Five Great Banff National Park hikes

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Written by Patrick J. Smith posted on Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

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Looking for a good, challenging hike in Banff National Park? Here’s a couple that offer some of the best there is in the Canadian Rockies: good views, excellent trails, and a solid hiking work out.

Get a peak at the weather in Banff beforehand with the Banff webcam.

Cory Pass

Hiking Banff offers you great views on your vacation.

This is considered by many the most spectacular hike along the Bow Valley Parkway and one of the most physically challenging in the park. But the views will certainly make up for it. They’re highlighted by the towering slabs of grey limestone that form the east face of Mount Louis. If you are extra-adventurous, close the loop passing through Gargoyle Valley and Edith Pass – 13 km round trip.

  • Distance: 5.8 km one way (about 3 hours one way)
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Elevation Gain: 915 m

Larch Valley

In late September, the alpine larch needles turn to gold which makes this hike very popular this time of year. In mid-summer, the larch needles are pale green and the meadows are carpeted with wildflowers.

  • Distance: 2.4 km (1.5 mi) one way (1 hour one way)
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation Gain: 350 m (1,150 ft)

Bourgeau Lake

Bourgeau is one of the best hikes in the immediate vicinity of the town of Banff. Here you’ll find thick subalpine meadows and stretched between some of the highest and most spectacular mountains of the Massive Range. It’s a popular hike, and it’s easy to see why. At the lake’s rocky shore, hikers are welcomed by pikas, golden-mantled ground squirrels, chipmunks, and white-tailed ptarmigan. Through late July and August, colourful wildflowers bloom in the meadow. You’ll find the trail head along theTrans-Canada Highway, 3 km (1.9 mi) west of the Sunshine Village interchange.

  • Distance: 7.5 km (4.6 mi) one way (about 2.5 to 3 hours one way)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 725 m (2,380 ft)

Fenland Trail

Want to get out for a quick hike from the town of Banff ? This easy loop takes you through the forest on the eastern side of the Vermillion Lakes, running along Echo and Forty Mile Creeks and through a spruce forest carpeted with bunchberry and a green cloud of horsetails.

Find the trail head by following the Mount Norquay Road from downtown Banff, crossing the railway tracks, and contining 0.3 km to the Forty Mile Picnic Area.

  • Distance: 2.1 km (1.3 mi)(About 30 min)
  • Difficulty: Very Easy
  • Elevation Gain: none

Johnston Canyon

Banff National Park’s most popular hike, Johnston Canyon, does well do earn this distinction. You’ll find two breath-taking waterfalls as you walk the trail along the face of steep canyon walls with Johnston Creek literally rushing beneath your feet. The catwalks and viewpoints at the two falls have sturdy railings, but there have been a number of serious accidents when hikers have left the trail and fallen into this powerful mountain stream. Stay on the trail and keep young children in control. Beat the crowds by arriving good and early.

  • Distance: 2.7 km (1.7 mi) one way (About 50 min)
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Elevation Gain: 135 m – 440 ft
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