Banff National Park has always been within a couple hours drive away from me. It is slammed with tourists year-round, and for good reason! There are many sections of Banff National Park to consider. There’s the Banff townsite area, Lake Louise and the south end of the Icefields Parkway. Because there are also far too many incredible hikes to choose from, this post will be about my favourite peak hikes.
The Hike to Fairview mountain starts at the upper Lake Louise parking lot. This is an incredibly popular hike due to how quickly you can get to the top. It is a hike and not a scramble, therefore there is no exposure on the trail. Tourists who have never summited a peak in their lifetime will try this as their first, and usually succeed. Don’t expect solitude at the top.
This hike is a total of 10.4km return with 1013m elevation gain. It starts off on a wide dirt trail and gradually becomes rockier the closer you get to treeline. Once you hit treeline it breaks off to head straight up the rocky slope. The trail is clearly visible the entire way to the top, but doesn’t waste any time heading up the mountain to gain the last half of elevation. Give yourself 4 to 5 hours to complete it. If you are hiking in September, take some extra time to check out the gorgeous larch trees along the way!
The hike to Mt. Bourgeau starts 13km west of Banff on the Trans Canada Highway. On the way to the peak is Bourgeau Lake, which gains the majority of hiking traffic on this trail. Make sure to check the Parks Canada trail report website shortly before doing this hike, due to the occasional bear warning being in place.
This hike is a long one. It is a total of 25 km with 1435m elevation gain. Give yourself 10 to 12 hours to complete it. The first two hours are a casual walk through the forest until a steep uphill section before reaching Bourgeau Lake. Looking up from the lake, the peak is on your left hand side. The trail then goes on a variety of rocky and grass terrain, passing a couple of small glacial lakes. It is a grunt to the top, with one short section of mild exposure on the way. You will share the peak with a weather station and a few other hikers, all in awe of the unbeatable skyline.
The hike to Cirque Peak starts 35km North of Lake Louise on the Icefields Parkway (93N). Cirque Peak is located next to Helen Lake, a popular hiking destination on the Icefields Parkway in both the summer and winter season. For people wanting a bit more of a challenge after Helen Lake, an easy scramble up Cirque Peak is a good choice!
The hike is a total of 14km with 1050m elevation gain. The walk to Helen Lake starts in the trees and then opens up into grassy high alpine terrain. If you reach the lake on a calm morning, you will see a crystal clear reflection of Cirque Peak in the water. Give yourself 6 to 8 hours to complete this hike. Most of the foot traffic ends at the lake, many people’s final destination. The ascent covers terrain of scree and small rocks until the final quick scramble to the summit. If exposure doesn’t bother you then the peak is a great spot to relax, but there isn’t a lot of space. Hopefully you don’t have to share!