Not everybody has the time or the inclination to grind to the top of a mountain, or hike 20km in a single day, or crawl on their hands and knees up steep scree. What if you’re visiting Banff and you just want to go for a nice stroll? What are the easiest hikes in Banff National Park?
Yes, the Canadian Rockies are an adrenaline junkie’s paradise, and the Bow Valley is full of sadists that love to torture themselves up monster mountains, but there are actually plenty of trails you can try that don’t require you to risk your life or work too hard.
There are, in fact, dozens of fantastic trails we would happily rank as easy, and that people of virtually all abilities can manage. It may be that you don’t find every single hike on this list super easy, but I guarantee there is at least one or two that you will!
This is our attempt to put together as many of these easy walks and hikes as we can think of in Banff National Park itself (and two sneaky ones that are technically from Jasper). We’ll save the ones in Kananaskis for another post!
What do we mean by an easy hike?
What constitutes an easy hike then? Is a hike easy if it’s very short, but also quite steep? And is a hike easy if it’s very gentle, but also very long? Well, at the end of the day, easy is a relative term that means something different for all of us.
To try and make this as objective as possible, I’ve given each walk/hike a score based on their distance and elevation gain. Number 1 on this list is the hike with the shortest distance and lowest elevation gain.
As a result, our list contains a (unfortunately) completely subjective list of hikes that we, and the majority of the local community, would probably offer up, should you approach us for an easy option. Please make sure you know your own abilities before you attempt to take any of these on.
This list is ordered from easiest to hardest (based on our ranking), starting from leisurely strolls and ending with borderline ‘moderate’ hikes. If you have any questions, shoot me an email or comment!
Our ranked list of easy hikes and walks in Banff
We ranked these hikes by distance, elevation gain and our subjective difficulty score, leading to an overall ranking from easy (1) to hardest (33). The scores are heavily weighted in favour of elevation, because we feel like steepness is really what makes something feel difficult. We can walk all day if it’s flat!
The hikes with *’s are hikes that we feel are worth doing even if you don’t complete them. These hikes may have some elevation gain or be very long, but we still rate them as easy because they can be easy and enjoyable even if you only walk part of the route.
Use the contents above to easily skip to each hike
P.s Sorry there aren’t more photos, I’ll keep updating these as I revisit each hike!
|Hike/Walk||Distance/km (Round Trip)||Elevation Gain/m||Difficulty Rating||Overall Ranking (easiest to hardest)|
|1. Fenlands Trail||1.8||0||0||1|
|2. Moraine Lake Rockpile||0.8||7||1||2|
|3. Stewart Canyon*||1||10||0||3|
|4. Sulphur/Cosmic Ray Station||1||20||1||4|
|5. Bankside Trail||1.1||35||0||5|
|6. Panther Falls||1.1||40||0||6|
|7. Lake Louise Lakeshore*||4.7||10||0||7|
|8. Mistaya Canyon||1||58||0||8|
|9. Cascade Falls||0.5||66||4||9|
|10. Fairmont Golf Course Loop*||17||50||0||10|
|11. Johnson Lake*||3.1||70||0||11|
|12. Bow Falls Viewpoint*||2.7||66||1||12|
|13. Athabasca Glacier||1.4||58||3||13|
|14. Consolation Lakes||5.8||65||2||14|
|15. Silverton Falls||1.8||106||4||15|
|16. Peyto Lake Lookout||2.7||115||2||16|
|17. Fairview Lookout||2.4||165||2||17|
|18. Hector Lake||4.5||107||3||18|
|19. Boom Lake||5.1||175||1||19|
|20. Johnston Canyon*||5||236||1||20|
|21. Tunnel Mountain||4.5||266||2||21|
|22. Hoodoos Lookout Trail||5.8||236||1||22|
|23. Chephren Lake||7.7||241||3||23|
|24. Sundance Canyon*||10||389||0||24|
|25. Parker Ridge||5.1||269||3||25|
|26. Bow Glacier Falls||8.7||266||2||26|
|27. Sunshine Meadows Grizzly/Laryx Loop Trail*||6.6||320||2||27|
|28. Lake Agnes||7.6||433||4||28|
|29. Wilcox Pass||9.3||522||3||29|
|30. Larch Valley Hike||8.6||535||4||30|
|31. Plain of Six Glaciers*||14.6||588||4||31|
|32. Taylor Lake||15||924||3||32|
|33. Helen Lake||16.7||754||5||33|
1. Fenlands Trail to Vermillion Lakes
- Elevation: 0m
- Distance: 1.8km
Fenlands trail connects the town of Banff to Vermillion likes via a woodland loop trail, and is without doubt one of the easiest hikes in Banff National Park. It can be walked as a loop, or simply as a more scenic way of reaching Vermillion Lakes. Sometimes it floods during early season, or can be closed for wildlife activity, but if you’re looking to stretch your legs and don’t want to stray too far from town, this is a good option.
