Hiking in Banff National Park needs to be on your agenda when planning your trip to Canada! These 4 hikes vary in difficulty but all provide gorgeous trails with breathtaking views.
Banff National Park is located in the Canadian province of Alberta. Its snow-capped mountains and glacier-fed lakes will leave you in awe. There's no better way to explore Banff National Park than by using your own two feet and hiking the numerous trails.
We visited three national parks on this trip. We flew into Kalispell, Montana and drove four hours up to Panorama Mountain Resort in British Columbia, Canada. Our first stop was Kootenay National Park (see more about these hikes below) then Banff National Park and we ended the trip in Glacier National Park in Montana. Overall, we hiked 105 miles, gaining over 27,300 feet in elevation.
Just a little background story for fun...
The trip didn’t start off on a great foot. As soon as we got to the Atlanta airport to fly out Scott received an email from Airbnb that our condo for that night (plus the next two nights) was canceled by the host. Yes, our place to stay THAT night was canceled. We were about to be on a plane for six hours so we had to quickly figure out where we were going to stay and figure it out very quickly. The alternate places Airbnb sent us were not even close to what we needed as they would have been an additional two-hour drive to the hikes, not to mention way out of our price range! With it being Labor Day weekend and the DAY OF, our options were limited. Scott was finally able to find another condo and the nice homeowner accommodated us last minute. It was a lot more expensive (which Airbnb did cover) and also about 30 minutes longer each day to the park. Although this wasn’t ideal, we didn’t really have any other choice. Once this was settled we had about two minutes before boarding our plane, talk about cutting it close!
A few tips for your hiking trip to Banff National Park:
- Take a traditional map and download the trails on your phone (but don’t rely on having cell service!)
- ALWAYS start early! Banff is a very popular park and the parking lots fill up quickly.
- If you are hiking near Lake Louise, get there early and take the pictures you want in the mornings before your hike because when you finish there will be people everywhere!
- It rains a lot in Banff, take rain gear and still hit the trails if it's safe enough to do so
- Be aware of bears and always carry bear spray
- Carry cash if you plan on buying anything at the tea houses
Need a little help getting in shape for hiking or are you trying to become a better hiker? Are you ONLY hiking? Don’t want to think about your workouts? Let us be your personal trainers with our She Sweats 12-week Run Builder or the She Sweats 12-Week Transformation to get you in shape for your hikes. It guides your workout each day and has everything you need! Find out more!
Proper nutrition is important while hiking. If you are looking to make your own hiking snacks try one of our favorites below. You can read more about what to eat while hiking here.
- Peanut Butter & Jelly Energy Bites
- No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Protein Bites
- Homemade Clean Granola Bars
- Trail Mix Protein Bars
- Four Ingredient Protein Bars
- Gluten-Free Power Granola
- Gluten-Free Cinnamon Vanilla Granola
- Apricot Flax Fall Granola
TOP 4 HIKES IN BANFF NATIONAL PARK
Lake Louise to Lake Agnes Tea House, Upper Beehive, Highline Trail to Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House, back down to Lake Louise
- 11.5 miles
I'm not sure how many people actually string all of these trails together but we did and we were not disappointed! That being said, you don't have to do all 11.5 miles. You could definitely just do the Lake Agnes Tea House one day and then the Six Glaciers Tea House another day if you aren't up for a long day of hiking.
The first part of our trek was to Lake Agnes Tea House. This was one of the most amazing things we experienced! On the trail up to the Tea House, we saw a helicopter land to bring supplies. Once we actually made it to the tea house we saw another helicopter land right in front of us! We forgot to grab our cash so we couldn't buy anything at the tea house but the experience was amazing.
After watching the helicopters land, we made our way to the Upper Beehive where the fog was coming and going. It was a very pretty way to see down below but we didn't stay very long since the view kept fogging over.
We left the Upper Beehive and made our way down the Highline Trail to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. Again, another amazing experience. This Tea House was much more crowded than the other but we were able to get a table and bought biscuits and tea (since they accepted credit cards!). We looped back down to the start of the hike, Lake Louise, and left quickly after finishing since it was so crowded!
- 2.2 miles (723 ft)
Call us crazy, I don't know what comes over us sometimes! I guess we didn't think the 11.5-mile hike earlier in the day was enough so we climbed Tunnel Mountain (2.2 miles) in the city of Banff. It was really pretty, short, and cool hike so I'm glad we did it. It was definitely a different perspective but we've come to appreciate short city hikes like this one.
