The Most Beautiful Trails in Banff
Hoodoos on Tunnel Mountain trail in Banff National Park on the Bow River | © Ronnie Chua / Alamy Stock Photo
Banff was designed for walking, hiking and climbing. From the town itself to the most isolated corners of the national park, there are hundreds of trails worth exploring. Our local insider shares his tips on where to visit and how to stay safe.
Banff is home to a great variety of wildlife, therefore it is important to walk with bear spray, never litter and respect closures. In spring, be aware of ticks. Dogs must be kept on a leash. If you are planning a multiday camping trip, have a look at Parks Canada online, or head to the visitors’ centre in town.
The smallest of all the distant mountains in Banff, Tunnel Mountain has no tunnel. The mountain frames the town and the trail is easy to find. Locals can jog to the top in less than 30 minutes, but count on an hour with the elevation factor. The views from the top are worth the effort and best of all, you can go home and tell people you summited a peak in the Canadian Rockies.
Natural Feature, Hiking Trail
The Legacy Trail, a paved 27km (16.8mi) route between Banff and Canmore, just outside the park gates, is extremely popular. Don’t be surprised if you meet people roller-skiing. The trail is a little too long for most people to walk, although fit locals have been known to jog the whole thing. Should you cycle one way, bus route 3 connects the two communities and takes bikes.
Goat Creek Trail
Natural Feature, Hiking Trail
Starting behind the Banff Springs Hotel, this accessible 37km (23mi) trail is much less busy than other trails in town. It leads to Goat Creek and eventually ends up into the Spray Valley, part of Kananaskis Country. The trail is popular for walking and biking in the summer and skiing and snowshoeing in the winter and animal sightings are common.
Natural Feature, Park
Walking around Lake Louise is a must for any visitor to Banff and during winter it is also fun to walk – or skate – on the frozen lake. A little more ambitious is the 7km return walk to the Lake Agnes Tea House
, which has a solid 400m elevation gain. It is always best to start these routes early in the morning during the busy summer months to avoid the crowds.
Located on the old 1A highway, halfway between Banff and Lake Louise, Johnston Canyon is no longer a local secret, but the now-popular walk is still always beautiful with a path suspended in the canyon in certain sections. The Lower Falls can be reached in about 30 minutes and the Upper Falls are another half-hour walk with a little more elevation gain.
The second-longest lake in the Canadian Mountain Park, Minnewanka is close to Banff, with public transport access. The obvious trail from the parking area is very popular, but long enough to escape the crowds. This route eventually leads to the Devil’s Gap Trail, part of the Ontario Trails network.
These recommendations were updated on July 3, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.