Perched among the Canadian Rocky Mountains 4,600 feet above sea level, Banff is the birthplace of Canada’s national park system and one of the first conservation efforts in the world. Created in 1885, Banff National Park is as old as North America’s most recognizable in Yosemite and Yellowstone. The towering spires over the Valley of the Ten Peaks and Moraine Lake, capped in snow and awe-inspiring, are central to a region characterized by alpine skiing, incredible vistas, and glacial green lakes—and three total national parks.
See, Banff includes opportunities to travel among and between several of Canada’s most beautiful national parks, including Assiniboine, Yoho, and Kootenay. These are the headwaters of the Columbia River, and they are glorious! Check out one of these beautiful adventures within 50 miles of Banff.
- Johnston Canyon Upper Falls: Carved into the canyon wall, this is a popular 3-mile out-and-back hike proceeds along Johnston Creek before it joins the Bow River that includes the eponymous waterfall with seven viewing areas at each of the creek’s cascades.
- The Ink Pots: True to their name, the Ink Pots are comprised of several spectacular blue and green pools that remain cool year round. Be forewarned, this is a popular trail that can sometimes be frustratingly busy with photographers.
- Tower Lake and Rockbound Lake: A hefty challenge, this is a hike with more than 2,000 feet of elevation gain over its 10-mile span. Best in late summer, it climbs to a high alpine basin below Stuart Knob.
- Lake Magog: If there is one hike to do in Banff, this is it. Mountain vistas, wildlife, wildflowers, and well-developed camping with over 75 backcountry sites characterize a multi-day tryst with Assiniboine and Wonder Pass.
- Lake Magog, Marvel Pass, and Owl Lake Loop: Building on the Lake Magog Hike, this remote overnight backpacking trip traverses no fewer than two mountain passes that are known to host wildlife and meadows of wildflowers. Perhaps its best feature: It’s a lesser-traveled part of the park, so you’re sure to find more solitude while gaping at Assiniboine.
- Nub Peak: Perhaps second only to Lake Magog in alpine country quality, Nub Peak is an extension that climbs an additional 2,000 feet to more spectacular views of Assiniboine and the surrounding landscape.
- Boom Lake Hike: Gentler than many of the alpine lake hikes near Banff, its 7 miles are quiet, little traveled, and include Boom Lake views below hanging glaciers at Chimney Peak and Mount Quadron.
- Mount Temple Scramble: An intense climb that is not for the faint of heart. More than 5,500 feet of elevation gain and 10 miles of hiking are the asking price for dramatic views above Larch and Paradise valleys.
- Skoki Loop: A 24-mile overnight backpacking trip above Lake Louise. Alpine views and wildflower meadows abound, and the elevation gain is moderate for such a long loop.