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Hiking Banff

Hiking Banff....

You've just arrived, maybe a little jet lagged or tired from a long drive. Summer travel can be exhausting. The kids are driving you crazy...we're bored!!! Get everyone out into the fresh air...get hiking!! The trails around the townsite of Banff are the best. I've done them all.

Walk/Hike is a great way to ease into it gently. See if you want to start a new pastime! Or make sure those muscles of yours are ready to go....Come enjoy the best mountain scenery anywhere. Make this part of your summer travel experience.... it is the best!!!

Maybe walking, hiking or even biking is a great way to explore Banff’s beautiful surroundings. Just minutes from downtown you can enjoy the quiet of a forest, watch a family of Canada geese paddling up the river, or even climb a mountain!

Most townsite trails connect with Banff National Park trails, outside the town boundaries. This gives you the option of various distances for hiking Banff or biking these mountain trails.

How about a Walking Tour of Banff? The scenic view along the Bow River is one of nearly 30 points of interest to enjoy on the Town of Banff's walking tour. Enjoy this tour as part of your summer travels.

You're walking through Banff's nature...did you know the Banff townsite sits on a giant ancient lakeshore? Or that Tunnel Mountain was once buried under 1000 metres of glacial ice? Just a little trivia....and there's lots more

These and other fascinating tidbits of natural history can be found in the Town of Banff's self-guided walking tour. It's detailed in our free publication called Walking through Banff's Nature.

The walking tour brochure leads you on easy routes around town, while helping you to discover the natural history stories that make Banff unique.

Pick up a brochure at the Banff Information Centre (224 Banff Avenue), Town Hall (110 Bear Street), or your hotel, and learn about our nature!

Check these individual trail descriptions for directions to trailheads, distances, and elevation gain while hiking Banff. Wheelchair access and bicycle restrictions are also noted with each description.

You will definitely need some good Hiking Tips to make it a great day....

BowRiverTrail - Hiking Banff

Bow River Trail - Hike

When hiking Banff on this trail just a few steps away from downtown, enjoy the placid waters of the Bow River and the breathtaking mountain scenery beyond.

This quiet riverside trail, mostly paved, is only a few steps away from downtown. Plenty of benches allow you to take in the views or enjoy a picnic lunch. A relaxing way to hike Banff.

Bow River Trail is wheelchair-friendly from the Muskrat Street access to the northwest end of this trail.


Parking lot at Central Park

Parking lot at Surprise Corner Viewpoint

Street parking where permitted near the Bow River

Connects to:

Fenland Trail (Central Park to Fenland Trail: .9 km, no elevation gain (10 – 15 mins.)

Surprise Corner viewpoint (Central Park to Surprise Corner Viewpoint: 1.4 km, 20 m elevation gain  (25 – 30  mins.)

Townsite Lower and Upper Loops

Hoodoos Trail

Tunnel Mountain Trail

Bow Falls - Banff Hiking

Bow Falls - Hike

Your summer travels this year should include hiking Banff.

The stairs and railing on the Bow Falls Trail let you get a good, safe look at the rapids above the pounding cascade of Bow Falls.

There is incredible mountain scenery everywhere you look!This is my favorite hike up to the Banff Springs Hotel from downtown Banff.

Bow River bridge to Bow Falls: 1.2 km, 10 m elevation gain (20 – 25 mins.)

Clifftop section is closed in winter.

While hiking Banff on this trail - No bicycles on clifftop section

Separate trails for pedestrians and cyclists meander along the south shore of the river and past roaring rapids before climbing up above Bow Falls. Bicycles are not permitted on the clifftop section.

Some trivia while hiking Banff....Several classic Hollywood films of the 1950s depicted famous movie stars being swept over Bow Falls, including Marilyn Monroe, Robert Mitchum... even the son of Lassie!!


Central Park

Recreation Grounds

Bow Falls Viewpoint

Connects to:

Cave and Basin Trail

Upper Hot Springs Trail

Spray River Loop

Spray Lakes - Hiking Banff

Spray River Loop - Hike

Your summer travels should include this spectacular 12 km round trip, 65 m elevation gain (3 – 3.5 hrs.)Also known locally as the Spray Loop.

