Banff National Park in Canada offers breathtaking scenery, turquoise blue lakes, and fields of wildflowers, and wildlife.
The endless trails of day hikes, multi-day hikes, and family hikes can be enjoyed all year round and make it a favorite spot for acid adventurers.
With over 1600 kilometers of trails, however, this article looks at the best multi-day hikes in Banff which promise to be both spectacular and rewarding.
These backcountry hikes will ensure you skip the tourists and see some of the best-hidden gems you don’t get to see on a day hike.
So let’s jump right in.
Key Things to Note Before you Set-Off
Before you set off, there are a few things we want to point out. Make sure you have your National Park Pass and a Backcountry Permit.
Backcountry permits can be booked three months in advance and are vital for backcountry hikes.
You will also need a map, bear spray, and insect repellent. Banff has some of the worst mosquitoes in the area and so a mosquito net is also wise. Warm clothing is essential. Even in summer, temperatures can drop below zero at night.
Make use of Banff town. Here you can stock up on food and supplies before setting off at a reasonable price.
Ensure you book your campsites in advance to avoid disappointment and give you peace of mind that your hike is going to run smoothly.
Skoki loop is an overnight hike of 3 days and 2 nights.
It is very well marked but the terrain can be physically challenging and so it is only recommended for hikers who have had experience with rough terrain and overnight hikes before.
The Skoki loop is often the highlight of many trips to Banff and although the start can be rather boring to hike up a rough gravel road, we promise when you reach off-road, the views are more than worth it.
The lakes are a deep blue which almost look radioactive and the forested alpine terrain and rocky plains almost represent what it would be like on the moon.
We recommend doing a day hike along the way to Lake Merlin and hike back to Myosotis Lake, Zigadenus Lake, and Deception Pass.
Be aware of bears on this trail, however, as they have been spotted along the way and at campsites, you may want to get some rest at around the loop.
This hike is spread over 3 days and 2 nights. It’s easy to navigate but making sure you are in good shape, experienced with hiking, and physically fit enough is important.
You also need to know how to read a topographic map.
Along the hike, you can experience rolling lush green meadows full of beautiful wildflowers, especially in July, and vistas over the stunning lakes and national park.
The trail starts at the back of the parking lot of Sunshine Village and the first hour is just a forested uphill ascent. It then opens up to the stunning meadows, wildflowers, and vistas before you descend back into the Egypt Lake campground.
We also recommend hiking up Whilstling Valley and stopping at the range of stunning lakes along the way.
The Sawback Trail in Banff is a 44-mile trail and is only recommended for the most experienced wilderness hikers.
It gains almost 1000 feet of elevation and takes up to five days to complete.
We recommend going with an experienced group of hikers and a helpful guided tour and although it can be challenging, the effort is worth it.
You’ll experience beautiful wildflowers which dot the grass in the summer along with plenty of wildlife, and the trail cuts right through the heart of the national park.
It takes you to Lake Louise from Cascade Amphitheater and has been considered one of the best hikes in the whole Canadian Rockies.
Lake Minnewanka Backpacking Trail
This 15-mile hike can be spread over 2-3 days and is a backpacking classic for enthusiastic hikers.
You’ll be able to enjoy the breathtaking views over Lake Minnewanka and if you plan on extending the trip to 3 days, you can head up to Alymer Pass or Alymer Lookout on the 2nd day before returning on the 3rd day.
This trail goes through some prime bear habitats so ensure you meet the Parks Canada requirements for group size and stay safe.
You’ll come across some great snapshots of the lake along with steep drop-offs and even deer sightings when camping at Alymer Pass Junction backcountry campground.
At the finish, head into Banff to celebrate your achievement with a beer and relax after a great backpacking trip.
Giant Steps and Paradise Valley Trail
This 12-mile hike is spread across 2 days and is great for an overnight trip to the Banff area. Booking is essential and bookings are made over the phone or at the Lake Louise Visitor Centre.
Paradise Valley is a lesser-frequented area near Moraine Lake which offers breathtaking natural features such as Lake Annette and the Giant Steps.
Paradise Valley has high bear activity as it is a wildlife corridor and so this trail was almost always closed in previous years.
However, as wildlife patterns shift, so does the reservation system and once you have planned and reserved, this hike can offer an incredible experience for all.
The Giant Steps allow you to witness water cascading down the plateaued rock features and hence the name, resembles steps made for giants. You’ll also see stunning views as you hike and appreciate the nature and wildlife Banff has on offer.
Though this is a hike that you could fit into 12-15 hours, it’s a whopping 30-kilometer return route and so you might want to spread it out over 2 days.
It should only be attempted by experienced hikers and should not be attempted by those who have not hiked a mountain before.
To climb this mountain, you will need to go through the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides who are qualified mountain guides and can help you get started.
The climb begins at Hind Hut and requires a range of difficult ridge climbs.
Be prepared to trek through steep gullies and rock climb sections followed by the summit ridge which takes you to an altitude of 3,618 meters.
If you’re brave and experienced enough, this is not a hike you want to miss.