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Easy Hikes in Banff (2023) – Family Friendly Trails

Banff National Park is a fantastic place for hiking enthusiasts and nature lovers to explore. The park is home to some of the best hikes in the Canadian Rockies. Hosting more than 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) of well-maintained trails for all fitness levels from novices to hiking experts.

In this post, we highlight several of the best hiking trails that are easy and family-friendly. These routes are fairly flat and effortless to walk and are simple to reach. We hiked easy trails with beautiful scenery starting at three locations in Banff National Park; the town of Banff, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake.

bow river hike banff
Beautiful, easy, flat trail next to the Bow River in Banff National Park

Easy Hikes around Banff Town

There are plenty of trails of varying difficulty in Banff National Park. The town of Banff is the perfect place to stay if you want to walk several flat trails starting at your accommodation. Some of the best easy hikes can be done simply by starting to follow signs right inside downtown Banff and connecting several of the trails. You can start walking in town or take a Banff Roam bus to the trailhead where the trail you want to walk starts. Surrounded by rippling rivers, snow-capped peaks, and alpine meadows Banff is simply spectacular. For more experienced hikers there are several strenuous full-day hiking routes. Our Best Banff Hikes Guide goes into describes some more difficult hikes in the surrounding mountains. 

Prepare to Hike in Banff National Park

Grizzly bears are often seen in Banff National Park, especially in the summer months. It is recommended to always carry bear spray even on the easiest hikes around town.

A National Park Pass is required when entering a Canadian National Park. The towns of Banff & Lake Louise are located in the Banff National Park and a Park Permit is required to walk our favorite easy hikes, Parks Canada can ask for your permit. Entry and service fees help support visitor services and facilities. Buy a Park Permit Here

Popular Tours in Banff National Park

Banff Gondola Ride – round-trip gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain.  Enjoy fantastic views of six different mountain ranges, nearby rivers, and the surrounding area aboard a state-of-the-art gondola. There is a very nice short, easy hike to do on top of Sulphur Mountain. 

Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway – Full-Day Tour – Round-trip travel from Banff with hotel pick up to some highlights that are far apart including Lake Louise, the Icefield Parkway, Bow Falls, and Moraine Lake, a guided, small-group tour—limited to 15 people.

Bow River ride on Horseback – Guided horseback riding adventure along the trails of the Bow River or the Spray River. Learn about the history of the national park from a nature guide

map hikes around Banff town
Map of some hikes we did from Banff town center. Created with my Garmin Fenix GPS watch.

The Marsh Loop

  • Distance – 2.8km
  • Walking time – 45 minutes 
  • Trailhead – Cave and Basin National Historic Site
  • Elevation change – flat trail

The Marsh Loop is an easy Banff hike. This flat walking trail starts at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. The trail encircles a wetland filled with hot springs flowing out of the lower slopes of Sulphur Mountain. It is a nice area for bird watching with birds present all year. The 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.

Sundance Canyon

  • Distance – 9km
  • Walking time – 3 hours
  • Trailhead – Cave and Basin National Historic Site
  • Elevation Gain – 155m

The Sundance Canyon Trail is a 9 km trail, the first 3,7km is on the 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, with 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 2 km walk (20 min. walk) from town.

Sundance Canyon hike Banff
The first 3 km of the Sundance Canyon hiking trail in Banff is flat paved road, also popular for cycling.

Spray Loop Trail (Spray River Loop Trail)

  • Distance – 12km
  • Walking time – 3 hours
  • Trailhead – Banff Springs Hotel 
  • Elevation gain – 75m

The Spray Loop trail is a 12km loop around the Spray River, with a clearing and picnic area at a bridge halfway. This is a fairly flat, easy trail running next to the beautiful turquoise Spray River, crossing the river and returning on the opposite side. The Spray River Loop trail is a multi-use trail often used for hiking, biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and cycling. Following the river, the best views from this trail are the views of the Blue Spray River.  The trail follows the Spray river that is constantly visible, you also get nice views of Mount Rundle. This is a great 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 snowshoeing in winter.

On the east side of the Spray Loop trail, there is a backcountry campground that can be booked through Parks Canada.

Trailhead – Parking area 100m from the Banff Springs Hotel, roam route 2 bus of a 2km walk (20 min. walk) from town.

Hoodoos Trail

Distance – 10km

Walking time – 3 hours

Trailhead – Surprise Corner

Elevation gain – 300m

The Hoodoos trail starts at the Surprise Corner trailhead on the edge of town. It is an easy hike following the Bow River from Banff town. The relatively flat hike from Surprise Corner to the Banff Hoodoos was one of our favorite flat Banff hikes. The trail has some nice viewpoints of the Rocky Mountains and the Bow River. One of the best things is the spectacular views of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel at the start of the trail. 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. On the trail find one of the famous Parks Canada red chairs with views of Mount Rundle, the Bow River, and the Hoodoos.  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.

hoodoos trail views Banff
Nice views of the Bow river on the Hoodoos trail from Banff.

Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon is one of the most beautiful places in Banff National Park. Spectacular, but a very touristy spot, probably the most popular hike in the park. You walk on walkways 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 are 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 meters.

johnston canyon hike banff
Hiking Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park

Trailhead – To get to Johnston Canyon take the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A), which branches off of the Trans-Canada Highway. 

The Roam bus Route 9 connects Downtown Banff to the Johnston Canyon area. The Johnston Canyon Route 9 runs every day in the Summer months, and on a weekend only throughout the wintertime. The daily summer service runs in 2023 from May 19 – October 9.

Easy Hikes from Lake Louise

Lake Louise is a beautiful turquoise, glacier-fed lake surrounded by high mountain peaks, the lake is the trailhead 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, and the transfer takes about 50 minutes.

Lake Louise Lakeshore

  • Distance – 4km
  • Time – 1-hour round trip
  • Trailhead – Lake Louise
  • Elevation Gain – Flat

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.

lake louise lake shore
Hiking next to the Lake Louise Lakeshore is an easy, flat, short hike on the shore of the lake.

Fairview Lookout Trail

Distance – 2 km

Time – 45 minutes round trip

Trailhead – Lake Louise

Elevation gain – about 100m

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

Elevation Gain – 350m

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’s 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.

lake agnes teahouse
Hiking to Lake Agnes teahouse in winter.

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 trailhead 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

Elevation gain – flat

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 lakeshore hike
Hiking on the Moraine Lake shore.

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 be 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 an 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.

Consolation Lakes

Distance – 6 km

Time – 2 hours round trip

Trailhead – Moraine Lake

Elevation gain – flat

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 and 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

Some more not too miss hikes around Banff:

Packing to hike around Banff

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In winter the snow freezes on many of these trails, Ice crampons/cleats help 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 are great pair of boots, for all seasons. Keeps mud, snow, and rain out. Comfortable, light, and completely waterproof.

Ladies model, Alya loves her Ladies Salomon X Ultra boots.

Pack a light rain/windproof jacket in your daypack, the North Face for ladies or North Face Resolve for men

BUFF Multifunctional Headwear – for sun and wind protection (doubles as a face mask).

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