We recommend walking the Fenlands trail to Vermillion and catching sunset. This would probably take around half an hour from town, depending on which lake you wanted to visit.
2. Moraine Lake Rockpile
- Elevation: 7m
- Distance: 0.8km
This is more of a walk than a hike, but as it sits at a relatively high altitude, there’s a good chance it’ll still leave you out of breath. I know I’m always surprisingly puffed when I reach the top!
This is the short walk from the car park up the stairs to the main viewpoint at Moraine Lake. Generally speaking it takes less than 5 minutes to get to your first view, and probably another couple to get to the highest point on the trail.
Bear in mind that this hike is basically just one big long staircase.
When you arrive at Moraine, you might see people clambering up the rockpile. Unless you really want to do that, I’d recommend taking the trail on the left, just after the toilets!
This is possibly the busiest place in Banff National Park, especially at sunrise and sunset, so don’t expect to have it to yourself!
If you want to explore further while you’re here, you can always walk around the Moraine Lake Shoreline or read about a few more Moraine Lake hikes here.
Note that from summer 2023 onwards, cars are no longer allowed up the Moraine Lake Road. Please check this blog post for more details on how to plan your visit!
3. Stewart Canyon Trail at Lake Minnewanka
- Elevation: 257m
- Distance: 6.6km
You’ll notice that on our list, Stewart Canyon is 1km, but the trail actually continues along the Stewart Canyon ravine for up to 6km. However, you’ll actually reach Stewart Canyon after about 1km, and this alone is worth a short walk. Walk the 1km and you’ll have just completed one of the easiest hikes in Banff!
The Stewart Canyon hike begins from the Lake Minnewanka parking lot. Follow the trail past the docks and around the perimeter of Lake Minnewanka, until you’re forced to join the trail that leads into the woods.
The Stewart Canyon Trail is short and eventually leads to a wooden bridge overlooking the Canyon. With that being said, Stewart Canyon Trail is the start of an enormous bike trail that runs along the edge of Lake Minnewanka, and several popular hikes like Aylmer Lookout. You can easily follow this trail for 30km, but watch out for wildlife and carry bear Spray!
4. Sulphur Mountain Lookout/Cosmic Ray Station
- Elevation: 20m*
- Distance: 1km
*I couldn’t find any information on the elevation from the main Sulphur Gondola interpretive centre and the top of the Cosmic Ray Station, but my estimate is that it couldn’t be more than 20m. There’s very little elevation change at all, just a few flights of stairs.
This is a bit of a cheat entry on this list, because it assumes you’ve already taken the gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain!, but it’s still a nice little walk at the top of a mountain if you don’t want to bother actually hiking up one!
Once you’ve disembarked the gondola, walk out of the info centre and walk along the wooden boardwalk towards the Cosmic Ray station ahead of you. The trail is very obvious and you can’t go wrong. This isn’t the true summit of Sulphur Mountain, but it’s a nice, easy walk that you might as well do it now that you’re here!
If you’d like to extend this hike, you can start at the base of Sulphur Mountain and hike your way to the top! This is about 5km each way and will take you roughly 1.5 hours to summit. This is my preferred way to go up Sulphur, as it’s generally quite expensive to get up there otherwise.
5. Bankside Trail
- Elevation: 35m
- Distance: 1.1km
Bankhead mining town was a little known part of Banff’s history, and actually, it was once a bigger town than Banff itself!