When hiking Banff on this old fire road, it follows the Spray River upstream for 6 km to a footbridge and picnic area. Then loops back on the other side of the Spray Valley. Great mountain scenery here.

For a longer outing, you can continue out past the picnic area, to the Goat Creek Trail which continues all the way to Spray Valley Provincial Park above Canmore.

In spring, summer and fall, this trail is popular with hikers, cyclists, and horse riders. In the winter, it becomes a favourite cross-country ski trail. It's regularly ski track-set. On any given day you can see locals doing a quick loop on their lunch break!!!!

You can start the loop either from the golf course road at the end of the 15th hole (please stay on the trail and avoid crossing the fairway - the trail leads through a wooded area behind the green); or from the Spray River Trailhead located just past the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel parkade.


Bow Falls Viewpoint to the Golf Course road

Spray River Trailhead parking lot

Connects to:

Mt.Rundle Trail

Upper Hot Springs Trail

Bow Falls Trail

Fenland Trail - Hiking Banff

Fenland Trail - Hike

Pick up an interpretive brochure at the trailhead before you start your hiking Banff on the around Fenland Trail

2 km loop, no elevation gain (35 – 45 mins.)

This pleasant woodland loop winds through a white spruce forest, along the banks of Forty Mile Creek. It's a favorite spot for on-leash dog walks, wildlife and discovering nature, year round.

Local runners often follow this route for an easy trail warmup on their way from the townsite out to a longer workout on Vermilion Lakes Road. Keep fit during your summer travels.

An interpretive trail guide brochure is available at the trailhead parking lot, keyed to interpretive panels placed along the trail.


Parking lot on Mt. Norquay Road, between the railway tracks and the TransCanada Highway (near Banff Recreation Centre)

Connects to:

Bow River Trail

Vermilion Lakes Drive

Hoodoos Trail - Hiking Banff

Hoodoos Trail - Hike

Get up close with the mysterious Hoodoos, a short scramble down from the main trail. Definitely a must, make this hike part of your Canadian holiday this year.

Surprise Corner Viewpoint to Tunnel Mountain Road: 3 km, 60 m elevation loss and gain (1 hr)

Surprise Corner Viewpoint to Hoodoos Interpretive Trail: 4.6 km, 60 m elevation loss and gain (1.5 hrs.)

This trail descends to the river and follows it east and north under the cliff face of Tunnel Mountain, (more mountain scenery) before climbing the mountain's northeast shoulder and coming out on Tunnel Mountain Road near the campgrounds.


Parking lot at the Surprise Corner Viewpoint, at the top end of Buffalo Street

Connects to:

Bow River Trail

Townsite Loop Route (upper loop)

Hoodoos Interpretive Trail

Tunnel Mountain Campgrounds

Marsh Loop - Hiking Banff

Marsh Loop - Hike

It's an easy walk, run or horse-back ride around the Marsh Loop. Enjoy this hike as part of your summer travels this year.

This trail brings you so close to nature and some of the bestwildlife within minutes of downtown Banff.

2.3 km loop, 10 m elevation gain (45 mins.)

This unique marsh area next to the Bow River is a good birdwatching spot plus excellent views of Mt. Norquay and the Bourgeau Range. More mountain scenery...it's everywhere!!


Cave & Basin National Historic Site parking lot

Connects with:

Cave and Basin

Sundance Canyon Trail

Cave and Basin - Hiking Banff

Cave & Basin Trail - Hike

This Interpretive boardwalk trail guides visitors to the sulphur-rich waters of the hot springs "Basin".

Bow River bridge to Cave and Basin: 1.5 km, no elevation gain (20 – 25 mins.)

A short walk from the Bow River bridge takes you to the birthplace of Canada’s first national park. Lots of history while hiking Banff.

Three railway workers discovered warm water springs on this site on the side of Sulphur Mountain in 1883. Some great mountain scenery here. This lead to the establishment of a reserve around the hot springs in 1885. The area became Banff National Park in 1887.

Two interpretive boardwalk trails at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site explain the history of the area. And showcase the fascinating plants and animals that flourish in this warm springs habitat.


