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The Ultimate Guide to Family Hiking in Banff and Lake Louise 

Published Date
Jun 4, 2024|
Themes
Active Travel, Family Travel
Family exploring Johnston Canyon during the summer and spring months

If you’re like us, hiking has been your way of experiencing a new location and connecting with nature, which is probably what’s drawing you to Banff and Lake Louise.

Reaching the summit or lookout point is just as satisfying as taking off your boots and stretching your exhausted legs at the end of the day. But with little ones in tow, hikes start to look a little different.

The elevation gains aren’t what’s tiring your legs anymore; it’s carrying a little body that has had enough walking for the day. Snack breaks and fallen pinecones take precedence over summit counts and personal records.

To support your mission of raising little explorers who enjoy the outdoors as much as you, here are some tips and trails that make hiking fun for the whole family (without compromising the views)!

Lifestyle images of a woman and her family exploring the Rimrock Resort Hotel in Banff National Park.Lifestyle images of a woman and her family exploring the Rimrock Resort Hotel in Banff National Park.Lifestyle images of a woman and her family exploring the Rimrock Resort Hotel in Banff National Park.

Safety First

Before you hit the trail, there are some things you need to consider first.

  1. Be Bear-Aware – you’re in their home, so please be respectful. Buy or rent bear spray in town and educate yourself on how to use it.
    Singing songs loudly as a family can be a great way to alert bears of your presence and give them a chance to steer clear of you.
  2. Pick the Right Trail – if you’ve come from lower elevations, we suggest working your way up to higher elevations. It’s not just about how much elevation you gain in the hike but the elevation you start at.
    Banff can be an excellent way to ease yourself in before moving closer to Lake Louise. Picking a hike that fits your family’s abilities will make the day a whole lot more enjoyable for everyone!
  3. Know When to Turn Back – if you or your kids begin to feel tired, it’s time to turn around. Other signs that it’s time to turn around include changing weather, getting late in the day, running low on water, seeing a bear, etc.
  4. Pack a First Aid Kit – scraping a knee is never fun, but having the supplies to treat it can save the hike or help you make it back.
A group of friends hiking at Discover Banff Tours in Banff Avenue.A group of friends hiking at Discover Banff Tours in Banff Avenue.A group of friends hiking at Discover Banff Tours in Banff Avenue.

Packing Up

Organizing a family for an outing always takes extra steps, but having the right stuff in your pack will make it easy for your kids to love the outdoors.

  1. Water and food – no matter how long your hike is, you should always take food and water with you.
    Leaving no trace is critical, so bring reusable water bottles and avoid a lot of packaging for your food. This also means that dropped goldfish aren’t to be left for wild animals, so opt for less messy snacks like granola bars, fruit leather, or fresh fruit instead.
    Local's Tip: Pick up your snacks from local grocery stores IGA and Nesters.
  2. Footwear – a child’s will can be strong, and often revolves around what they’re wearing. However, when hiking, it’s important to wear well-supported hiking boots or shoes and clothing/hats that protect against the sun.
  3. Maps and apps – most of our trails have well-marked trailheads, but you can save yourself some U-turns by mapping your route ahead of time. Cell signal isn’t always available, so we recommend downloading the map for offline use.
    Apps like AllTrails can help direct you once you’re on the trail. Staying on the trail is just as important for your safety as it is for keeping Banff and Lake Louise beautiful for future visitors.
  4. Toys – engage your children in the world around them by bringing a magnifying glass, notebooks, etc., so they can interact with what they’re seeing without collecting a pocket full of protected rocks.
    Local's Tip: To find the perfect trail toy, head to one of Banff's fabulous toy shops like Duck, Duck, Moose.
Family hiking at Great Divide Nature Interpretation in Lake LouiseFamily hiking at Great Divide Nature Interpretation in Lake LouiseFamily hiking at Great Divide Nature Interpretation in Lake Louise

Getting There

Many of our trails are accessible by public transport. Once you reach your hotel, check out Roam Transit or the Parks Canada shuttle to reach trails in and between Banff and Lake Louise.

Your travel experience will be more fun and memorable with Roam Transit in Banff National Park.Your travel experience will be more fun and memorable with Roam Transit in Banff National Park.Your travel experience will be more fun and memorable with Roam Transit in Banff National Park.

Kids Activities in Banff

Two young girls run up a rock at the Banff Central Park Playground in the summer with Cascade Mountain in the background in Banff National Park.Two young girls run up a rock at the Banff Central Park Playground in the summer with Cascade Mountain in the background in Banff National Park.

