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Hiking Banff With Kids: 7 Easy Hikes In Banff National Park

Banff National Park was Canada’s first-ever national park and is one of the country’s greatest treasures. It's an amazing place with countless outdoor activities for all types of travelers during every season.

From late Spring until Autumn (depending on the snow conditions) you can do many beautiful and easy hikes in Banff that are perfect for a Banff family vacation.

Visiting Banff with kids: the best Banff family hikes

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This post is written by Mark Whitman, founder of Mountain IQ, one of the best information portals for mountain enthusiasts!

Mark has trekked pretty much all over the globe and loves sharing his passion for hiking with others. 

Banff National Park quiet lake in the morning

Is Banff a family-friendly destination?

Yes absolutely! Banff is a great place for a family holiday or weekend trip. Located in Alberta, Banff is known for its beautiful lakes, glaciers, forests, and hot springs.

The national park encompasses a section of the Rocky Mountains, which is home to many popular North American hiking trails.

This beautiful park attracts millions of locals and tourists alike every year because of its breathtaking landscapes and views.

What's more, there are many things to do in Banff with kids, making it an excellent family destination.

Elk in Banff National Park

Plenty of wildlife can also be found roaming the land including caribou, elk, wolves, black bears, beavers, and grizzly bears.  

Important note: be sure to read up on bear safety when visiting Banff National Park. Carry bear spray, hike in groups and check with the local tourism office about recent sightings.

With so many beautiful and accessible spots to explore, Banff National Park and neighboring Jasper National Park are the perfect destinations for a family getaway.

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Banff best family hotels

There is no shortage of accommodation in this popular mountain town, as such there are several great hotels for families in Banff.

In the table below you can find my recommendations. Further down in the post, you can read more details about these hotels.

Best Western Plus Siding 29 Lodge☆☆☆8.3US$116Click here
Banff Rocky Mountain Resort☆☆☆7.9US$111Click here
Canalta Lodge☆☆☆☆8.5US$310Click here
Fairmont Banff Springs☆☆☆☆☆8.6US$435Click here
Banff campgrounds (Parks Canada)Website

Note: Prices for these hotels depend on the time of year and how far in advance you book. Use ‘click here' to see the latest prices on Booking and book ahead to get the best deal.

Easy hikes in Banff National Park: hiking with kids

Please note that the Banff hiking trails in this list are suitable for children who are able to hike at least 6 km on their own, or for parents who carry their kids in a baby carrier or child carrier backpack.

The Banff walks included here are:

  1. Consolation Lakes (5.8 km round-trip)
  2. Twin Cairns and Monarch Viewpoint (7.2 km round-trip)
  3. Johnston Canyon (5.9 km round-trip)
  4. Peyto Lake (2.6 km round-trip)
  5. Sulphur Mountain Summit Trail (10 km round-trip, 5 when taking the gondola)
  6. Moraine Lake Rockpile and Lakeshore hike (3.4 km round-trip)
  7. Sunshine Meadows (7.6 km round-trip)

1. Consolation Lakes (5.8 km round-trip)

Moraine Lake Alberta - Canada
Lake Moraine

The Consolation Lakes is one of the popular and kid-friendly hikes in Banff. The lakes are located beneath Lake Louise and can be accessed by hiking along a short 2.9 km trail (one way) starting at Lake Moraine. 

The route is clearly marked from the Lake Moraine parking lot, so it’s very easy to find. You’ll start the hike by crossing a bridge over a beautiful brook that takes you to stone steps leading up to the Rockpile.

The trail then descends into a rocky field that lies beneath the Tower of Babel, a tall quartzite pillar named after the biblical tower built to reach the heavens. 

The rocky trail takes you through a forested area along Babel Creek. You’ll then pass through a wetland area until you reach the scree field around the Consolation Lakes. 

The hike to Consolation Lakes is a 5.8km roundtrip with very little elevation gain. It’s very easy on the legs and perfect for the whole family.

However, the hike is generally restricted to group outings only (4 people minimum) due to potential bear encounters.

The Consolation Lakes are beautiful, clear lakes that are overlooked by the surrounding glacier-coated mountains, making for simply exquisite panoramic views. 

Insider advice: this is one of the most popular hiking trails in Banff. So, if you want a quiet, less crowded hike, make sure you head out early in the morning!

