After our month of volunteering and hiking in the Yukon, we were all excited about our next adventure – hiking in the Rockies! We have been absolutely taken aback by the magnificence of the scenery– the absolutely perfect reflections of the rocky peaks in the incredibly light blue waters of the lakes, the numerous wildlife encountered along the tracks and the fresh air and quiet of the green forests.
Hiking is also the most efficient way of avoiding the big tourist crowds in Banff and Lake Louise villages during Summer as most people avoid the most difficult hikes.
Here below is the selection of our favourite hikes in Banff and Lake Louise area. Be ready to be amazed by nature!
Mountain reflections along Sundance Canyon trail (Banff National Park)
SUNDANCE CANYON (Banff National Park)
LENGTH: 10 km return
ELEVATION GAIN: 400 mt
This track is a great introduction to Banff area: easy, not too long and with spectacular reflections of the surrounding forest and peaks into light teal-coloured waters of the river. Some other hikers saw a black bear crossing the trail a few times. Before going back the same way to the start point, the track completes a small loop following the Sundance canyon up and then down the forest. This is a perfect walk for families or an easy relaxing ride for mountain bikers.
Through Gargoyle Pass along Cory and Edith Pass trail (Banff National Park)
CORY AND EDITH PASS (Banff National Park)
LEVEL: Intermediate to Advanced
TYPE : Loop
LENGTH: 15 km return
ELEVATION GAIN: 920 mt
DURATION: 5-6 hrs
This is by far the most challenging loop hike we’ve done in Banff and Lake Louise area but definitely one of the most rewarding trails here. The beauty of this track is the ever-changing landscape – the trail will pass through sub-alpine forests, will twist and turn on narrow passages along rocky mountain sides and will cross a mountainous pass, Cory Pass, underneath beautiful high peaks. The trail is pretty steep the whole way, both uphill and downhill, and in many parts it’s only loose rocks and scree, so be prepared and keep your eyes on the trail – my hiking poles helped me a lot! Keep your eyes open for marmots and mountain squirrels as well. The views from Cory Pass are fantastic and once you cross the pass you`ll start descending into the Gargoyle Valley towards the forest again until the loop will connect with the road to the parking lot.
Fantastic views from Sulphur Mountain summit (Banff National Park)
SULPHUR MOUNTAIN TRAIL (Banff National Park)
DISTANCE: 10 km return
ELEVATION GAIN: 744 mt
DURATION: 4 hrs return
Be patient with this hike as it winds the whole way up to the top of Sulphur Mountain through the forest so you will only be able to enjoy the best views at the very top of the hike where Banff gondola arrives – don’t worry, the views will definitely be worth the sweat and efforts. The only downsize is the numbers of tourists at the top of the gondola in peak season – on the other hand if you walk this trail late afternoon, you can catch the gondola down the mountain for FREE after 7pm (or if you`re an early riser, you can take the gondola up for free before 10am) – please check with Parks Canada or the gondola if this is still in place when you`re visiting.
TIP – Treat yourself to a regenerating hot bath at Banff Hot Springs after a long day hike. Although the only hot swimming pool is fairly small and busy, the entrance fee is quite cheap and these springs will only make you appreciate hiking even more.
Breath-taking views from Sentinel Pass top section (Lake Louise area)
ARCH VALLEY AND SENTINEL PASS (Lake Louise area)
LEVEL: Moderate / Intermediate
DISTANCE: 11 km return
ELEVATION GAIN: 792 mt
DURATION: 4-5 hrs
Our favourite hike in Lake Louise area, this trail offers superb views of the surrounding rocky peaks reflected in the two beautiful lakes at the bottom of Sentinel Pass. Friendly furry marmots and ground squirrels will welcome you to this fantastic trail. From Sentinel Pass the views of the valleys below are amplified and there’s also the possibility of scrambling up the mountains on your right if you are a very expert hiker/climber (do not attempt it without proper preparation and a map as this is not a signposted trail – ask at Parks Canada for more information). You can not see Lake Moraine from this hike except when the forest opens up a little during the descent, still this hike remains our favourite one in Lake Louise area!
Getting closer to fabulous glaciers along the Plain of the Six Glaciers Walk (Lake Louise area)
PLAIN OF THE SIX GLACIERS WALK (Lake Louise area)
LEVEL: Moderate to Intermediate
DISTANCE: 14.6 km
ELEVATION GAIN: 420 mt
DURATION: 5-6 hrs
Are you after great views of Lake Moraine and a nice warm piece of cake with coffee at the top of your hike? Add the view of majestic glaciers, alpine lakes with beautiful reflections and welcoming Tea Houses along the track – this hike has it all! You can make it as short or long as you like as you can decide to hike only part of the whole loop and come back the same way. However, if you have a full day, hiking the whole loop will not disappoint you. Remember to bring plenty of water and food with you if you`re spending the whole day out here.
Sunset at Lake Moraine - what a beauty! (Lake Louise area)
TIP – In high season (Summer between June and August) finding parking at Lake Moraine (which is the start point of many scenic hikes including the Arch Valley and Sentinel Pass and the Plain of the Six Glaciers) can be a nightmare during the day. Parks Canada recommends the use of shuttles from Lake Louise Village which you have to pay for. If you don’t mind a very early start and you have your own vehicle, we recommend to drive up to Lake Moraine before 6am and enjoy breakfast with the stunning view of Lake Moraine – at this time there is still plenty of parking and fewer people on the tracks if you start hiking around 7.30/8am (when air temperature starts to warm a little).