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10 Absolute MUST-DO Day Hikes in Banff and Jasper!

10 Absolute MUST-DO Day Hikes in Banff and Jasper!

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Between Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, there are more incredible hikes than one could possibly have time for. So where do you even begin when planning a Rocky Mountain trip? Well, right here! 

As avid hikers and Canmore locals, we’ve explored both national parks extensively. They’re connected by the scenic Icefields Parkway and many travelers split their time between the two parks. 

We’ve narrowed it down to our favorite hikes in both Banff and Jasper National Parks. Best of all, these hikes can be done in one day, so no extra bookings or lugging around camping gear is required! 

Important info: You will need a Parks Canada Pass for all of these hikes – more info below!

1. Johnston Canyon

Lower falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
The Lower Falls at Johnston Canyon
Bailey looks down at the Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
The Upper Falls is amazing!
  • Location: 30 minutes from downtown Banff – Find the trailhead here
  • Length: 2.3 km (1.4 miles) to 5 km (3 miles) roundtrip
  • Time needed: 2-3 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Two free parking lots, come early as they can fill up!

Johnston Canyon is one of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park, and I can totally understand why – it is one of my favorites too! The Johnston Canyon trail leads you to seven waterfalls, all of which are uniquely stunning. 

This trail is great for families, those short on time, or anyone who doesn’t hike often as the path is wide, pretty flat, and portions are covered with a boardwalk. You can reach the Lower Falls in the first 1.2 kilometers (0.7 miles) and either turn back here or continue on the rest of the trail. We like to complete the full 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) to reach the Upper Falls, as the crowds thin out and this waterfall is even more impressive, in my opinion!

You can visit Johnston Canyon in both summer and winter. Summer is more straightforward, you can easily drive yourself and if you arrive in the morning or later in the afternoon, you should be able to find a parking spot.

Johnston Canyon is entirely different in the winter, as everything is covered in ice. I recommend visiting with this guided ice walk tour, especially if you have little experience driving and hiking in winter conditions. It provides transport from Banff, gear needed to safely hike in the winter (crampons, trekking poles, etc.), and is a fun way to learn about the canyon with your local guide. 

Regardless of when you’re visiting, Johnston Canyon should definitely be added to your itinerary, even if it’s just a quick visit! The powerful waterfalls and the deep crevices of the canyon are simply gorgeous – it’s one of my favorites for a reason. Before you take off, read everything you need to know about visiting Johnston Canyon here.

2. Lake Agnes Teahouse

Lake Agnes Teahouse near Lake Louise
Don’t forget to visit the teahouse!
Bailey stands on the edge of Lake Agnes on the Lake Agnes Teahouse hike
Seeing Lake Agnes on the Teahouse Trail!
  • Location: Lake Louise, about 45 minutes from Banff – Find the trailhead here
  • Length: 7.2 kilometers (4.5 miles) roundtrip
  • Time needed: 2-4 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: Limited, either get there very early or take a shuttle

The Lake Agnes Tea House hike leads to the historic Tea House, built in 1901! Originally used as a refuge for backcountry hikers, it isn’t as remote as it once was and is now one of the most popular hikes in all of Banff National Park. 

The hike takes off from the Lake Louise foreshore, so you must get to Lake Louise first. This can be a bit tricky, as parking fills up before 7 am. So either plan on getting here really early, or taking one of the many convenient shuttles (I suggest this option). You can read our full guide on parking alternatives and shuttle options at Lake Louise here.

Once you get parking all sorted out, it’s time to enjoy the beautiful Lake Agnes Teahouse trail! Despite its popularity, I love this hike. The trail is rather steep at the beginning, perfect for getting your heart rate up, and there isn’t much in terms of views. Just put your head down and get through it – it’s worth it, I promise!

Soon enough, you’ll catch glimpses of the stunning Lake Louise below and the mountains in the distance, you’ll even pass a waterfall! The reward is reaching the historic Tea House, which can have quite a line so I recommend getting in the queue first and admiring the views after. 

This hike is open year-round, although I prefer this one in the summer. Depending on your hiking abilities, this will take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, leaving plenty of time for stops and tea!

3. Tunnel Mountain

View from the top of Tunnel Mountain
Check out that view!
  • Location: 5 minutes outside of Banff – Find the trailhead here
  • Length: 4.6 kilometers (2.9 miles) roundtrip
  • Time needed: 1.5-2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Parking: Limited, it’s best to walk from downtown Banff (about a 15-minute walk)

For amazing panoramic views of Banff town and the numerous mountain peaks, Tunnel Mountain is a great hiking option! We especially love that it’s a quick 5-minute drive from Banff, or a 15-minute walk if you want to get a few extra steps in. We usually walk there simply so we don’t have to deal with parking. As you can imagine, being this close to the city center makes this hike quite busy!

