By Lukas Saville:
The rugged terrain of the Canadian Rockies might seem a little imposing at first glance, but once you do a bit of research and immerse yourself in this breathtaking landscape filled with jagged peaks, crystal clear lakes, and sprawling forests, you’ll find that it is fairly accessible for most outdoor enthusiasts.
With its charming village and easy access to a wide variety of hiking routes, there is no better place to begin exploring the Rockies than in Banff National Park. Whether you are new to hiking and want to take in the natural beauty of the mountains for the first time, or are a seasoned outdoorsman looking to kick back with your grandkids on a relaxing adventure, there is no doubt that you will be able to find a hiking trail in Banff that will perfectly suit your needs.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a great little list of the best laidback hikes in Banff National Park that will certainly make for an amazing day outdoors, no matter your age or skill level. Just don’t forget to pick up your Parks Canada Pass before setting out on your adventure!
6 Best Laidback Hikes
- Moraine Lake Hike – Distance: 3.4km | Elevation: 38m | Time: 0.5-1h
This breathtaking hike will expose you to some quintessential Rocky Mountain views for a minimal amount of required effort. Gorgeous mountain peaks and the glittering surface of Moraine Lake make this an absolute must-hike if you are in the area.
Suitable for all ages and skill levels, you will need to time your hike to avoid the crowds, as the large volumes of visitors and limited parking can be a bit frustrating. Even still, this is the perfect hike to take in the beauty of Alberta.
- Peyto Lake Viewpoint Hike – Distance: 2.6km | Elevation: 80m | Time: 0.5-1h
Located along Icefields Parkway, the Peyto Lake Viewpoint Hike is a quick and easy adventure that should be on everyone’s list.
Featuring two scenic viewpoints overlooking the pristine Peyto Lake and surrounding mountains, this is a great bang for your buck excursion that won’t take up too much of your time.
- Monarch Viewpoint Hike – Distance: 7.2km | Elevation: 175m | Time: 1.5-3h
Stunning meadow scenery and a fun gondola ride characterize this spectacular family-friendly adventure in Banff. The Standish Viewing Deck, Rock Isle Lake, and of course Monarch Viewpoint are all highlights of this 7.2km hike, making for an action-packed day on the trails.
Although kids will need to be able to ride a chairlift, the views on this hike are simply too good to avoid!
- Bow Lake Hike – Distance: 3.4km | Elevation: 2m | Time: 1-1.5h
Another short and scenic hiking route along the Icefields Parkway, the Bow Lake Hike is a great option that the entire family will love. Spend some time strolling by the water’s edge, taking in the breathtaking views of the mountain terrain that encompasses the shimmering waters of Bow Lake.
The trail here is flat, well-maintained, and easy to navigate, making it perfectly suited for young children and the elderly.
- Johnston Canyon Hike – Distance: 6.3km | Elevation: 122m | Time: 2-3h
While busy, the Johnston Canyon Hike is an amazing hiking trail that will lead you through a scenic canyon landscape to a picturesque series of waterfalls. Families and those less-inclined to traverse more rugged terrain can simply stop at the lower falls; however, you can also continue on to the upper falls, which are more impressive.
Due to the popularity of this route in the peak season, you will need to plan on starting your hike before 8AM to avoid the crowds. Additionally, the path can be slippery, so parents should always travel with children, keeping them close through wet areas.
- Lake Agnes Tea House Hike – Distance: 7.5km | Elevation: 353m | Time: 2-4h
Last – but certainly not least – is the Lake Agnes Tea House Hike, which is an incredible adventure in Lake Louise. Featuring some of the most splendid views in all of Banff National Park, the Lake Agnes Tea House is the perfect excursion for families, as everyone can get out for some exercise and enjoy some amazing scenery – with a delicious hot chocolate of course!
This route isn’t limited to families, so head up solo or with your friends and hike some of the connecting trails that explore this beautifully scenic landscape.
Other ways to explore the Rockies
After you’ve fully exhausted this list of trails – which shouldn’t take too long – you might be wondering how you can continue unlocking all of the wonders that Banff and the surrounding Rocky Mountains have to offer.
There are plenty of different solutions that can help you take your outdoor exploration to the next level, starting with booking an unforgettable adventure tour in the Canadian Rockies. For anyone who isn’t a keen planner, booking a tour can be a great way to experience some of the most pristine mountain landscapes in the world, all with the help of experienced professionals who know the area inside and out.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you are comfortable enough to hit the trails on your own or with a few friends, then a good GPS app – such as the 10Adventures Trail App – is a great option that will enable you to tackle the outdoors at your own pace. Featuring detailed route descriptions, maps, and the ability to track your activity, a trail app can go a long way in helping to keep you safe and on the right path!
No matter what direction you end up choosing, the Rocky Mountains – and Banff National Park in particular – are full of some amazingly scenic and laidback hiking trails, making it the ideal place to begin exploring the natural beauty that Canada has to offer.