Banff village in Alberta, Canada

2. Twin Cairns and Monarch Viewpoint (7.2 km round-trip)

The Twin Cairns hike is another perfect example of easy hikes around Banff. This beautiful trail is found in the Sunshine Meadows and is about 7.2km long (round trip).

This trail can be hiked clockwise or counterclockwise, but if you want to make it easier on yourself, we highly recommend doing it clockwise as you can skip quite a lot of the elevation gain by taking the Standish Chair Lift up to the Standish viewing deck. 

You’ll start this hike from Standish Village where you can purchase a bus or gondola ticket to the base village (the gondola offers the best views).

From there you can take the Standish Chair Lift up to the viewing deck at the top of the mountain. Here you’ll be able to bask in some of the most beautiful views that Banff has to offer.

From the viewing deck, you can admire three turquoise alpine lakes: Grizzly, Larix, and Rock Isle. 

The trail also starts from the observation deck and the route takes you down towards Rock Isle Lake until you reach a junction.

The left path takes you closer to Rock Isle Lake, which is definitely worth the extra kilometer or so.

Once you’ve had a good look at the beautiful scenery around Rock Isle Lake, you can go back the way you came and take a right at the junction, which is marked as Twin Cairns. 

Follow the Twin Cairns route for a pleasant hike and then turn left at the next junction to get to the Monarch Viewpoint where you can rest on a bench and take in the stunning mountainous landscape. 

From Monarch Viewpoint, go back along the trail and continue forward once you’re back at the junction. The rest of the hike takes you back down the mountain until you reach the base village.

The Twin Cairns hike is a very mild hike, especially if you start by taking the chair lift up to the viewing deck.

This Banff hike has plenty of beautiful views to offer and should definitely be on your Canadian Rockies itinerary.

3. Johnston Canyon (5.9 km round-trip)

Johnston Canyon Banff National Park

Parks Canada is running a three-year pilot that restricts motorized vehicle access between Banff and Castle Junction from May 1 to June 25 and from September 1-30.

During these periods, you can only reach the trail head by (e)bike (please note this adds an extra 24km one-way to this trip, see map).

Check out this excellent Johnston Canyon small group tour
which includes an e-Bike rental, a 1-way shuttle, and a professional guide.

Also, take into consideration that wildlife sightings (including bears) are common. If you do set out to hike this trail, make sure you are carrying bear spray and know how to use it. Make noise while hiking or cycling and avoid traveling at dusk or dawn.

The Johnston Canyon hike is a moderate, 5km round trip trail located near Lake Louise. This is one of the most popular short hikes in Banff, so make sure to get an early start to avoid the crowds!

The route begins near the Johnston Canyon Lodge and Bungalows and leads into a forested area. Once you make your way through the forest, you continue the hike on catwalks that have been fixed to the impressive limestone cliffs of the canyon. 

This easy trail follows along the cliffs until you reach Lower Canyon Falls. The Lower Falls can be viewed from a bridge crossing over the stream, or you can go through a tunnel for a closer look at the water tumbling down the rock. 

You can then make your way up to the Upper Canyon Falls where you’ll be treated to picturesque scenery of the forest, creek, and small waterfalls along the trail, making the 120 meters of elevation gain worth every step. 

The route leads to a junction with marked pathways to the Waterfall Lookout and the Johnston Canyon Upper Falls.

The trail to the falls takes you around the bottom of the Upper Falls, where you can see the tumbling waterfall in all of its glory. The trail to the Waterfall Lookout takes you to a viewpoint near the top of the falls where you can rest on some benches. 

After you’ve enjoyed some time at the Upper Falls you can either make your way further up to the Ink Pots (this is a longer and more difficult hike) or head back down toward the parking lot where you can treat your family to some delicious ice cream.

4. Peyto Lake (2.6 km return)

Peyto Lake - Rocky Mountains Canada

The hike to Peyto Lake is a very quick and easy hike of only 2.4km return. This Banff trail shouldn’t take you and your family longer than an hour.

This trail takes you up to a viewpoint where you’ll find surreal views of the ice-blue glacier lake and surrounding Canadian Rockies.

Peyto Lake has been named one of the best places to visit in Canada and is not to be missed. The Peyto Lake trail is located near Lake Louise and is accessed from Bow Summit.