In 1922, Bankhead coal mine was officially abandoned, meaning dozens of buildings were left behind below Cascade Mountain. In addition, mining in National Parks was then banned in 1930, leaving Bankhead as nothing more than a ghost town. Today, several of the buildings are still standing in the area, as well as a couple of mining carts left as a monument to Bankhead’s past.
The Bankside Trail is a short 1.1km trail through the old townsite and is certainly more of an easy walk rather than a hike. You’ll find the Bankhead area and the Bankside Trail along the Lake Minnewanka loop. It’s probably not the first walk I’d check off, but you’ll be sure to escape the crowds on this trail!
6. Panther Falls
- Elevation: 40m
- Distance: 1.1km
Panther Falls is a very short and easy hike to a stunning waterfall on the Icefalls Parkway. It’s a fairly well hidden waterfall that you’d probably drive past again and again without ever realising!
Panther Falls is a great place to stop en route to Jasper, and is especially popular in Winter (particularly with photographers). If you plan on exploring it in Winter, make sure you bring ice spikes and a helmet.
7. Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail
- Elevation: 101*
- Distance: 4.6km
*I’ve searched high and low for elevation information about the Lake shore trail at Lake Louise, and the best I can find is Alltrails, which says there’s 101m elevation. Considering you’re walking along the edge of a flat lake, this seems a bit extreme, however the trail does gently rise and fall. If you visit in winter and hike across the frozen lake itself, it’s definitely 0m.
This is a very flat and straightforward trail that follows the Lake Louise shoreline towards the back of the lake. As far as easy hikes in Banff go, they don’t get much easier than this; it’s number 7 on this list because the return journey is 4.6km, but you can just as easily walk for 5 minutes and still enjoy the same views!
If you make it to the back of the lake, you’ll often see climbers above on the rocks, or climbing up the frozen waterfall at the back!
If this hike isn’t enough for you, you can always continue to the other teahouse in the Plains of the Six Glaciers or loop back up to the Beehive trail.
8. Mistaya Canyon
- Elevation: 58m
- Distance: 1.0km
Mistaya Canyon is a very easy walk downhill from the parking lot along the Icefields parkway. Within minutes you’ll see the spray and hear the crashing of thousands of gallons of cascading water. Watch the rapids from the bridge or walk along the shore a little for a better view. This is a short stop along the road to Jasper and worth a few minutes of your time!
If you’re thinking of stopping at Mistaya Canyon in winter, make sure you pack ice spikes. This trail is extremely treacherous once there’s a little ice on the ground. I’ve fallen over several times on the compacted ice.
9. Cascade Falls
- Elevation: 50m
- Distance: 0.5km
This isn’t necessarily an easy hike (hence the high ‘relative’ difficulty , but it’s extremely short. Cascade Falls is a waterfall that runs down the face of Cascade Mountain (the massive mountain that looms over the town of Banff, and the waterfall after which it’s named); you can see it as you drive towards Banff or drive along the Minnewanka loop.
The trail starts from the East end of the airstrip, right at the start of the Lake Minnewanka road loop and a few metres past the cattle grid.
Cut through the trees and start climbing the steep scree. Within several short minutes, you’ll be able to access the water as it pours down the rock. It’s a great place to go for a bracing shower on a hot day!
This trail can be as short or as long as you like, and all depends on your scrambling ability. I would say that it’s easy until you reach the waterfall, but climbing higher may require some more challenging scrambling.
Most people can reach a point where they’re able to connect with the waterfall, although you may be huffing and puffing briefly, and it will probably require you to walk on some slippery, rocky scree.
We usually keep going higher and higher until we lose our nerve and tap out. Don’t push yourself if it’s beyond your abilities and climb higher at your own risk!
10. The Fairmont Golf Course Loop
- Elevation: 50m
- Distance: approx 17km for the full loop
This is definitely one of those walks that don’t require you to complete the full loop. As it’s fairly close to our house, there are evenings when we just walk a bit of it to get some exercise. Other times we’ve spent close to 3 hours wandering the entire loop slowly. It’s also an excellent bike ride, and probably takes about 30-40 minutes to cycle at a decent pace.
This is a route we’ve become very familiar with over the past few months in quarantine, because virtually everything else was closed.
From Bow Falls, follow the riverbank downstream towards the Waldhaus restaurant. Cross the bridge on your left and follow the trail on the right hand side. The trail will lead you through the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course, and eventually turns into a long loop that runs alongside the Bow River.
