Banff National Park is a fantastic place for hiking enthusiasts and nature lovers to explore. The park hosts more than over 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles) of well maintained trails for all fitness levels from novices to hiking experts.
In this post we highlight several easy, family friendly hiking trails. These routes are fairly flat and effortless walking and are simple to reach. We hiked beautiful and easy trails starting at three locations in Banff National Park; the town Banff, Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
Easy Hikes around Banff Town
There are plenty of trails of varying difficulty in Banff National Park. The town Banff is the perfect place to stay if you want to walk several flat trails starting at your accommodation with beautiful scenery. Banff is surrounded by plenty of easy, flat trails and you can plan a hiking route to suit you or just start following signs in town and connect several of the trails. Start walking from your accommodation in town or take a Banff Roam bus to the trail head where you want to start walking. Surrounded by rippling rivers, snow capped peaks and alpine meadows Banff is simply spectacular. Starting in town there are plenty of low-elevation strolls along boardwalks going from the town itself leading into the surrounding forest. For more experienced hikers there are several strenuous full-day hiking routes exploring the snow capped encircling mountains.
The Marsh Loop
Distance – 2.8km. Walking time – 45 minutes Trailhead – Cave and Basin National Historic Site
The Marsh Loop is an easy, flat walking trail starting at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. The trail encircles a wetland filled from hot springs flowing out of the lower slopes of Sulphur Mountain. It is a nice area for bird watching with birds present all year. Walking surface is wide gravel and dirt pathways with some wooden boardwalk areas. The Marsh Loop is a flat route with basically no change in elevation. For a short walk take the 1.1 km Lower Boardwalk instead of marshland and bubbling thermal waters. See the fish viewing platform and a bird blind on a boardwalk from the Marsh Loop.
Marsh Loop Trailhead – The Cave and Basin is a small museum located in the town of Banff, walking distance from the center of town.
The Cave and Basin is located at 311 Cave Avenue, follow Banff Avenue over the Bow River bridge and turn onto Cave Avenue. This is a 25 walk (2km) or just take the line 4 Roam bus.
Distance – 9km. Walking time – 3 hours Trailhead – Cave and Basin National Historic Site
The Sundance Canyon Trail is a 9 km trail, the first 3,7km is on flat paved road followed by a 1.6 km dirt trail loop, the complete trail takes 3 to 4 hours to hike. From the trailhead the route starts with a wide, flat, paved road for 3 kilometers (that is great for cycling) next to the Bow river. This is followed by a single track dirt trail that loops in the canyon. The loop is a bit of a climb with an elevation gain of 155m, the return time on this trip is between 3-4 hours. The beautiful 1.6 km loop in the canyon is a bit of a climb, some steps, wood bridges and some nice viewpoints. This is a moderately difficult trail that loops through a water-filled canyon.
Trailhead – Cave and Basin National Historic Site, roam route 4 bus of a 2km walk (20 min. walk) from town.
Spray Loop Trail
Distance – 12km. Walking time – 3 hours Trailhead – Banff Springs Hotel
The Spray Loop trail is a 12km loop around the Spray River, with a clearing and picnic area at a bridge half way. This is an easy flat trail running next to the beautiful turquoise Spray river, crossing the river and returning on the opposite side. This is a multi use trail often used for hiking, biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and cycling. The trail follows the Spray river that is constantly visible, you also get nice views of Mount Rundle. The Spray Loop Trail is a good place to spot wildlife with elk, deer, otters and bears often seen.
If you hike the complete loop it takes 3 hours plus. The trail can be hiked all year round and is popular with cyclists in summer and for cross country skiing and snow shoeing in winter.
Trailhead – Parking area 100m from the Banff Springs Hotel, roam route 2 bus of a 2km walk (20 min. walk) from town.
Distance – 10km. Walking time – 3 hours Trailhead – Surprise Corner
The Hoodoos trail starts at the Surprise Corner trail head on the edge of town. It is an easy hike following the the Bow river from Banff town. The relatively flat hike from Surprise Corner to the Banff Hoodoos was one of our favorite flat hikes from Banff town. The trail has some nice view points of the Rocky mountains and Bow river. I walked a 10 km loop, walking from Surprise Corner on the trail following the river and when turning around I walked back through the forest following some biking trails. I would recommend following the same trail next to the Bow river back. Hoodoos are large rock needles or towers formed by erosion in the valley and from the viewpoints there are some awesome views over the Hoodoos in the valley.
Johnston Canyon is one of the most popular destinations in Banff National Park. Spectacular, but a very touristy spot. You walk on walk ways attached to the canyon wall allowing you to walk over the crystal clear turquoise water running down the canyon. This is an easy family friendly walk, but be warned it can be icy, covered in snow and very slippery in winter. Wear ice cleats on your boots from the start of the hike if you are going to walk here in icy conditions.