While this is called a mountain, it’s still rated as an easy to moderate hike. It’s more of a hill than a mountain and all the switchbacks make it an easier climb without many steep parts as you ascend. 

You’ll find a lot of viewpoints along the trail where the trees break, maybe you can catch a glimpse of the gorgeous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel as you walk! But the best views are at the top – Vermillion Lakes, the stunning Rocky Mountains, and Banff!

This hike is open year-round, but we strongly suggest using crampons or microspikes if you’re hiking during the winter. It can be a little slippery up there!

4. Bow River to Surprise Corner

Bailey at Surprise Corner viewpoint in Banff, Canada
I could sit here all day!
  • Location: In Banff town at the corner of Wolf St and Banff Ave – Find the trailhead here
  • Length: 3.8 kilometers (2.4 miles) roundtrip
  • Time needed: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: Very easy
  • Parking: Available downtown

This is another super accessible hike outside of Banff town, and it is also very easy! You follow the gorgeous Bow River to the Surprise Corner viewpoint. The trail technically starts at the end of Wolf Street, just north of the Canoe Club – it’s an easy trail to find. Follow the Bow River for about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) and you’ll reach Surprise Corner. 

The Surprise Corner Viewpoint has a lifted viewing platform, offering those iconic Banff views. You can see Sulphur Mountain and the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, and enjoy the beauty of the national park. When you’re done admiring the scenery, simply turn around and head back the same way you came. 

We love how this hike boasts some of Banff’s most beautiful scenery, in a quick and accessible hike. So whether you’re tight on time or working with a crew that isn’t big on hiking, you can still enjoy the great outdoors with this trail!

To make this hike a bit longer, you can add the Surprise Corner to Hoodoos hike, which offers some truly incredible views!

Parks Canada Pass Quick Info

If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.

Single Daily Admission:

This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for a couple of days.

  • Adult (ages 18-64) is $11 CAD
  • Senior (65+) is $9.50 CAD
  • Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE

Group Daily Admission:

If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)

  • $22.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day

Parks Canada Discovery Pass

The “Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and so much more.

  • Adult (age 18-64) – $75.25 CAD
  • Senior (65+) – $64.50 CAD
  • Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $151.25 CAD

Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!

Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers or booths at the entrance to many national parks.

5. Larch Valley Trail

Larch trees with a moutain backdrop on the Larch Valley Trail during fall in Banff
Just stunning!
  • Location: Moraine Lake, about 2 hours from Banff – Find the trailhead near here
  • Length: 8.6 kilometers (5.3 miles) roundtrip
  • Time needed: 5-6 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Parking: No parking available at Moraine Lake

The Larch Valley Trail is beautiful no matter what, but its peak is during the Larch season in autumn! The leaves turn a spectacular yellow, which left us in awe the whole time we were hiking! The hike is open from June to October and the Larch season is mid-September to early October.

The trail hits its steepest point at the very beginning, but hang in there because it doesn’t last long! You’ll encounter switchbacks to make the ascent a bit easier, and it’s not technical so all you need is a little willpower to get through it.

After this initial climb, the trail is relatively flat and you can enjoy the colorful trees for a few more kilometers. The end of the trail is when you reach the stunning Minnestimma Lake. I like to pack a lunch and sit on the lakeshore to relax and take in the views – you’ll understand how impressive it is when you get there!

For more information, check out our complete guide to hiking the Larch Valley Trail

6. Peyto Lake

Bailey with her dog rex at the Peyto Lake Lookout
Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park on the Icefields Parkway, Canada
Peyto Lake is stunning!
  • Location: On the Icefields Parkway, about 1 hour and 10 minutes from Banff – Find the trailhead here
  • Length: 1.3 kilometers (0.8 miles) roundtrip
  • Time needed: 30 min to 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Very easy
  • Parking: You should be able to find parking, even on a busy day!

This is one of my favorite stops on the Icefields Parkway as we travel from Banff to Jasper. It’s short and sweet, and offers amazing views of Peyto Lake, I mean look how blue it is!

The hike to the viewpoint is only 10-20 minutes and is short and paved, but it’s uphill – so be warned! You’ll start in the parking lot just off the Icefields Parkway, and while it can get busy during the day, cars are constantly filtering in and out because it’s such a quick stop. So you shouldn’t have a problem snagging a parking spot!

