Hiking in Banff & Lake Louise
Banff National Park offers hikers a dizzy variety of trails and adventures. Here are just a few of the more than 1,000 kilometres of hiking trails to get you started.
HIKES IN & AROUND BANFF
Time: 30-45 min Distance: 1.1-km loop Difficulty: Easy
Starting Point: Parking lot on the east side of the Lake Minnewanka loop road.
Trail Description: With the help of interpretive signs you can explore the ruins of a coal mining operation. A hiking trail follows the abandoned Bankhead railway line south to the Cascade Ponds day use area, 2.5 km away. A few ruins of the residential area of Bankhead are located in the Upper Bankhead picnic area, northwest of the parking area.
Time: 35-45 minutes Distance: 2-km loop Difficulty: Easy
Starting Point: Parking lot on Mt. Norquay Rd., between the railway tracks and the TransCanada Hwy. (near Fenlands Rec Centre).
Trail Description: This pleasant woodland loop winds through a white spruce forest, along the banks of Forty Mile Creek. It's a favourite spot for dog walks (on-leash), and wildlife and nature discovery, year round.
TUNNEL MOUNTAIN TRAIL
Time: 2 hours (return) Distance: 2.3 km Elevation Gain: 260 m Difficulty: Moderate
Starting Point: Banff Centre overflow parking lot, along St. Julien Road.
Trail Description: Most of this hike is easy to moderate, with moderately steep switchbacks up the forested side of the mountain to get your heart racing. Hiking to the top of Banff's smallest summit, you are rewarded with 360° views of the townsite, the Bow and Spray River valleys, the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course and surrounding peaks.
HOODOOS INTERPRETIVE TRAIL
Time: 1.5 hours Distance: 4.6 km Elevation Loss & Gain: 60 m Difficulty: Moderate
Starting Point: Parking lot at Surprise Corner Viewpoint, at the top end of Buffalo Street
Trail Description: The trail features views of large Douglas firs, the Fairholme Range and Mt. Rundle. The grade varies from gentle to moderate. Get up close with the mysterious Hoodoos, just a short scramble down from the main trail.
Time: 6-7 hours Distance: 9.3 km Elevation Gain: 710 m (2,329 feet) Difficulty: Long day hike. The last half is steep.
Starting Point: From the TransCanada Hwy., take the Sunshine turnoff and drive to the Bourgeau parking lot, 8 km from the turnoff. The trail begins at a bridge and kiosk behind the Gondola building.
Trail Description: Despite a tedious approach through forest, during the last 2 km to Healy Pass, you traverse scenic meadows, passing lakelets beneath Monarch Ramparts, and getting views back to Mt. Assiniboine, Banff Park’s highest summit. From Healy Pass, you can see Egypt, Scarab and Talc Lakes. Since it is not flanked by large mountainsides, Healy Pass has an unusually fine panorama.
AYLMER LOOKOUT & PASS
Time: 8-10 hours Distance: 23.6 km Elevation Gain: 579 m (1,900 feet) Difficulty: Easy with some short steep sections.
Starting Point: Take the Lake Minnewanka Rd. to the large, paved parking lot, just above the lake’s west end.
Trail Description: The trail with the best views of Banff’s largest lake is the one to Aylmer Lookout. From the Lookout site you see most of Lake Minnewanka. Strong hikers can reach the Alymer Lookout and return in a day. Those bound for both the lookout and the pass may prefer to camp at the Aylmer Pass Junction Campground and hike from there.
HIKES IN & AROUND LAKE LOUISE
MORAINE LAKE ROCKPILE
Time: 20-40 minutes Distance: 0.35 km Elevation Gain: 30 m (100 ft) Difficulty: Easy
Trail Description: It won’t take you long to hike to the top of this moraine, but you’ll want to schedule in time to take in the fantastic view of Moraine Lake and the surrounding peaks. The “Twenty Dollar” view can be seen here as it is the exact location found on the old Canadian Twenty Dollar bill.