The trail is divided into the Lower Falls, Upper Falls, and the Ink Pots. The Lower and Upper Falls are both easy hikes, while the Ink Pots is a moderate hike.
The trail to the Lower Falls is an easy and flat 2.5 km return hike taking 1 hour. There is a nice natural cave giving you a great view of the waterfall.
The trail to the Upper Falls is a 5 km return hike, it is a little steeper, climbing through the forest and out of the lower canyon. It takes around two hours with an elevation gain of 120 metres.
Trailhead – To get to Johnston Canyon take the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A), which branches off of the TransCanada Highway. The Roam public transport bus service to Johnston Canyon from Banff is available between May 17 and September 15
Easy Hikes from Lake Louise
Lake Louise is a beautiful turquoise, glacier-fed lake surrounded by high peaks, the lake is the trail head where plenty of hiking trails start. There are several easy hikes starting at Lake Louise.
The village of Lake Louise is 57 km from the town of Banff and can be reached by using The Regional Service between Banff and Lake Louise. In season buses run 5 times per day, the transfer takes about 50 minutes.
Lake Louise Lakeshore
Distance – 4km, Time – 1 hour round trip, Trailhead – Lake Louise
Lake Louise Lakeshore is an easy, flat, short hike next to the lake, done as part of longer hikes. Walking next to the lake is beautiful, this hike is accessible in winter when the higher elevation trails are not possible to hike.
Distance – 2 km, Time – 45 minutes round trip, Trailhead – Lake Louise
Close to the big parking area from Lake Louise Boat House it is a short uphill hike to nice views of the lake. Popular with tourists arriving by bus.
Lake Agnes Teahouse Trail
Distance – 7 km, Time – 3.5 – 4 hours round trip, Trailhead – Lake Louise
The Lake Agnes Tea House is a small, rustic tea house situated on the shores of Lake Agnes, a great stop at an elevation of 2,135 meters (7,005 feet) about an hour walk from Lake Louise for a cup of tea.
Hiking to the lake is a beautiful hike at a steady incline through the forest with nice views of the pretty Mirror Lake before finishing at Lake Agnes Teahouse.
The Lake Agnes Teahouse trail can be combined with other trails to create longer hikes.
Easy Walks from Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake is a spectacular, turquoise, glacially fed lake in Banff National Park, outside the Village of Lake Louise. This is the trail head to start many different hikes for all abilities and interests. To get to this lake from Lake Louise town, first take a shuttle bus to Lake Louise followed by a shuttle to Moraine Lake departing every 20 minutes.
Moraine Lake Lakeshore
Distance – 3 km, Time – 45 minutes round trip, Trailhead – Moraine Lake
The Moraine Lake Lakeshore trail is an easy, flat 3km return stroll along the lake taking about 45 minutes. This hike can be done by people of all fitness levels with nice views of Mount Fay and Fay glacier.
Moraine Lake Rockpile Trail
Distance – 1.4 km, Time – 20 minutes round trip, Trailhead – Moraine Lake
The Moraine Lake Rockpile trail is very popular and can super busy. This is a short 1.4 kilometer loop starting from the lake and is an easy stroll that can be done by anyone. The trail is a uphill pathway to the top of a large pile of rocks with nice views of Moraine Lake from the top. Be careful in cold weather the path can be icy and gets very slippery.
Distance – 6 km, Time – 2 hours round trip, Trailhead – Moraine Lake
The Consolation Lakes trail is an easy, flat 6km return hike winding through the forest. The trail follows a glacial stream passing through a large boulder field ending at a beautiful crystal clear lake . Follow the path up to the rockpile, don’t go all the way up the steps, continue on into the valley beyond.
Hiking Trails in Banff National Park
See our detailed post on hiking in Banff National Park for all the info needed to plan your hiking trip to this fantastic park.
Some more not too miss hikes around Banff:
- The Big Beehive hike from Lake Louise
- The Tunnel Mountain hike in Banff Town
- Sulphur Mountain walk the Gondola Trail
Packing to hike around Banff
In winter the snow freezes on many of these trail, Ice crampon/cleats helps to walk on ice without slipping.
My Garmin Fenix GPS watch is an amazing hiking tool; measuring speed, elevation, heart rate, mapping and more.
Hiking in the snow, waterproof gaiters help to keep snow and mud out of your boots!
My Salomon X Ultra Prime gortex boots, great pair of boots, all seasons. Keeps mud, snow and rain out. Comfortable, light and completely waterproof.
Ladies model, Alya loves her Ladies Salomon X Ultra boots .
BUFF Multifunctional Headwear – for sun and wind protection (doubles as a face mask).
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The strong half of Stingy Nomads, a nomadic aquaman that would be happy to spend all his life in the water diving, surfing and spearfishing but often has to compromise with Alya and go hiking instead. Campbell is responsible for all our marine adventures and following them with write-ups. He loves traveling, braai (BBQ in South Africa), red wine and spending the day in a wetsuit.