“What are the best hikes near Banff?” is the question I probably get asked the most, from friends who are visiting or just people who visit my Instagram account. I usually tell people it’s too hard to choose the “best” hike as everyone differs in ability levels and what they find most interesting. However, if you’re planning a vacation to Banff and want to do some hiking then you’ve picked the right place!
Banff is an absolute goldmine for good hikes, which makes it hard to narrow it down to the few “best” (this term is VERY subjective) in your short time here. I’ve picked my personal favorites based on best views, difficulty, ease of access (read: I didn’t include anything from Lake O’Hara but if you happen to win the lottery and a seat on the bus then do every single hike there!!) and variety of scenery.
While I’m sure the majority of your trip is planned around drive-up spots and tourist attractions, making time for a few good hikes is essential to really appreciating Banff and its natural beauty.
1. East End of Rundle (EEOR): Approximately 5-6 hours return
Elevation gain: 875 m
You can find this hike by heading up past the Canmore Nordic Centre and following the gravel road. The hike across from EEOR is called Ha Ling and is one of the busiest and most popular hikes in the area, so the parking lot will be extremely obvious.
2. Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass: Approximately 3-4 hours return
Elevation gain: 732 m
Want to get lost in a sea of gold leaves? Larch Valley is for you. Minimal elevation, gorgeous views and the ability to extend this hike into a longer day hike are all reasons to choose this gem.
3. Sarrail Ridge/Rawson Ridge: Approximately 4-5 hours return
Elevation gain: 660m
Instagram went crazy for this hike recently and for good reason; the views are absolutely breathtaking. Don’t let the easy 30 minute “walk” to the lake fool you, if you want to get the view you see in all the photos you’re going to have to put in some hard work. The trail is extremely steep and can become slippery if the conditions are right. Wear good shoes and bring lots of snacks and water for this one.
4. The Big Beehive at Lake Louise: Approximately 3-4 hours return
Elevation gain: 510m
A teahouse in the mountains? Yes please! This is one of Banff’s most popular hikes. Mainly because of the famous tea house but also because the views of Lake Louise are out of this world. The Lake gets so blue in the summer people constantly ask if it’s natural. Yes… yes it is. It’s the silt or “rock flour” from the glaciers suspended in the water and you’ll find it’s a common occurrence in Banff National Park: Moraine, Bow, Peyto and Emerald all boast varying shades of blue.
As a bonus, why not visit the other teahouse on the plains of the six glaciers hike!
5. Tower of Babel: Approximately 3-4 hours return
Elevation gain: 450m
Note : This is a scramble. Helmets and proper footwear are strongly encouraged.
What some cheap thrills? This hike is it. You’ll be clawing your way up and scree skiing all the way down this steep, STEEP slope. But the views more than make up for it, if you don’t mind a bit of workout.