Kid-friendly Activities in Banff and Lake Louise for Summer

StorySee details about Kid-friendly Activities in Banff and Lake Louise for Summer
Winter Family Hiking Fun, Lake Louise, Banff National ParkWinter Family Hiking Fun, Lake Louise, Banff National Park

10 Great Winter Adventures For Families In Banff and Lake Louise

StorySee details about 10 Great Winter Adventures For Families In Banff and Lake Louise
Family of four having fun on the Johnston Canyon hiking trailFamily of four having fun on the Johnston Canyon hiking trail

Ultimate Family Friendly Adventure

Duration
5 Days
Num of Experiences
14 Experiences
Trip IdeaSee details about Ultimate Family Friendly Adventure
Lake Louise World Cup, Family Skiing, Banff National ParkLake Louise World Cup, Family Skiing, Banff National Park

7 Family-Friendly Spring Activities in Banff and Lake Louise

StorySee details about 7 Family-Friendly Spring Activities in Banff and Lake Louise

Kid-Friendly Hiking Trails

Lucky for you, hiking with your kids doesn’t mean compromising on views in Banff National Park, in fact, they’re some of the best hikes!

Tunnel Mountain

In Banff, try Tunnel Mountain. It’s a short 4.8 km trail with 260 m of elevation that starts downtown or from one of two parking lots. The switchbacks make it easy on little legs, and you can still add to your summit count!

Hoodoo Trail

Roam Route 2 in Banff will land you at the Hoodoo Trails. Here, you’ll overlook the river and hoodoos formed from thousands of years of erosion. It’s a 5.6 km, 232 m elevation, out-and-back trail, so you can turn around at any time.

To reduce the changes in elevation but still soak in all the views, stick to the trail closest to the road.

Fenlands Trail

On your way in or out of Banff, you’re likely to pass by the Fenlands Trail. It’s a 2.1 km loop that meanders along the river (or you can continue on toward downtown). The kids are sure to be entertained at the possibility of beaver, muskrat, Great Blue Heron, and elk sightings.

Lake Louise Lakeshore

While Lake Louise is at a higher elevation, the 4 km out-and-back trail around the lakeshore doesn’t rise and fall too much. In the summer, you’ll see canoers breaking the surface of the turquoise lake with their paddle, and in the winter, you may be lucky enough to see ice climbers ascending the mountain face.

Fairview Lookout

If you’re looking for something a little more challenging for your group, give Fairview Lookout a go. It’s a 2 km out-and-back trail, but has a steeper elevation gain at 100 m (which may not seem like a lot but is gained in a short distance). You’ll be sheltered by trees for the majority of the hike until you pop out to a phenomenal view of Lake Louise. 

Effortless Viewpoints

If your kids aren’t in the mood to hike but you still want to see all the mountains have to offer, consider these lookout spots: Peyto Lake, Tunnel Mountain Viewpoint (where you see Tunnel Mountain from right beside the Tunnel Mountain Campground), and, of course, the Lake Louise lakeshore.

For a little extra pizzazz, catch the free shuttle to Sunshine Village and take the gondola to the meadows tucked between the mountain peaks for wildflowers as far as the eye can see!

A family enjoys the viewpoints in the alpine of Sunshine Meadows in Banff National ParkA family enjoys the viewpoints in the alpine of Sunshine Meadows in Banff National ParkA family enjoys the viewpoints in the alpine of Sunshine Meadows in Banff National Park

Guided Hikes

If picking a trail and planning safety supplies sounds like too much effort, skip right to the hike with a guided trip.

Not only will you save time upfront, but you’ll also have an expert storyteller to keep the kids entertained and point out our unique flora, fauna, and geology.

Kids learn about geology from a Great Divide Nature Interpretation guide.Kids learn about geology from a Great Divide Nature Interpretation guide.Kids learn about geology from a Great Divide Nature Interpretation guide.

Plan your trip

Now that you have the tools to go hiking with your kiddos in Banff National Park, what's stopping you?

If you're unnerved by planning the whole trip, you can try out our amazing trip builder.

This tool helps you plan transport, accommodation, hikes and things to do while you're here in Banff National Park!

Plan Your Trip to Banff and Lake Louise

Start planning your dream trip to Banff and Lake Louise today with our easy to use Trip Builder. Curate you perfect trip from start to finish with accommodation, dining, activities, sightseeing adventures and more!

Whitney Paget

Whitney Paget

Whitney enjoys all things outdoors. Whether she’s camping, hiking, or kayaking, she always has her camera at hand ready to capture life in the Canadian Rockies.