If you're planning to do this, and want to make the best use of your time in Banff, here's a list of hikes favoured by many of the locals:
1. Edith and Corey Pass - The trailhead for this full-day hike is just a short drive from the town of Banff. This epic hike is a great circle route through forest and up high above the alpine. Gargoyle pass is a great place to enjoy your lunch before descending back to the parking lot through the forest. Wonderful views and great geological formations. Pack for dramatic changes in the weather and prepare for almost 1000 metres in elevation gain over the 13 km circuit.
2. Sunshine Meadows - In the wintertime Sunshine Village is a busy place filled with skiers of all ability. Summertime brings fields full of wildflowers and a well-maintained series of trails that can be enjoyed with our without a guide. With a collection of longer and shorter trails, you're sure to find something to satisfy you whether you have a half day or full day to spare. A local company, White Mountain Adventures, runs the shuttle bus from the base of the hill to the village where the hiking begins and offer guide service to those who are interested.
3. Johnson's Canyon to the Upper Falls or the Paint Pots - No doubt the trail to the lower falls can be very, very busy with busloads of tourists but stick with it. Beyond the lower falls the real magic begins as you head up to the Upper Falls and if you have a little more than a half day, right up to the Paint Pots. It's about 12 km round trip. Best to get an early start, before the masses arrive and be sure to stop in at the café at the trailhead for pie as reward for the journey. Say hi to Stella and Bill who run the resort and café for us.
4. Tunnel Mountain - This 'local fave' is great for a lunch break or even an after-dinner stroll. The trailhead itself is just a short walk from downtown Banff and the well-worn trail is about 1.5 hrs round-trip. Great to stretch your legs, especially if you only have one night in Banff. Great views of the town and surrounding peaks from the summit.
5. Cascade Amphitheatre - Towering over the town of Banff sits Cascade Mountain - one of the five main peaks surrounding the town. This 13.5 km hike begins at the Banff Mt Norquay ski hill and meanders through forests, across streams and through bear country and opens to a meadow filled with wildflowers and dozens of marmots, pikas and white-tailed ptarmigans.
6. C-Level Cirque - This nice half day hike rewards walkers with great views of Lake Minnewanka on the outskirts of Banff. A bit of a living history museum, hikers pass abandoned cabins once used by coal miners in the early 1900's when the Bankhead Mines were in operation. Only 8 km round-trip you can easily do this in the morning and easily enjoy the rest of the day at the spa!
7. Helen Lake - Dolomite Pass - A journey up the Icefield Parkway beyond Lake Louise, but not quite as far as Bow Summit, takes you to the trailhead for this full-day hike. Ascend through forest to wide open meadows beneath towering peaks for a wonderful Banff National Park experience. 18 km round trip and well worth the effort.
Before you head out on any of the local hiking trails be sure to check with Parks Canada for trail conditions and wildlife closures, pack for any and all weather and let someone know where you're going!
What about you? What are your favourite hikes in Banff National Park?