Banff & Lake Louise, Alberta have some of the most out-of-this-world views. If you’re looking for somewhere to be blown away by mother nature, this is definitely your spot. Known for their outdoor activities, you can do some crazy hikes here. But; you can also get some amazing views following easy, short hikes and trails! Perfect for beginners or anyone wanting to take it easy one day here are the best views and short hikes in Banff & Lake Louise.
1. Lake Moraine: Pile Trail
If you only do one thing while in Banff & Lake Louise – make it this. Moraine Lake is about 14km (8 miles) from Lake Louise or just over an hour from Banff. It is well worth the drive as it is one of the most beautiful views you will ever see.
There are two “best views and short hikes” at Lake Moraine that I’m going to talk about, but let’s start first with Pile Trail.
The Pile Trail hike is only a 10 – 15 minute hike from the parking lot. You climb wooden stairs built to get you up what is essentially a rock pile (hence the name) and you’re met with one of the most gorgeous views on the planet. Important Note: You NEED to arrive before 9am as they actually close off the road / parking lot at that time. If you want to experience it with less people though I highly recommend getting there by 7:30am.
2. Lake Moraine Lakeshore Trail
There is also a flat hike that goes around the water’s edge on one side of Lake Moraine. It starts just past the parking lot and is an easy 45 minute (there and back) hike. It’s a great one if you’ve kids with you – there are twists and turns, little foot bridges and you get the beautiful views of Moraine Lake.
3. Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail
If you plan on visiting Lake Louise I highly recommend doing the Lakeshore Trail. Again this is a flat, easy trail takes about 1 hour round trip (it’s 4km / 2.5 miles). There are scenic spots throughout and it’s incredible to be so close to the icy green water. The best part though is the view looking back at the Fairmont Lake Louise! (see below)
4. Bow River Trail / Surprise Corner Viewpoint
This easy 1.5km (1 mile) trail is a paved trail that follows the shoreline of the Bow River. It starts at the edge of downtown Banff and stops at “surprise corner” on the other. Along the walk you’ll see beautiful views of the Bow River and it’s falls. At the surprise corner ending you see a stunning view of the Fairmont Banff. (see below)
5. Tunnel Mountain Trail
This just over 4.5km (3 mile) trail has the highest elevation gain of any trail listed here, so is probably the hardest of these “best views and short hikes in Banff & Lake Louise”. It’s still considered an easy hike though, appropriate for all skill levels/ ages. It consists mostly of switchbacks and the view from the top is worth the leg workout! You get beautiful views facing both sides so be sure to stop and explore at the top!
There you have it! The best views and short hikes in Banff & Lake Louise. Honorable Mention, if you’re wondering, goes to the Peyto Lake hike, but it is closed for the next 9-12 months for maintenance so I’ve left it off this list.
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