This is a beautiful, virtually flat road that also connects to a few mountain biking trails (Rundle Riverside Trail), fishing spots and climbing routes. Some parts have no designated footpaths, so you’ll have to walk on the road at times. Watch out for cars coming to and from the golf course as you walk (also watch out for bears and wildlife).
11. Johnson Lake (Perimeter)
- Elevation: 70m
- Distance: 3.1km
Johnson Lake is a bit of enigma in Banff National Park. Nobody really knows when it’ll open or be closed, but all I know is that it’s incredibly popular in the summer when it is open.
The reason it’s sometimes closed is because the lake has whirling disease (a fish disease that doesn’t affect humans), and Parks doesn’t want to risk people transferring it to different lakes.
Johnson Lake has a popular ‘beach’ where locals like to hang out on sunny weekends, and it’s also famous for its swings; there’s one on the North side that hangs under a tree, and a rope swing on the south side that catapults you into the lake!
The easy walk is a gentle lap of the perimeter and has minimal elevation changes.
12. Bow Falls Viewpoint
- Elevation: 66m
- Distance: 2.7km
This is the simplest trail in Banff, and is much more of a stroll than a hike. The trail runs alongside the Bow river and runs all the way from the Boat launch (the Banff canoe club), through the town, across the river and down to Bow Falls. You can also stay on the North side of the river and continue until you reach surprise corner (at which point you can connect with the Hoodoos Trail).
Most people seem to start at the road bridge or pedestrian bridge and follow the river on the South side. This will lead you down to the foot of Bow Falls, at which point you can connect with the Golf Course loop. It’s amazing how many of these trails connect in Banff!
For the most part, the Bow River Trail is a nice gentle stroll around the edge of town and can be as long or as short as you like! There is barely any elevation change aside from a small hill you have to walk over just as you approach Bow Falls. This is extremely easy except in Winter when it can be exceptionally slippery and treacherous.
The elevation change is apparently 66m, but for the most part I would consider this walk to almost entirely flat (aside from the hill at the end).
13. Hike to Athabasca Glacier Toe (Jasper NP)
- Elevation: 58m
- Distance: 1.4km
This is something we like to do every year if possible, and it’s always amazing and sad to see how much the glacier recedes from year to year. While there are plenty of paid ways to experience the Athabasca Glacier, the free hike to its toe is just as worthwhile.
The hike starts at the parking lot opposite the Columbia Icefields Centre, and leads up the steep scree Moraine behind. This can be a little slippery at times, especially on the way down, but it’s very short and worth it to see the glacier up close!
The steep gradient and the higher altitude may make it a challenge for some, but the short length makes it one of the easiest short hikes/walks in the National Park (technically this is in Jasper National Park, not Banff, but it’s so close to Banff I feel like including it!).
14. Consolation Lakes
- Elevation: 255m
- Distance: 5.8km
The hike to Consolation Lakes is one of my favourite short hikes in Banff, and the easiest short hike in the Moraine Lake area. There’s a gentle slope upwards with some elevation gain, but the end destination is well worth the effort. I’d say in total is takes about 1.5 -2 hours round trip.
Once you reach the end of the trail, there’s a small boulder field to navigate to get to the water’s edge. It’s definitely worth going a little bit further to reach the water and find some of the clearest water in Banff! If you’re visiting the Moraine Lake area, it’s a must do hike! Here are a few other hikes in the Moraine Lake area if you’re looking for something a bit more challenging.
As the Consolation Lakes hike starts in the Moraine Lake area, access is limited and to hike this you’ll have to plan your trip in advance. Either arrive before sunrise, bike up the road or book an advanced bus ticket.
15. Silverton Falls
- Elevation: 106m
- Distance: 1.8km
Silverton Falls is a sneaky little waterfall hike hidden away near Castle Junction, about halfway between Lake Louise and Banff. You’ll find the trailhead right by Castle Junction on the Bow Valley Parkway.
The Silverton Falls hike is a short and steep hike up to a small waterfall . The trailhead is roughly in the Castle Junction Area with a small parking lot. The trail is a little slippery at times, so take care as you make your way to the falls.