There are two viewpoints along the hike, the first of which is often very crowded, so we recommend making your way straight to the second. 

Continue along the pathway after the first viewpoint until you reach a sign that shows the path becomes a circuit.

Follow the paved pathway until you find the sign directing you to the Upper Peyto Lake Viewpoint. Here you’ll find one of the most spectacular views you will ever see. 

Peyto Lake’s iconic blue color comes from the minerals in the water that flow into the lake from the Peyto Glacier.

Surrounded by magnificent mountains and forests, Peyto Lake is a truly exquisite sight to behold. Needless to say, don’t forget your camera!

5. Sulphur Mountain Summit Trail (10 km round-trip)

Sulfur Mountain Gondola Ride Banff

Sulphur Mountain is located close to the town of Banff and was named after the sulfurous smell that emanates from the natural hot springs at the base of its slopes. This is one of the best hikes near Banff!

The hike is a 10.9 km round-trip hike and is moderately difficult so if your kids are on the younger side, give this one a miss.

Or, take a gondola ride up and hike down instead of walking all the way. This is a great alternative for families as you can still enjoy the beautiful views from the top!

For active families with older kids ready for a challenge: the hiking trail has an elevation of 744 meters so it’s no walk in the park!

You’ll start the hike in the parking lot near the hot springs where you’ll follow a steadily ascending trail full of switchbacks up the mountain. 

Trees line the slopes of the mountain, so you won’t see much while you’re making your ascent but as you get closer to the summit, you’ll be rewarded with striking views of the landscape below. 

Here you can find a map with several of the Banff hiking trails, including the Sulphur Mountain Trail.

6. Moraine Lake Rockpile and Lakeshore hike (3.4 km round-trip)

One of the most beautiful places I have ever been: Moraine Lake in Alberta, Canada

The Moraine Lake Rockpile and Lakeshore hike is located in the Lake Louise area and is perfect for families and beginner hikers.

It is a short 5.1 km hike with very little elevation and steps to help you on your way, which makes this one of the best easy hikes near Banff. 

The trail begins at the Lake Moraine parking lot and leads off to the left before you reach the lake. This pathway is well maintained and provides a safe way for hikers to make their way to the top of the Moraine Rockpile.

Some hikers choose to scramble up the loose rocks to the top but rather stick to the safe side and follow the path!

The top of the Rockpile offers a beautiful panoramic view of the Valley of the 10 Peaks, towering over the turquoise waters of Lake Moraine.

This iconic view is definitely worth seeing, although this trail is one of the top hikes in Banff and therefore often quite crowded. 

After you’ve enjoyed the view from the top of the Rockpile you can head back down the way you came and stroll further along the Moraine Lakeshore trail or head back to the parking lot.

If you’re planning to do this hike during summer, make sure you hike in a group of at least four people and take appropriate precautions in case you come across grizzly bears, which are often seen in the area.

7. Sunshine Meadows (7.6 km round-trip)

Sunshine Meadows Banff National Park

The Sunshine Meadows hike is rated as one of the top hiking routes in Canada and it certainly lives up to the hype. It’s located close to the town of Banff and is about 7.6km long. 

To hike this trail, you’ll first need to buy a gondola or bus ticket at Sunshine Village, which will then take you to the base village.

Following the same direction as the Twin Cairn’s hike, you’ll take the Standish Chair Lift up to the Standish Viewing Deck. 

From the deck, head down the stairs on the right and make your way to the Rock Isle Lake circuit, and then onwards to the Grizzly and Larix Lakes circuit.

This hike takes you around the tranquil scenery of the lakes and lush surrounding meadows. Make sure you look for the Simpson Viewpoint close to Grizzly Lake, as it provides a simply breathtaking view of the entire valley.

Sunshine Meadows is also often covered with blooming wildflowers, so this is one of the popular hikes in Banff that you and your family definitely don’t want to miss!

If you’re traveling in winter, the mountain will be covered in soft white snow and is a popular spot for skiing.

So, if you’re looking to enjoy some winter activities while you’re in the area, you should consider adding an exhilarating day of skiing to your itinerary.

Important note for all hikers: Banff National Park is a delicate ecosystem. Please stay on the designated trails to preserve the vegetation.

