Banff National Park is one of the most visited spots in all of Canada. Home to iconic places like Lake Louise, Johnston Canyon, and Moraine Lake; Banff also boasts a ton of lesser-known and just as beautiful areas. This post will go over all of our favorite hikes near Banff, how to ditch the crowds, and where to venture off the beaten path to find hidden beauty on your own!
HARD: 24.3km & 1340m elevation
Egypt Lake is a beautiful back-country campground and one of our favorite hikes near Banff. It’s quickly gaining popularity because of the towering peaks, deep-blue alpine lakes, and mountain meadows that surround the area. There are multiple different access points but Sunshine Village is the shortest, easiest, and the one that we would recommend. You can choose to hike up the ski-out straight from the parking lot or take the gondola up to Sunshine Village.
Personally, we opted for the lift from the gondola! TIP: Only buy a 1-way ticket! From there, proceeding on Simpson Pass Trail will be about 10.6km (and mostly downhill) to Egypt Lake Campground. On the way out, we would recommend branching off to your left when you get to Healy Creek Trail. This will, again, keep you on a mostly downhill trajectory all the way back to your vehicle at the base of the gondola.
TIP: If you get the chance, stay a few nights and hike up to Sphinx Peak and/or Pharroh Peak. The steep ascents will be worth your private, million-dollar views at the top!
Johnston Canyon & The Ink Pots
EASY-MODERATE: 5km & 236m to Upper Falls, 11.9km & 600m to the Ink Pots
Johnston Canyon is easily one of the most popular day hikes in Banff National Park, but in our opinion, so worth braving the crowds for! The paved trail is fairly mild and suitable for all skill levels. Open year-round; this hike boasts stunning views of the turquoise river, a catwalk through the canyon, and multiple waterfalls along the way.
TIP: Heavy traffic starts showing up around 9am. Make sure to get there beforehand if you want a quieter hike.
If you`re up for it, we would highly recommend continuing from The Upper Falls to The Ink Pots. The path turns to dirt and you lose about 75% of the crowd immediately. “The Ink Pots” are several bubbling pools of green-colored mineral springs located in a stunning mountain meadow. It`s a great place to have lunch and enjoy some peace and quiet.
Big Beehive Trail
MODERATE: 7.2km & 647m elevation
The relatively easy first part of this hike brings you from Lake Louise, through an old-growth forest, and past a beautiful waterfall to the Lake Agnes Teahouse. Inside the teahouse, you can stop for a cup of tea and a fresh slice of pie. From there, you`ll continue around the far end of the lake and up several steep switchbacks to the top of the Big Beehive Lookout. Once you arrive, you will have a panoramic view of Lake Louise and the entire valley.
EASY: 1.3km & 85m elevation
This is probably our favorite “bang for your buck” hike in all of Banff National Park. The short and easy walk to the falls can be done in only 10-15 minutes and I guarantee that you will walk around that final corner of the trail in awe. We find Panther Falls to be incredibly serene because it feels like it’s facing its own untouched valley, hidden from the highway.
TIPS: Take the path farthest right from the parking lot for the safest route down to the falls. If you are ever passing through in the winter, these falls are incredible when frozen!
Larch Valley Trail
MODERATE: 10km & 792m elevation
Although this hike is insanely beautiful all summer long, it is an absolute must-do when all of the larches start to turn gold. Larch Valley Trail is one of the best hikes to view the changing fall colors in Banff National Park. The trailhead is located at the Moraine Lake parking lot which fills up quickly during the summer months and in early autumn. To make sure you get a parking spot, we would highly recommend going early in the morning on a weekday.
Glacier Lake Trail
MODERATE: 18km & 238m elevation
Glacier Lake is a great option for first-time backcountry campers or anyone looking for a relatively easy overnight hike. The elevation gain is very minimal and the views of the lake and the glacier are incredible! The best part? You can leave your vehicle, get to this spot, and set up your hammock in less than 2 hours! The trailhead is located on the Icefields Parkway near the Saskatchewan River Crossing.
MODERATE: 13.2km & 347m elevation
Marvel Lake is a jaw-dropping destination located on the trail into Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park (in BC) from the Mount Shark Parking Lot. This can be a bit confusing – you actually park in Kananaskis Country and cross the border over into Banff National Park on your way to Marvel Lake. If you go further than the lake, you will cross the AB/BC border.
The Marvel Lake Campground is a great place to stay on its own or you can add it to a longer loop that includes stops in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. If you are just planning to stay at the lake, we would encourage you to stay two nights and hike up into Wonder Pass on your second day. From there, you will get incredible views of Marvel Lake and the lake that feeds into it, Lake Gloria.
MODERATE: 18.2km & 762m elevation
This scenic hike is full of beautiful wildflowers, incredible views of the valley, and multiple lakes. We would highly recommend taking the gondola up to Sunshine Village and starting the hike from there. It will save you a 12-kilometer hike along the boring gravel road that runs under the gondola. If you are interested in turning this into a multi-day adventure, you can actually continue from the end of this trail all the way to Mount Assiniboine.
HARD: 15.4km & 1016m elevation
This trail begins with a steady climb through the forest on long, drawn-out switchbacks. After passing a waterfall, the path remains consistently steep until you reach Bourgeau Lake. The emerald water and mountain backdrop of this alpine lake are sure to reward you for your climb.
TIP: If you have the energy, you can continue another 2.5km to Harvey Lake and Harvey Pass. The views are marvelous and on a clear day, you can even see Mount Assiniboine!
Jimmy Simpson Junior
HARD: 6.3km & 841m elevation
Jimmy Simpson Jr. Trail is a relatively short but steep hike along the Icefields Parkway AKA Highway 93. The trail starts off easy but quickly begins to gain elevation and remains more or less steady all the way to the peak.
Once you reach the summit, you will be able to enjoy incredible views of Bow Lake along with the entire valley on a clear day.