16. Peyto Lake Lookout trail
- Elevation: 115m
- Distance: 2.7km
Although this will remain closed in 2020 for renovations, the Peyto Lake Lookout or Bow Summit Trail is exceptionally easy and takes around 15 minutes from the lower parking lot.
Follow the paved footpath upwards to the lookout. The lookout is impossible to miss and gives you views of my absolute favourite lake in Banff (aside from Moraine!). If you’re willing to explore a little, you can also follow the loop trail to another lookout that’s usually a lot less crowded.
The trail is fairly steep, so some find it challenging or slow, however it’s over quickly and it’s very straightforward. If you have mobility issues, you can avoid the walk altogether and park in some of the disabled spaces at the upper parking lot.
If you’re looking for another challenge, you can also use this lookout as a starting point for some longer hikes into the backcountry, and you can access an ACC hut from here too. You can also hike down to Peyto Lake from here, but having done this before, I can honestly say that I don’t think it’s worth it. It’s a grind and the view is much better form up top!
17. Fairview Lookout at Lake Louise
- Elevation: 165m
- Distance: 2.4km
This is a short, easy hike that starts at the shores of Lake Louise and climbs a short way to give stunning views of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel.
There’s only a small elevation gain, so it’s manageable for most abilities. This is also a great spot to shoot some interesting night photography of the Chateau and potentially the Northern Lights behind.
18. Hector Lake
- Elevation: 107m
- Distance: 4.5km
Hector Lake is a sneaky hike that most people miss along the Icefields Parkway. Although Hector Lake is easy to spot from the highway, most people don’t know that it’s very short with only a small elevation change to reach it.
But it does come with a catch; there’s a river crossing about half way along that you can’t avoid.
If you’re going to attempt this hike, make sure you bring water shoes, or that it’s a hot day! The river depth can vary depending on the time of year, so it’s best to avoid trying this hike earlier on in the season while there’s still a lot of spring water runoff from the mountains.
If you do manage to make it to Hector Lake, there’s a good chance you’ll have it to yourself!
19. Boom Lake
- Elevation: 175m
- Distance: 5.1km
Boom Lake is an extremely easy, relatively flat and straight hike on highway 93 S, headed towards Radium Hot Springs. It’s right on the Border to BC and is a relatively unknown hike amongst tourists.
The trail is entirely through the forest, as the elevation is fairly low, with parts of the trail making use of a wooden boardwalk. The Boom Lake hike has some of the largest trees in Banff National Park, although they can’t compare to the forests you’ll find in coastal BC.
Eventually, the trail emerges from the trees right at the very end of the trail only to open out into a large lake (Boom Lake).
20. Johnston Canyon Trail
- Elevation: 236m
- Distance: 5km * varies depending on how far you go!
Johnston Canyon is one of the busiest but most unique hikes in Banff National Park. As far as awesome waterfall hikes go in Banff, this is about the best option you can find.
In total there are 7 waterfalls to spot along the way, with each more impressive than the last!
The trail winds up through the canyon on a suspended boardwalk, and eventually you’ll pop out at the Lower Falls viewpoint. The best views of Johnston Canyon Lower Falls can be found through the cave; you can’t miss it! This is extremely slippery in winter!
The walk to Lower Johnston Canyon Falls is about 1 hours round trip (more in winter), and it’s suitable for virtually all abilities (in summer that is, in winter it gets really treacherous and might not be suitable for everyone!).
To get to Johnston Canyon Upper Falls is significantly longer, with the trail gently ascending and descending through the forest until you eventually reach a plateau and the crashing falls ahead of you. The hike to the Upper Falls takes around 2-3 hours round trip (from the parking lot), and isn’t particularly strenuous. Here’s a blog post we wrote about Johnston Canyon in Winter!
For the most part, Johnston Canyon is quite long, but easy, and perhaps this is why it’s also one of the busiest hikes in Banff.
If you do find that this hike is too short for you, you can also extend it and walk to the Ink Pots, which is around 5km each way from the parking lot.
We don’t recommend going during the busier hours of the day, and sometimes parking can be a bit of an issue. However, Parks Canada has recently expanded their parking lot to accommodate the increased traffic.