Time: 1.5 hours (return) Distance: 2.4 km Elevation Gain: 350 m (1,150 feet) Difficulty: Moderate
Starting Point: Starts at Moraine Lake and follows the lakeshore for a short distance.
Trail Description: Larch Valley is one of the most visited hiking areas in the Canadian Rockies. The trail is well marked with two intersections. At both keep to the right. The trail climbs through the forest along a series of switchbacks. At points you will see Moraine Lake below. After climbing 350 m in elevation and walking 2.4 km, you will enter Larch Valley.
LAKE AGNES TEAHOUSE
Time: 1-2 hours (one way) Distance: 3.4 km Elevation Gain: 400 m (1,300 ft) Difficulty: Strenuous, steep sections
Start Point: The trail branches from the Lake Louise shoreline trail just beyond the hotel.
Trail Description: This is one of the most famous trails in Lake Louise. The Lake Agnes Tea House offers stunning views where you can savour a pot of freshly steeped tea and enjoy homemade soup, sandwiches or desserts.
PLAIN OF THE SIX GLACIERS
Time: 2 hours (one way) Distance: 5.3 km Elevation Gain: 365 m (1,200 feet) Difficulty: Strenuous, steep sections
Trail Description: This hike starts with an easy warm up trail that follows the north shore of Lake Louise, but quickly gets more challenging as it climbs towards the glaciers. Stop at the tea house for a break, but then be sure to continue on to the Abbot Pass Lookout for a dramatic view of the six glaciers.
Time: 2-4 hours Distance: 7.4 km (return) Elevation Gain: 600 m (1,970 feet) Difficulty: Moderate with steeper sections
Starting Point: Drive to the parking lots of Lake Louise. Proceed to the lakeshore, the trailhead starts just before the boathouse.
Trail Description: From the trailhead you pass junctions to the boathouse, the upper parking lot, the Tramline Trail and to Fairview Lookout. Keep straight at all four intersections. A fifth junction leads to Paradise Valley and Moraine Lake. Take the trail to the Saddleback, which angles right and is plainly marked. Proceeding along this steepish section, and soon after the first avalanche slope, there is an unsigned junction with a choice of routes: the path to the right is shorter and steeper while the path to the left is more scenic. The two routes eventually unite just before the second avalanche slope. The trail continues zigzagging steeply through open meadows to the first view of Mt. Temple, and to the Saddleback, from where glimpes of Lake Annette await through the larches.
Time: 4-5 hours Distance: 11.6 km (return) Elevation Gain: 726 m (2,381 feet) Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Starting Point: Drive to the Moraine Lake parking lot, then take the Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail past the lodge to the trailhead sign.
Trail Description: See LARCH VALLEY. Beyond the hike to Larch Valley, continue north (right) to Sentinel Pass. Hike over an easy grade to a charming meadow with a gentle stream and another superb view of the Ten Peaks. At the 4.6-kilometre point, reach the tiny Minnestimma Lakes. The craggy notch of Sentinel Pass is visible ahead, between Pinnacle Mountain (left) and Mt. Temple (right). Beyond Minnestimma Lakes, the trail becomes steeper, climbing tight switchbacks in its final surge to Sentinel Pass (kilometre 5.8).
Here are a couple of suggestions for our visitors:
At the Lake Louise Gondola, discover why this beautiful, majestic area is home for so many grizzly bears, and other wildlife in Banff National Park! At the top of the summer gondola, interpretive programs offer fascinating information about nature and history in the Park, with special focus on our icon, the magnificent and mysterious “great bear”. Guided walks are 45 minutes, and proper footwear is recommended.
With White Mountain Adventures, you will see Banff’s most magnificent alpine scenery! At the Sunshine Meadows you’ll find miles of easy walking trails above the tree line in one of North America’s premier hiking areas. Shuttles depart the Sunshine ski area parking lot every hour from 8am until 4:45pm. You’ll gain over 500 metres in elevation and save yourself more than 5 kilometres of uphill walking on the 15-minute ride to the trailheads. Shuttles return regularly from 9:15am until 5:30pm.