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Banff and Jasper National Parks have some of the most scenic hikes in North America. However, many of these hikes involve thousands of feet of elevation gain at high altitudes. If you are visiting Alberta, but aren’t in peak physical condition, there are still plenty of short hikes with big payoffs.
Below is my list of the best easy hikes in Banff and Jasper. These hikes will lead you to insanely beautiful lakes, waterfalls and canyons. We visited Alberta in June and July, so my recommendations are based on summer conditions.
- 1 Easy Hikes in Banff National Park
- 2 Easy Hikes in Jasper National Park
- 3 Tips for Hiking in Banff and Jasper
Easy Hikes in Banff National Park
Silverton Falls (Upper Falls Hike)
- Distance: 1.1 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 295 feet
- Summary: Steep but short
Just a short drive from the town of Banff, Silverton Falls is a short hike to a beautiful waterfall. The trail from the Rockbound Lake parking area starts out with a flat walk through the forest. Once, you will reach a gate blocking the closed lower falls trail, veer to the left. The trail will lead you a few steep switchbacks to a view of the upper falls. Be careful at the top of the trail as there are a few narrow sections with steep drop-offs. This hike is not as popular as many of the Banff sites, so the trail is relatively quiet. However, the parking lot is quite small so it is still best to arrive early in the morning.
Johnston Canyon Lower Falls
- Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 265 feet
- Summary: Easy walk through an incredible canyon
The Johnston Canyon trail takes you over paved paths and metal bridges through a beautiful canyon. The entirety of the trail follows the river through the canyon. The lower falls hike ends at a lookout over an impressive waterfall. If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, continue an additional 0.8 miles up a the path to the larger, upper falls. The upper falls hike is a bit steeper with an additional 230 feet of elevation gain. This is a very popular hike, so arrive early in the morning if you do not want to share the trail with hundreds of other tourists.
Lake Louise Shore Trail
- Distance: 2.5 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: Minimal
- Summary: Stroll around a beautiful lake
The accessible path around Lake Louise is one of the easiest hikes in Banff. The flat trail around the lake provides stunning views of the famous turquoise blue water. The trails ends at the milky creek that gives the lake its magical color. The hike leads you away from the crowds of tourist, so you can enjoy the lake and mountain views in peace. The parking lot for the trail head fills up early, so be prepared to walk an additional mile or more up the road if you do not arrive before sunrise. If you are up for a bit of a challenge, also consider hiking the Fairview Lookout Trail from the same parking lot. The short, but steep (300 feet elevation gain) hike lets you view Lake Louise from above.
Consolation Lakes Hike
- Distance: 3 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 215 feet
- Summary: Gradual climb to stunning views
Starting from the Moraine Lake parking lot, Consolation Lakes was my favorite easy hike in Banff. The trail starts by crossing a large field of rocks and boulders. There is a clear path through the rocks, but hiking boots are a necessity to ensure stable footing. Continuing into the forest, the trail slowly climbs to its namesake lakes. The end of the trail opens into an alpine valley with views of glaciers and snow capped peaks. There is another field of boulders between the end of the trail head and the shore of the lake. However, the views are incredible from every vantage point, so there is no need to scramble over the rocks.
Easy Hikes in Jasper National Park
Valley of the Five Lakes
- Distance: 2.8 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 217 feet
- Summary: Stroll around a beautiful lake
Although Valley of the Five Lakes is listed as a moderate difficulty trail, the views are worth the additional challenge. The trail starts on a wide path through the forest, which leads to a fork in the trail. At the fork, you can veer either direction to start the loop around the lakes. The trail ascends and descends steeply on both sides of the loop trail. At the other side of the loop, you are rewarded with views of each of the five lakes. The lakes vary in color from light blues to deep greens because of their different depths. There are several side trails to lead you to the shore of each lake. Parks Canada’s red chairs are located between lakes three and four if you need to take a break before finishing the loop.
Toe of the Athabasca Glacier
- Distance: 1.2 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 197 feet
- Summary: See a glacier up close
From the trail head parking lot, climb up a steep, rocky path for just under half a mile. Once at the top, you follow the loop to reach the closest view of the glacier. You cannot venture onto the glacier as there are hidden crevasses that you could fall through. However, this short trail provides such a unique experience to see a glacier from just a few feet away. Be prepared and wear warm clothing as the high altitude and glacial winds lead to cold temperatures even in the height of summer.
Maligne Canyon Trail
- Distance: 2.7 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 328 feet
- Summary: Hike to 6 bridges crossing through a canyon
The full Maligne Canyon hike will lead you down the canyon and across six bridges. If you are not up for the full hike, you can turnaround at bridge three and skip most of the elevation gain. This partially paved hike follows the deep canyon with river and waterfall views at every step. Like Johnston Canyon, this is a very popular hike. Show up early in the morning or hike past the third bridge to avoid the crowds. After your hike, continue driving down Maligne Canyon road for the opportunity to spot wildlife, including bears, bighorn sheep and caribou.
Tips for Hiking in Banff and Jasper
- Bring Bear Spray: Banff and Jasper are bear country, so you should always carry bear spray while hiking. You can purchase bear spray on Amazon or at a local outdoor retailer. Also following best practices of hiking in bear country by making noise (talk loudly or wear bells) and never hiking alone.
- Check Current Restrictions: All of the trails featured in this article are dog friendly, but some trails restrict usage when bear activity is high. Some trails in Banff also require hiking in groups of at least four people during berry season. Check current restrictions on the Banff and Jasper websites.
- Use Hiking Poles: Many of the easy hikes in Banff and Jasper include some steep terrain. Use hiking poles for support on the uphill climbs and to take the pressure off your knees while hiking downhill. I love this affordable, lightweight set made by Vive.
- Arrive Early: Many easy hikes in Banff and Jasper are very crowded during the summer. In order to find a parking spot and not be bottle-necked on the trail, plan to start hiking by 7:00 AM.
If your planning to drive to Alberta, check my article on RVing in Canada.
What is your favorite hike in Banff or Jasper? Comment below with your best recommendations.