21. Tunnel Mountain
- Elevation: 266m
- Distance: 4.5km
Tunnel Mountain is probably the smallest ‘mountain’ you can summit in Banff. Whether or not it is actually a mountain is debatable, but nevertheless it’s a very popular walking/running route for locals.
It generally takes between 15-45 minutes to summit depending on whether you run or walk, and reaching the top will reward you with views of Banff townsite below, as well as the Fairmont Golf Course on the other side.
This is a very easy trail with nice long switchbacks. I’ve seen small kids and elderly people hiking Tunnel and it’s very definitely something that most hiking abilities can handle. It does have a few steps at the beginning though, and the trail is uneven at times.
22. Tunnel Mountain Hoodoos Trail
- Elevation: 236m
- Distance: 5.8km
The official Tunnel Mountain Hoodoo trail begins at the Surprise Corner lookout; the best view of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. The trail then wraps around the rear side of Tunnel Mountain (running alongside the Bow River and the Banff Springs Golf Course, before finally creeping up hill towards the Hoodoos on Tunnel Mountain Road.
The trail follows a beautiful part of the Bow River, with stunning views of Mt. Rundle the entire way.
The Hoodoos themselves are fairly uninteresting (there are much better versions in Drumheller and the US), but the view of the Bow Valley itself is worth a peek.
From the Hoodoo trail, you can watch the boats float down the Bow river below, take the Tunnel Mountain Toe mountain biking trail or simply complete the loop back to town (by heading down Tunnel Mountain Road).
If you want to extend the walk, you can start from Tunnel Mountain, walk down to the Fairmont Golf Course and complete the Golf course loop as well. This would be a very, very long, but leisurely walk.
The Hoodoos are very near the Tunnel Mountain Campground, so if you’re staying there they’re within easy walking distance.
23. Chephren Lake
- Elevation: 241m
- Distance: 7.7km
Chephren Lake is a relatively low elevation hike that starts close to Waterfowl Lakes (just beyond Peyto Lake). The trail creeps through the forest and reaches a secret lake right under the shadow of Howse Peak.
The trail is often very muddy, so be prepared for that, and also expect it to be relatively busy. Chephren Lake trail head is right by a campground, so the area is quite popular. It’s also an area with frequent bear activity, so bring bear spray!
24. Sundance Canyon and Cave and Basin
- Elevation: 389m* The majority of the elevation is at the end of the trail in the canyon
- Distance: 10km
Sundance Canyon is a fantastic walk that we only very recently rediscovered. The trail starts at the Cave and Basin Hot Springs National Historic Site parking lot, and continues for several kilometers along the Bow River.
From the Cave and Basin, you can also explore the various boardwalks below or take the marsh loop, but the real magic is catching up with the river on a trail that few know about! And then, finally at the end of the trail (about 6km along), you’ll reach Sundance Canyon; a gorgeous canyon hidden in the forest.
This trail is quite long, but very flat and very easy. There are lovely views along the way and you absolutely don’t have to go the whole way to Sundance Canyon for it to be worth it. This is also the back route to summit Sulphur Mountain (up the Cosmic Ray station road.
‘Harder’ Easy Hikes in Banff
From here on out, the hikes get a little steeper or longer, but these are all hikes that we still consider to be relatively easy compared to some of the other beast hikes in Banff. These are probably best classified as moderate hikes if we’re being really honest.
These next hikes are the best hikes if you’re looking for something a bit more challenging, but you’re not ready for a huge day with extreme elevation gain. These are also hikes that avoid scary edges or scrambling.
25. Bow Glacier Falls
- Elevation: 266m
- Distance: 8.7km
Bow Glacier Falls is actually the first hike I ever completed in the Canadian Rockies. I showed up in Jean shorts, wearing a satchel and had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Even newbie 2012 me was able to do this hike with absolutely no issues.
The trail begins at Bow Lake parking lot, quickly moves around Bow Lake and up into the hills beyond towards the obvious waterfall in the distance. The trail is very easy to follow and gently slopes uphill towards it. The elevation gain is very gradual and it’s a nice way to explore the area.
During the summer, you can stop into Num Ti Jah Lodge on the way out and grab a bowl of bison chilli. We hiked this once in the rain and it couldn’t have been more perfect!