Moraine Lake/Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass
- ~10 miles
When we did this hike it had restricted access because of bear activity. Hikers had to be in groups of four or more and we didn’t think we would find anyone to hike with but as we were about to turn around we saw another couple that looked like they wanted to hike. Turns out, they were also looking for two more people to hike with! We couldn't have met better people! They were great company on the trail and just a pleasure to hike with and we still keep in touch with them to this day.
This trail climbs through the forest and then opens up into a beautiful valley, called the Valley of Ten Peaks. After passing through the valley we hiked up to Sentinel Pass, absolutely breathtaking!
Johnston Canyon & Ink Pots
- 7.3 miles (705 ft)
We did this hike just to keep our legs fresh and didn’t think we would be doing a very long hike so we just wore jeans and our rain jackets. We did take our packs though, thankfully! The hike we planned was around 3.4 miles. However, once we hiked to the upper falls, Scott wanted to keep going to Ink Pots. This made the entire hike 7.3 miles. So much for a rest day! 😉 It was pretty easy though with just a moderate grade the entire way but definitely not comfortable in jeans!
We typically make a lot of our own food at the condo or house we rent but occasionally we do go out to eat. Below are the places we ate at in or near Banff National Park:
- Grizzly Paw Brewery in Canmore, Alberta
- Rocky Mountain Flatbread Pizza in Canmore, Alberta
- Hogshead in Canmore, Alberta
HIKING IN KOOTENAY NATIONAL PARK
These two hikes below are not in Banff National Park but they are breathtaking hikes if you have time to squeeze them in. The first one, the Kindersley/Sinclair Loop is in Kootenay National Park. The Lake of the Hanging Glacier Hike is not actually in the park BUT is worthy of national park status. It's one of our favorite hikes!
The two hikes below were actually our first before we went to explore Banff.
- 12.6 miles
This was a beautiful 12.6-mile loop in which you hike through the forest (with beautiful views along the way), up to the pass and back down to loop around.
Like the Moraine Lake/Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass hike in Banff, this hike also had grizzly bear restrictions in place which meant that you had to hike in groups of four. We knew this ahead of time so I naturally went to Facebook to see if there was a group for hiking in Alberta and/or the national parks there. I belong to quite a few hiking groups on Facebook so I knew that had to be one and there was! We posted that we were looking to do this loop and needed two others to join us. A local girl was able to get a friend to come with her so we were able to have a “legal” group of four, plus an awesome adventure dog named Maddie!
Once we got up to the pass it was very cold and windy so we didn’t spend much time on top. We continued down the trail to head back to our car. It was on this part of the hike that I slipped on a rock and literally busted my butt. I have NEVER hit something so hard in my life. I’m sure I would have broken my arm if I would have reached out to brace myself, I’m not sure why I didn’t but I’m glad I didn’t! I had a bruise bigger than a grapefruit on my left butt cheek. 😉 It stayed there in some form for a good month or so! Anyway, it wasn’t that big of a deal because it hit higher than where I sit so the bruise actually made me have really good posture. It only hurt if I leaned back on a counter or something and it put pressure on it.
The hike was gorgeous and it was even more enjoyable with the company we had. The two girls we hiked with were awesome. I wish we lived closer to huge mountains where I could trail run and explore more. We are lucky to live a few hours away but I would prefer to be a few minutes away. I loved the fact that these girls talked about how they fuel their bodies by EATING. As in eating over 2,000 calories a day but also pay attention to labels instead of calorie counts. One had even previously struggled with anorexia. I’m going to see if I can get her to do a post or maybe even come on the WHAM podcast to talk about her story.
Lake of the Hanging Glacier
- 11 miles (2,362 ft)
The beginning of this one was interesting. Scott loaded the address into his phone and we went on our way. We knew the road was a forest service road but we ended up going down the wrong one for about 20 minutes (thanks Apple Maps!) which really put us about 40 minutes behind since we had to turn around! We thought about skipping the hike at this point but the biker that we asked for directions told us that the hike and the valley were beautiful and worth exploring so on we went!
Beautiful and worth exploring was an understatement! This 11-mile hike was unbelievable in many ways. We had sun, rain, sleet, and snow all on this one hike. I took one of my all-time favorite pictures on this hike also. It was just gorgeous. The scenery was always changing and just indescribable. The hike followed a waterfall, crossing it many times, winded through the forest and meadows up to the glacier.
We ate at Leo Burrito in Radium, Canada after our hike in Kootenay. Scott also played golf at the Greywolf Golf Course in Panorama, British Columbia. The golf course was AMAZING if you are looking for one too. 🙂
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