route down in two days. However, this isn’t necessarily needed as the hike can easily be done in a day.

adventure banff

13. Healy Pass (the best hike near Banff with wildflowers!)

Length: 18.3km (11mi)

Duration: 6-8 hours

Elevation gain: 890m (2919ft)

Best time to go: June to September

Distance from Banff/Canmore: 20 minute drive from Banff / 35 minute drive from Canmore

Healy Pass hike Banff

The Healy Pass trail is a hike that you should only (and absolutely) pursue when the wildflowers are in bloom. This is usually from the end of July until mid-August. Whereas the majority of the hike winds through the forest, the final stretch goes through the meadows. This part is filled with fields of colorful wildflowers, incredible views of the surrounding mountains, and Egypt lake! These views make the hike totally worth it. And besides the summer, the fall offers something spectacular as well… the larches are in full color.

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Best challenging hikes near Banff and Canmore

If you are looking for a challenge, then you should scan this list of the best hard hikes near Banff and Canmore. These hikes are rated as challenging because of their distance, elevation gain, and/or technical features such as scrambling or exposure. A good fitness level and some experience hiking in the alpine are required! However, some hikes can be done partly and you will still see great views as well. So read carefully. We've indicated if it's worth doing part of the hike!

14. Helen Lake and Cirque Peak

Length: 15.9km (9.8mi)

Duration: 7-9 hours

Elevation gain: 1,135m (3723ft)

Best time to go: July to September

Distance from Banff/Canmore: 1-hour drive from Banff / 1 hour 20 minute drive from Canmore

Cirque Peak hike banff
View from Cirque Peak with Helen Lake below

We know that this trail isn’t the nearest to Banff or Canmore, but it’s an absolute must-do! It’s located along the Icefields Parkway, which is the highway you’d take if you’re going to Jasper or Mount Robson Provincial Park. This makes it the perfect stopover on your way there! The Helen Lake and Cirque Peak hike is one of our all-time favorite hikes in the Canadian Rockies, so it’s no surprise that we’ve completed it twice. The hike starts near the deep-blue Bow Lake and winds through a forest for the first 3km. But then it opens up to a valley with stunning views all around you. From fields of wildflowers to river streams, rugged mountain peaks, and multiple little lakes. This trail has it all! The icing on the cake is Cirque Peak itself. Even though the final ascent is very challenging, the 360° views expanding all over the Canadian Rockies (at least that’s how it feels) are totally worth it. But if you are not comfortable with scree and a little exposure, we still recommend hiking to Helen Lake and the ridge right above it.

15. Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit

Length: 12.5 km (7.76 mi) - Adding 10 km (one way) if you don’t have a bus ticket to the lake

Duration: 6.5-7 hours (10+ hours if you have to walk in)

Elevation gain: 990 m (3248 ft)

Best time to go: mid-July to September

Distance from Banff/Canmore: 1-hour drive from Banff / 1 hour 20 minute drive from Canmore

lake ohara best hike near banff
view from Opabin Plateau

Lake O’Hara is one of the most pristine and best-preserved areas within the confines of the Canadian Rockies. As such, it is not surprising that you can find some of the best hikes here. Filled with turquoise lakes, rugged mountain peaks, lush forests, and wildflower-filled meadows, the Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit is a true hiker’s dream. The route connects three gorgeous viewpoints high above the cliffs and Lake O’Hara itself, including the breathtaking Opabin Plateau panorama. However, this hike isn’t for the faint of heart or the unfit. You’ll be traversing steep ledges and it’s only recommended if you are feeling energized, especially if you have to walk into Lake O’Hara and you are planning to take the bus back!

16. Mount Assiniboine (best multi-day hike near Banff!)

Length: 55.5km (34.5mi) to 95.83km (59.54mi) depending on if you are just passing through or spending time in the area of Mount Assiniboine itself

Duration: 3-5 days

Elevation gain: 1,906m (6253ft)

Best time to go: July-September

Distance from Banff/Canmore: 20 minutes to Sunshine Village from Banff (30 from Canmore) / 1 hour 40 minutes to Mount Shark from Banff (1 hour 20 minutes from Canmore)

mount assiniboine hike near banff
Panorama view of Mount Assiniboine Peak (left) from the Niblet viewpoint

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park is a true hidden gem in the Canadian Rockies. Filled with sparkling lakes, impressive glaciers, rugged mountain peaks, and awe-inspiring alpine meadows, hiking Mount Assiniboine is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are no roads that traverse this provincial park near Banff, which means that it can only be accessed by hiking trails (or by helicopter... which is very expensive!). This limited accessibility is what makes this place truly untouched. The Mount Assiniboine hike is a point-to-point hike from Sunshine Village to Mount Shark Trailhead. It can be completed in 3 days if you hike through the area. However, that isn't recommended. We spent 5 days in the area and used these 2 "extra" days to hike around Lake Magog and Mount Assiniboine itself. On the first day we hiked the most famous trail to the Niblet, the Nublet, and Nub Peak. And on the second day we hiked to Wonder Peak. We didn't see anyone on the Wonder Peak trail and it offered arguably the BEST VIEW we've ever seen in our lives.