26. Parker Ridge Trail
- Elevation: 269m
- Distance: 5.1km
Parker Ridge is our another ‘relatively’ easy hike on the Icefields Parkway. The trail begins just before you reach the Columbia Icefields and takes you quickly up a ridge for a spectacular view of the Saskatchewan Glacier.
The hike is short and steep, and the high starting point might leave you a little breathless, but the views at the top are worth the pain. It’s also a lovely alpine meadow that teems with wildflowers (and mosquitos and sometimes bears) during the summer months.
This is a super short hike with an excellent payoff if you make it up to the ridge. Unfortunately, you only get the view of the glacier if you make it all the way to the top, but even if you make it above the treeline the views from the hike are fantastic!
27. Sunshine Meadows (Grizzly/Laryx Loop Trail)
- Elevation: 320m*
- Distance: 6.6km*
The statistics above are for the longest “trail” at Sunshine Meadows, but you really don’t have to do everything. There are plenty of interconnected trails that mean you can walk as much or as little as you like. This is also, theoretically, one you could reach Mt. Assiniboine and save your legs!
Note: Closed for Summer 2020 due to Covid – you can walk all the way up there but this is a significantly longer hike with substantial elevation gain.
In Winter, Sunshine Meadows are where you’ll find Sunshine Village Ski Resort, but once all the snow melts you’ll find Banff’s finest Alpine Meadows in its place.
Typically to access Sunshine Meadows, you can either Hike Healy Pass or pay for the Sunshine Meadows shuttle bus or Gondola. This is the quickest and easiest way to gain elevation and save your legs.
Once you’re up in Sunshine Meadows, you’ll find hundreds of acres of Alpine Meadows to stroll around, complete with lakes and incredible, nigh infinite, mountain views. Sunshine Meadows is also a great place to spot bears as they feast on wildflowers.
My favourite thing about Sunshine Meadows is that there are also great food options up there run by Sunshine Village, and in a normal year you can even stay up at Sunshine Mountain Lodge.
28. Mirror Lake and Lake Agnes Teahouse
- Elevation: 433m
- Distance: 7.6km
This is a very short but steepish hike leading up to the famous Lake Agnes and Lake Agnes Teahouse nestled in the forest above Lake Louise. We love to visit this every year and grab some hot chocolate or a home made scone for breakfast.
Did you know there are actually two teahouses at Lake Louise? Check out this blog post to find out which teahouse is better at Lake Louise!
About 2/3 of the way up, you’ll reach Mirror Lake. If you get there early in the morning before the wind picks up and the light hits it, you’ll understand why it has it’s name! The reflections are unbelievable.
The Lake Agnes Teahouse
For non hikers, the Lake Agnes trail can feel somewhat challenging, as it will take between 45 minutes and 1 hour 30 of continuous effort walking uphill. There are several switchbacks, and although we call this hike ‘easy’, keep in mind that this is relative to some of the other very challenging hikes we love in Banff.
We often pass people complaining about how hard the teahouse hike is, however 90% of people make it there with no trouble at all. And I promise you the destination is definitely worth it!
If you’re looking for an easier way to visit. You can also ride a pony to the Agnes teahouse, which you can book in the lobby of the Fairmont (or online).
If you make it to Lake Agnes and are still looking for a longer challenge, walk around the right hand side of the lake and up the 8 switchbacks to the Big Beehive. The views of Lake Louise below are unbelievable.. seriously. Read more about the Big Beehive Hike here.
Still have the energy? Carry on upwards again to the Devil’s Thumb; one of my all time favourite hikes.
29. Wilcox Pass (Jasper NP)
- Distance: 9.3km
This is a relatively easy hike with some moderate elevation gain spread over a relatively long distance. The main draw is the amazing view of the Athabasca Glacier, which is probably one of the best ways to see a glacier in the area, and what’s more, it’s free!
The Wilcox Pass hike takes you up on the alpine meadow opposite the Athabasca Glacier, and after not very much time at all you’re treated to incredible, unimpeded views of the Glaciers on the other side. There are even some of Banff’s iconic Adirondack red chairs set out at the viewpoint.
This is one of the least challenging hikes on the Icefields Parkway, but can lead to Wilcox Peak, which is significantly more advanced.
This hike may technically be in Jasper National Park, but as it’s right on the border to Banff, I felt like lumping it in with the rest of these hikes.