Best places to stay in Banff with kids

Best Western Plus Siding 29 Lodge ☆☆☆

One of the top picks for families visiting Banff is the Best Western Plus Siding 29 Lodge.

An indoor pool, free underground parking, an extensive breakfast buffet, and spacious rooms make this hotel a perfect place to stay in Banff for families.

Click here to book

Banff Rocky Mountain Resort ☆☆☆

Banff Rocky Mountain Resort is a solid choice for families with an onsite restaurant with Canadian food, a swimming pool, large screen TVs (with a movie night for the kids), and a spacious outdoor patio.

For families, self-catering apartments are also a popular option as these give some more flexibility for families with younger children.

We all know it's no fun to eat out with a tired and cranky toddler, so having the opportunity to cook your own meal early in the evening to keep your kid(s) happy is really great.

Click here to book

Canalta Lodge Banff ☆☆☆☆

The Canalta Lodge is a lovely place to stay in Banff. It's a nice 15-minute stroll to Banff town or a 5-minute bus ride. Rooms are modern, spacious, and spotlessly clean with comfortable beds and pillows.

With additional facilities such as an onsite coffee shop, hot tub, and sauna you'll be very comfortable here during your Banff trip.

Click here to book

Fairmont Banff Springs ☆☆☆☆☆

Fairmont Banff - the Castle in the Rockies

For families looking for an unforgettable Banff experience, the Fairmont Banff Springs is a beautiful place to stay.

While this is definitely not a cheap option, this five-star hotel is worth the splurge. Also called ‘the Castle in the Rockies‘, this fancy hotel looks beautiful on the outside as well as on the inside.

This National Historic Site is modeled after a Scottish castle and was built in 1888. If your kids are into Harry Potter they will love staying here even more as it will probably remind them of Hogwarts.

Tastefully decorated, this hotel offers many onsite activities such as golf, tennis, horseback riding, and a spa). The views from the outdoor pool are splendid and the rooms are comfortable.

Click here to book


Free overnight camping in Vancouver - where to sleep in your car in Vancouver Canada

There are also several campsites around Banff (during peak season there are around 2600 sites spread over 14 campgrounds).

Within Banff (and Jasper) National Park camping is only allowed in designated areas, to preserve sensitive nature.

You will need a valid national park camping permit and a national park entry pass. Camping permits are available at the campgrounds or self-registration kiosks.

National Park Passes can be bought at Banff National Park entry gates, visitor centers, and campground kiosks.

If you plan to visit during peak season (June-September with July and August being busiest) make a reservation very early on.

Unless reserved, sites are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis so make sure to get to a campsite on time if you haven't managed to get a reservation.  

How to get to Banff

The closest airport to Banff is Calgary International Airport (YYC), from Calgary it's about a 1.5-hour drive to Banff.

During the summer months, there are buses to Banff from Calgary on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, read more information here. There is also a direct shuttle bus, click here to book tickets online.

Traveling to Banff by train is not possible, as there is no train station in the village.

How to get around Banff

Camping in the Canadian Rocky Mountains

In my opinion, having your own transport is the easiest way to get around in Banff National Park, especially with kids.

Getting to the trailheads of these easy Banff hikes can sometimes be done by shuttle bus, however, we all know that when traveling with (young) kids you need to carry a bit more stuff (such as diapers, an extra pair of clothes, snacks, sunscreen, etc.).

Therefore, I recommend renting a car or campervan as this will make your Banff family trip more comfortable.

Many of the Banff walking trails mentioned in this post cannot be reached unless you have a car.

Another benefit of having your own vehicle is the ability to pull over at a nice spot for an impromptu picnic or to let the kids run around to lose some of their excess energy.

Altogether, I think a (rental) car is the best way to travel around Banff National Park.

Icefield Parkway Canadian Rocky Mountains

Best hikes in Banff National Park for families: in conclusion

I hope this guide has given you plenty of inspiration for family-friendly hikes in Banff.

Banff National Park is chock full of postcard-worthy views, from glacier-covered mountains and crystal clear, blue lakes to alpine meadows full of wildflowers and magnificent waterfalls, there are so many places to explore and beautiful nature to see. 

If you’re planning a family holiday in Canada, definitely set aside enough time to hike some of these Banff National Park trails and see all they have to offer! 

Are you looking for more Canada posts? Also read these articles:

This post was updated in February 2023.