Once you complete your 20-minute uphill excursion, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of Peyto Lake with the mountains in the background. It is truly stunning. The viewpoint went through major construction a few years ago, so now it’s way larger and gives you more space to enjoy the views!

Peyto Lake Viewpoint is open year-round, just be careful during the winter as the trail can be a bit slippery. This is a great quick hike if you need to stretch your legs as you explore the Icefields Parkway!

Related Reads: Looking for more epic stops as you road trip from Banff to Jasper? Check out our favorite stops on the Icefields Parkway to make a full day (or two!) out of it!

7. Athabasca Glacier Hike

Bailey smiles at the camera on the Athabasca Glacier on a Columbia Icefield Adventure, Canada
Such a cool experience!

Visiting the Athabasca Glacier is perhaps the most epic experience along the Icefields Parkway. There are a few ways you can explore the glacier: riding the Ice Explorer bus to the top (no hiking required), hiking the free trail to the toe of the glacier, or joining a guided hike to trek on top of the glacier

Now, the Ice Explorer bus is certainly cool, but this is a “best hikes” blog, so you’re clearly looking for a hike!

The free hike is the 1.4-kilometer (0.8-mile) Athabasca Glacier Trail and it departs from the parking lot. It has easy-to-follow trail markers that direct you across the bridge in the direction of the glacier. The trail has a section of uphill before leveling out, and will only take about 10-20 minutes (it’s pretty easy). They also have informational signs showing how much the glacier has receded over the years, and it’s mind-blowing to see how quickly it’s shrinking – so get there before it’s gone!

I highly recommend bringing a jacket, as the glacial winds at the top are no joke, even during the summer! It’s important to stay on the trail because there are underground rivers and crevasses that make wandering off the trail dangerous. 

You’ll soon reach the Toe of the Athabasca Glacier and feel tiny next to this massive block of ice! This is one of those can’t-miss experiences while in Banff and Jasper. 

A tour group walk on the Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Icefield on a trekking tour
Trekking across the Athabasca Glacier!

If you’re hoping to get a little more out of your glacial hiking experience, you can join a guided tour to hike on top of the glacier! Going with a guide is the only way you can set foot on the glacier itself, just to ensure everyone’s safety. 

We joined this guided glacier hike and had an amazing experience. Our guide really made the experience memorable by teaching us all about the glacier and reassuring us that hiking this route isn’t as hard as it sounds – and he was right! We spent about three hours hiking 5 km (3 mi) roundtrip and it was a relatively easy route with all the stops we made to take photos and listen to our guide. 

The tour provides microspikes, hiking boots, hats, gloves, and anything you could need. But I still recommend dressing warm. This tour departs at either 9:45 am or 2 pm and is $133 CAD. 

They also offer a full-day version of this guided glacier hike, so you’ll be hiking 10 km (6 mi)! This is $208 CAD for 6 hours of exploring. 

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

8. Whistlers Mountain Summit

Whistlers Peak at the top of the Jasper Skytram
Views from the summit of Whistlers Mountain!
  • Location: The Jasper SkyTram, 10 minutes outside of Jasper – Find the start point here
  • Length: 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) roundtrip
  • Time needed: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: Large parking lot at the Jasper SkyTram

We love this hike because it’s a little combo adventure! To reach the Whistlers Mountain Summit trailhead, you first have to ride the Jasper SkyTram to the top of the mountain. This saves you 2,263 meters (7,425 feet) of hiking, which would inevitably take you hours, and instead, you can zip up in just 7 minutes! Plus, the SkyTram is a fun experience and you get incredible views the whole ride. 

Once you’ve made it to the upper station, you can climb even higher on the Summit Trail. This is a 1.2 km (0.7 mi) trail and will take about 20-30 minutes to ascend another 200 meters (650 feet). Now you’ll truly be at the summit of Whistlers Mountain and can witness the awe-inspiring Rockies everywhere you turn! Be sure to face north and you’ll get the best view of the highest peak in the mountain range, Mt. Robson. 

Don’t be deceived by this short distance, you will definitely get a workout in those 30 minutes of climbing. The views are the reward though! I highly recommend dressing in layers, as the weather at the top of the mountain can be completely different than in town. 

Keep in mind that you will have to buy your SkyTram ticket to do this hike. It is $67 CAD and can be purchased in advance here.