Central Park

Recreation Grounds

Connects to:

March Loop

Sundance Canyon Trail

Sundance Canyon - Hiking Banff

Sundance Canyon - Hike

While hiking Banff, you may be sharing the trail with guided horse rides along the Sundance Canyon Trail during your summer travels. What an experience that will be!!

Cave and Basin to Sundance Canyon — 4.3 km (2.7 mi)Half-day trip, allow 1.5 hours

Elevation gain: 145 m (470 ft)

Maximum elevation: 1545 m (5,070 ft)

The short 2 km loop trail leading through Sundance Canyon was accessible by road from the town of Banff. In the mid 1980s, the road beyond the Cave and Basin was converted to a paved walking and cycling path.

This made the trip longer but with more varied scenery. Many people bike to the canyon on the broad, paved trail. The first half of the trip is an open and pleasant route for walkers as well. It's beautiful on a sunny day!!!

0.0 - Trail head kiosk (1400 m). Gradual descent on broad paved trail through forest.

0.7 - Junction. Cave and Basin Marsh Trail right; Sundance Canyon ahead. Flat walking beside Bow River.

1.8 - Trail leaves open valley and climbs into forest.

2.2 - Junction. Sulphur Mtn summit left; Brewster Creek (2.9 km) and Sunshine Road (4.6 km) right; Sundance Canyon ahead.

3.3 - Sundance Canyon Picnic Area. End of paved trail and bike access. Foot trail climbs into Sundance Canyon, moderate to steep grades.

4.3 - Top of Sundance Canyon (1545 m). Trail loops back through forest to picnic area.

From the Cave and Basin, the trail descends gradually through forest to the Bow River. For the next 1.5 km it follows along the river and its side channels with views of the rugged peaks to the north, including the sharp spire of Mount Edith. The final stretch to the canyon climbs gradually through forest.

Pavement and bike access end at the Sundance Canyon picnic area, where a foot trail climbs into this pleasant little canyon and then loops back through forest to the picnic area.

Marsh Trail - Hike

The 1.6 km trail around the north side of the Cave and Basin marsh is an interesting way to return from Sundance Canyon when hiking Banff.

Follow the trail that branches right from the Sundance trail at km 0.7 (where the paved trail first meets the river). It runs downstream along the banks of the Bow River to the marsh, skirts the edge of this wetland, then turns right at a junction and crosses an earthen dike to return to the Cave and Basin parking lot. Also see: Marsh Loop Trail

Healy Creek - Hike

This roadbed branches right from the Sundance Canyon trail at 2.2 km and rolls through forest along the south side of the Bow Valley to Brewster Creek junction (2.9 km) and the Sunshine Road (4.6 km). The smooth, broad track is of more interest to mountain bikers (and cross-country skiers) than hikers.

Access: From the intersection at the south end of the Bow River bridge in Banff, follow Cave Avenue 1.2 km to the parking area for the Cave and Basin Centennial Centre. A paved walkway leads to the Cave and Basin complex and continues 200 m beyond to the trailhead kiosk. What a way to spend your Canadian Holiday looking at the ultimate mountain scenery.

Make sure you check out my Hiking Tips to ensure you have all the bases covered as you head out for a day in the Rocky Mountains.

Get these great books....plan your vacation....see the awesome Mountain Scenery in the Canadian Rockies. Hiking Banff should definitely be part of your memorable Canadian Holiday.
The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide (Brian Patton and Bart Robinson; Summerthought Publishing), gives you very detailed trail descriptions on hiking Banff. This is the original hiking guide to Banff National Park and some of
the beautiful surrounding parks. This is a must when hiking Banff!!!

Originally published in 1971 and now in its 8th edition, this book details over 3,400 kilometres of hiking trails in Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay and Waterton Lakes National Parks.

Descriptions of 50 Banff Walks and Hikes, plus dozen of side trips.

More than 100 stunning color photographs of Banff Hikes

Plus 50 topographical maps.

Check out Johnston Canyon Banff Hike - Well Worth it!

Need some Great Hiking Tips to get started???

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