It’s well worth the effort!
30. Larch Valley
- Elevation: 535m
- Distance: 8.6km
Larch Valley is probably one of the more challenging hikes on this list. It’s very short, but there’s a steep elevation gain to get to the destination. Larch Valley is an alpine meadow that’s absolutely full of Larch Pine trees. That means in Autumn the entire valley turns into a golden forest.
As a result, it’s one of the most popular Fall hikes in Banff, and can get extremely busy in September.
The Larch Valley hike is a great starting point for several other more hardcore hikes/scrambles. These include Mount Temple, Eiffel Peak, Sentinel Pass, Paradise Valley and Wenkchemna Pass.
As the Larch Valley hike starts in the Moraine Lake area, access is limited and now you either have to arrive before sunrise or take the shuttle bus which must be booked in advance. If you’re interested in trying some more challenging hikes in the Moraine area, check out this list!
31. Plain of Six Glaciers Trail and Tea House
- Elevation: 588m
- Distance: Approx 14.6km
This is the lesser known tea house in the Lake Louise area. It’s located right at the back of the lake and hidden up in the valley beyond. It’s not technically challenging, but it is several kilometres long with some moderate elevation gain.
Technically, thus hike is an extension of the Lake Louise Lakeshore hike, and simply continues onwards into the mountains beyond. This is a great summer hike for people looking to get some exercise but that aren’t interested in taking on a mountain with extreme elevation gain. This hike can also be combined with the Big Beehive hike and be turned into a much larger loop trail.
The Plains of the Six Glaciers Teahouse is only open in summer, and heading to the back of Lake Louise isn’t advised particularly in Winter due to avalanche risk.
The actual Plain of 6 Glaciers Teahouse is only about 380m elevation, so you don’t need to keep climbing if you’re only looking for a cup of tea!
Note: Lake Louise Parking can be a nightmare. Arrive early to avoid disappointment.
32. Taylor Lake
- Elevation: 924m
- Distance: 15km
Taylor Lake is a relatively easy out and back hike between Banff and Lake Louise. It’s a somewhat long but easy hike that’s easy to miss as you drive along the highway. The hike gradually winds uphill with a significant elevation change, but eventually you’ll pop out at a large lake with beautiful views. This is also a hike with Larch trees, so if you visit in Autumn, the entire lake is surrounded by bright orange/gold pine trees.
It’s a straightforward hike that doesn’t require any technical skills and that doesn’t require you to summit any mountains.
There are plenty of nicer hikes in the area, but this hike really comes into its own in the autumn when the leaves change colour.
33. Helen Lake
- Elevation: 754m
- Distance: 16.7km
Ok, Helen Lake isn’t super easy per se, but it’s not extremely challenging and it would be a great hike for anyone that’s looking to push from an easy to a moderate hike.
The Helen Lake hike starts opposite the Crowfoot Glacier on the Icefields Parkway and is the first half of the route to Cirque Peak, a very challenging hike that we definitely recommend if you have the experience and energy.
The Helen Lake hike however, simply leads you through a forest and up into a beautiful alpine meadow with wildflowers, waterfalls and stunning mountain lake views. Helen Lake itself is beautiful and a nice place for an afternoon picnic.
The initial incline on the hike is a little challenging, but is still relatively easy compared to most hikes in Banff!
Are there other easy hikes and walks nearby?
This list is full of easy hikes and walks in Banff National Park (with a couple in Jasper thrown in), but there are also plenty of easy hikes in the surrounding parks (Kootenay, Kananaskis, Yoho and Jasper) too.
Writing this post has been rather exhausting so, writing about those hikes is next on my to do list I promise! In the meantime, feel free to email me if you need some of those suggestions!
I hope you’ve found this list interesting and helpful, with perhaps a few hidden hiking trails you’d never considered before. We’ve spent years exploring all these trails and can happily speak with experience about each one.
You may find that you disagree with our rankings on some of these listings, so please view this list as a rough guide rather than as gospel. Know your own abilities and reach out to us directly if you’re not entirely sure if one of these hikes will be suitable for your abilities!
Ready for something a little more challenging?
Why not check out these blog posts about a few harder hikes in Banff and the surrounding area!