9. Maligne Canyon

A waterfall rushes through Maligne Canyon in summer in Jasper
Summer!
A lady looks up at a frozen waterfall in Maligne Canyon
Winter!
  • Location: 15 minutes from Jasper – Find the trailhead here
  • Length: 7.4 kilometers (4.6 miles) roundtrip
  • Time needed: 3 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: Parking lots at the 1st, 5th, and 6th bridges

Maligne Canyon is a unique trail just outside of Jasper. There are multiple entrances and parking lots here so you can hike the entire thing or just sections easily! I love that this trail gives you some variety – we’ve hiked it multiple times and had different experiences each go. 

The trail has 6 bridges used to distinguish entrances and stopping points. Most people start at the first bridge, unofficially known as the main entrance, and hike to the 4th bridge. This route is 2.2 km (1.4 miles) each way and is arguably the most beautiful part of the hike. It boasts dramatic cliffs and stunning waterfalls and is where you’ll find the iconic Maligne Canyon photos. 

However, we still enjoy exploring the 5th and 6th bridges, and it’s an excuse to hike longer! The trail flattens out and the river gets wider and more powerful. There are fewer people at this section of the trail, making it feel like more of a secluded afternoon outside.

This trail isn’t terribly difficult, but there are about a dozen sets of stairs, so be aware of this if stairs are challenging for you. For all the details on exploring Maligne Canyon, read our top tips here!

Maligne Canyon is open year-round, and it’s easier during the summer, but I think it’s impressively beautiful during the winter. The waterfalls are frozen in time and you can explore the canyon floor – something you can’t do when there’s a river flowing there!

If you’ve gone winter hiking before, you’ll have no problem doing it here. If you haven’t or don’t have appropriate gear with you, I highly recommend joining this 3-hour guided ice walk. It provides transport, all necessary gear, and a guide who keeps you safe and makes the experience more fun! 

10. Valley of the Five Lakes

Two red chairs in the Valley of the 5 Lakes near Jasper, Canada
The Valley of the Five Lakes is so beautiful!
Bailey walks out onto a dock at the Valley of the 5 Lakes in Jasper
You can swim, but the water is freezing!
  • Location: 15 minutes outside of Jasper – Find the trailhead here
  • Length: 5 kilometers (3 miles) loop
  • Time needed: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Arrive before 9 am or after 4 pm to find a parking spot

This might be one of the easiest hikes in Jasper, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile! In fact, I think this is the most beautiful hike in the area. The Valley of Five Lakes trail is an easy loop that takes you around 5 different lakes – hence the name! Better yet, each lake is spectacularly green, surrounded by forests, wildflowers, and the Rocky Mountains. 

The trail is only about 5 kilometers (3 miles) and is pretty flat, gaining 160 meters (525 feet) of elevation the entire length. It’s a good family-friendly trail, especially because you don’t have to hike the entire loop, you can go to one or two lakes and turn back easily.

But we didn’t have any kids in tow and love hiking, so we completed the loop and enjoyed seeing all five lakes. They are all uniquely stunning! If you’re feeling really brave, jump in for a swim, although be warned – it’s super cold!

This trail is close to Jasper and can get a little busy. I recommend arriving before 9 am or after 4 pm to secure a parking spot. If you come between those hours, you might get lucky and find parking still or have to wait a bit to get a spot. 

The Valley of Five Lakes is also open during the winter and is great for snowshoeing. You can rent snowshoes for $15 CAD a day from Jasper Source for Sports in town.

Related Read: Need a place to stay? Check out our blogs on where to stay in Jasper or the best areas to stay in Banff, depending on which hikes you choose!

Renting a Car in Alberta

A car drives along the Icefields Parkway
The drive is mesmerizing!

If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.

Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
Thanks for reading!

There certainly isn’t a shortage of hikes in Banff and Jasper National Parks. Hopefully, your itinerary allows you to tackle a few hikes on this list, maybe one in each park! These are some of our favorite hikes in Alberta, and we know you’ll love the views as much as we do.

Thanks for reading our blog! If you found this helpful, be sure to read some of our other blogs about Alberta and all of Canada. We have traveled and lived all over this beautiful country and love sharing our expertise. Here are a few articles to help your travel planning:

BANFF ITINERARY – How to Spend 1, 2, or 3 Days in Banff (2024 Guide!)

ULTIMATE Guide to the Icefields Parkway: 16 Tips Before You Go

11 Things to KNOW Before Visiting Mount Edith Cavell, Jasper

How to Get from Jasper to Banff +21 Fun Road Trip Stops