17. Tent Ridge Horseshoe

Length: 10.9km

Duration: 5-6 hours

Elevation gain: 852m (2795ft)

Best time to go: July-September

Distance from Banff/Canmore: 1 hour 40 minutes to Mount Shark from Banff / 1 hour 20 minutes from Canmore

tent ridge hike banff

Tent Ridge Horseshoe is one of the best hikes near Banff because of its constant breathtaking views you'll witness while walking the ridge. The route loops through a larch forest and the horseshoe-like ridge with views that extend over the Spray Lakes, a few other small lakes, the southeast of Banff National Park, the Kananaskis mountain peaks, and even Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. This is arguably one of the best views in all of the Canadian Rockies! However, this hike comes at a price. It is challenging because of steep exposures and light technical sections. Getting on and off the ridge is very steep and at times slippery! It definitely isn't for those who are afraid of heights. If you really want to do the hike, but you aren't sure about the exposure, it is possible to do the hike out-and-back following the route counter-clockwise onto the ridge and back. The views are just as amazing and it is far less scary!

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18. Rawson Lake and Sarrail Ridge

Length: 11.3km (7mi)

Duration: 4-6 hours

Elevation gain: 1066m (3497ft)

Best time to go: June-October

Distance from Banff/Canmore: 1 hour 30 minutes from Banff / 1 hour 15 minutes from Canmore

sarrail ridge hike near banff
View from Sarrail Ridge

Another prime hike with epic lake views near Banff is the Sarrail Ridge trail. It's a true locals' favorite and makes for the perfect day trip. The hike starts at the gorgeous Upper Kananaskis lake and takes you through dense forest up to the emerald green Rawson Lake. Up until that point, it is a very family-friendly and gradual hike. But once you pass Rawson Lake, you'll soon find yourself scrambling up Sarrail Ridge. Add to that the frequency of grizzlies and moose roaming around, and it becomes a very thrilling experience! We had to wait about half an hour ourselves for a bear to clear the path. Once on the ridge, you'll be rewarded with incredible views of Upper Kananaskis lake and impressive mountain peaks. You'll soon forget about the struggle! Until it's time to come down this steep mountain slope at least...

19. King Creek Ridge

Length: 7.1km (4.4mi)

Duration: 4-6 hours

Elevation gain: 797m (2614ft)

Best time to go: June-October

Distance from Banff/Canmore: 1 hour 10 minutes from Banff / 55 minutes from Canmore

king creek ridge one of the best hikes

Although King Creek Ridge seems to be a short hike in distance, it does take quite some time to get up and down the ridge! This is because of the continuous steepness of the slope, which is a physical but also slightly technical challenge. Loose rocks and scree make up most of the path, which is doable when going up but harder when coming down. It literally took us 6 hours to complete this hike because of the downhill battle. However, if you are better with scree you should be totally fine. It's not like you'll fall off a cliff, rather you could slip and hurt yourself. The views from the ridge were absolutely outstanding and we were very glad we did it. You'll see the magnificent Opal Range and Mount Wintour from close, as well as the valley of the Kananaskis Lakes.

20. Sherbrooke Lake and Paget Peak

Length: 12.5km (7.76mi)

Duration: 5-7 hours

Elevation gain: 962m (3156ft)

Best time to go: June-September

Distance from Banff/Canmore: 48 minutes from Banff, 1 hour, 5 minutes from Canmore

Paget peak hike near banff
View from Paget Peak

Sherbrooke Lake and Paget Peak is rated as one of the best hikes near Banff because it's a true hidden gem! It overlooks both the deep blue Wapta Lake and the emerald Sherbrooke Lake, located in Yoho National Park. The trail starts off easy with a gradual incline up until the magnificent Sherbrooke Lake. From there, you'll have to track back about 1.5km to the junction of Paget Peak. From here, the trail gets steeper and winds through a lush forest until you reach Paget Lookout. This lookout offers amazing views of Wapta Lake. If you are not comfortable with scrambling and scree, it's time to head back (it's family-friendly until here!). Yet, if you are fit and have some mountain experience, you could continue to Paget Peak. It's only 1.3km more from here, but don't underestimate the difficulty! It's rocky and rugged, so be careful.

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Our top 5 favorite hikes near Banff and Canmore

  1. Mount Assiniboine

  2. Lake O’Hara

  3. Cirque Peak and Helen Lake Trail

  4. Larch Valley trail combined with the Moraine Lakeshore

  5. Big Beehive

best hike near banff
Mount Assiniboine hike

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