6 Easy Hikes near Banff National Park
Fun fact: I used to live in Calgary, making the Canadian Rockies my old backyard (and making me somewhat of an expert on hikes near Banff)! I may be a little biased, on account of leaving my heart in the mountains, but I think spending time in the mountains can literally make you a better person!
However if you are new to hiking or the mountains, I can appreciate that it can be a little intimidating. That’s why I’ve made a list of my favourite easy hikes near Banff. These are non-technical hikes suitable for beginners or those short on time in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
If you are directionally challenged like me, you might want to download the All Trails app. (Not sponsored, just genuinely love this app). It is a great way to find new hikes, plan your hiking excursion and avoid getting lost on the trail.
6 Easy hikes near Banff, Alberta
Tunnel Mountain – Banff
Starting from downtown Banff, this well maintained trail is an old favourite for locals and tourists alike. You will begin in a forested area, which will open up on the top of the mountain to a panoramic view of the Bow Valley, Mt. Rundle and Banff town. When I went, the view was extremely smokey from a wild fire but still worth the 4.3 km round trip.
Johnston Canyon – Banff
Johnston Canyon is perhaps one of the busier hikes in Banff. But, don’t let that discourage you; the canyon is beautiful, especially in winter when the waterfalls are frozen solid! You will follow along catwalks and staircases embedded into the mountain, but the path is maintained and the level of difficulty is quite low.
Pro tip: Consider wearing microspikes in the winter/ early spring, as some of the steeper parts of the path become very icy and hence difficult to navigate.
Grassi Lakes – Canmore
Grassi Lakes is a short, lower grade hike along an old maintenance road. The trail does not gain much elevation or require technical skill so for this reason I have rated it beginner. Once you reach the beautiful lake, you have the option to continue higher: take the staircase behind the lake for stunning views of the mountain range opposite the highway.
Related: | Canadian Rockies Itinerary
Pro tip: If you are seeking more of a challenge, there is also a second path on the left of the trailhead which has a steeper grade.
Grotto Canyon – Canmore
The trail to the Canyon leading off the car park is narrow and very flat, requiring very little effort to get to the open area overlooking the grotto and surrounding mountains in the distance. Continue on through the rocky grotto to explore!
Big Beehive – Lake Louise
Lake Louise is iconic for any trip to Western Canada – however, come summer it can be less enjoyable with thousands of tourists visiting the gorgeous area each day. Lose the crowds and take the ‘Big Beehive’ trail that sneaks up behind the lake, where you will find fabulous views of the Chateau Lake Louise from above. This hike will have your heart pumping due to the elevation gain, but it doesn’t require any technical skills to do.
Pro tip: For even better views of Lake Louise, the trail continues up from Big Beehive to Devil’s Thumb (a more difficult climb and scramble, but with magnificent views).
Barrier Lake Lookout – Kananaskis
Starting from the trail head at the Barrier Dam, the mountain views are already picturesque. The 6.5km (round) hike takes you up McConnell Ridge, which will yield panoramic views of Barrier Lake down below and Mt. Baldy in the distance. The effort to get up the switchback trail is well worth it for this postcard pretty view! I’ve done this hike a few times and it’s always a treat.
Pro tip: Don’t attempt to take a shortcut off the trail. There are snowshoe trails and horseback trails which circumvent the entire mountain, so it is easy to get lost going in the wrong direction.
Keep in mind, bears are extremely common in Canada from late spring until fall (May to September/October) and have even been known to stroll through Banff town. I have never encountered one myself but always take precautions, especially when I’ve done solo hikes. It is highly recommended to carry bear spray with you (and familiarize yourself with how to actually use it). Some folks like to attach bear bells to their packs, as typically bears will not approach if they can hear you (they are scared of you). If you are hiking in a group or on a well-travelled trail, you likely don’t need bells as your voices will carry far enough to alert bears of your presence.
When I have done hikes alone on less popular trails, I’ve simply played music on my iphone to alert bears. If you do this, you might want to bring an external battery in case your phone dies (I use this battery by Anker and love it).
What to Wear & Bring:
If you’re new to hiking or just not sure what to bring on a hike in Canada, here is a helpful list of what to wear and pack before setting out in the mountains. I always bring layers, even in the summer because mountain weather can change drastically and it is always cooler on the top of a mountain.
- Water resistant jacket
- Thermal top
- Water resistant pants or insulated pants
- Comfy hiking shoes or winter boots
- Hiking socks
- Neck warmer
- Backpack rain cover
- Hiking poles
- Waterbottle or Camelback hydration system
- Mini first aid kit
- Bear spray and bells
- Trail snacks
- Hand sanitizer
- Package of tissues
- External charger or solar charger
- Travel wallet
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