The Best Walks and Hikes from Banff Town Site

Getting out into nature and the beautiful mountain landscape is fortunately easy and hassle free from almost anywhere in the Town of Banff. The Town of Banff is essentially an island of 4.85 square km (1.87 sq miles) surrounded by Banff National Park. Because of strict federal rules on growth, population and urban sprawl, Banff cannot expand beyond pre-determined set boundaries. This makes escaping the busy town extremely quick and easy, making wilderness very accessible for all. It also makes returning to civilization quick and rewarding with the plethora of fine eating establishments within the town.

There are literally dozens of amazing walking and hiking opportunities right from town but here are my top 3 picks for getting out there, from easy gentle flat strolls to extreme mountain scrambles; rated from easiest to hardest.

1. The Bow River Walk

Time: 20 minutes return, can be extended to 45 mins.
Key features: flat, paved part way, scenic.

A paved path wide enough to accommodate strollers and wheelchairs dotted with benches hugs the east side of the famous scenic Bow River which runs through the town. Start near the boat docks and stroll along the river, past Central Park and the gazebo, under Banff’s main vehicle bridge, past some gorgeous river homes to the new awarding winning pedestrian bridge which is well worth crossing and lingering on. Return from the river boat docks to the new pedestrian bridge is about 20 mins at a leisurely stroll. You can continue onward if so inclined as the path does continues along the other side of the river and left or east towards the Bow Falls and the famous Banff Springs Hotel. The paved path does end here but the dirt trail is well maintained. Carry on along the more shaded side of the river up a set of log stairs over a small hill to the spectacular Bow Falls, the Banff Springs Golf Course and the hotel – about another 20 mins one way.

2. Tunnel Mountain aka Sleeping Buffalo

Time: 1 hour round trip to the summit
Key features: Steepish, well maintained, popular, switchback hiking trail. Great views along the way and from the summit.

This is a great taste of what hiking is all about in the Canadian Rockies. The terrain gives you a proper sense of what it’s like to hike up a real mountain. With a relatively short distance to the summit, this hike allows for a quick fix and real sense of achievement in a short amount of time. This is a great first hike for active kids as young as 4. Even on this relatively short hike always come prepared with proper walking footwear, water and a windproof jacket.

There are 2 trailheads for this hike. The first is approx. 10 mins walk lower down the mountain. This lower trailhead is the official start with a large parking lot located just below the Banff Centre Arts School along St. Julien Road. The second trailhead has a much smaller parking area and is really best for non-hikers and more for a quick photo op.

The hike features long switchbacks through an old pine forest and scenic views west towards the beautiful Mt. Bourgeau and down onto the Town of Banff itself. The summit features views over the back side of the mountain east towards Canmore, the Banff Springs Golf Course and on a good day to the impressive Mt. Aylmer.

3. Mt. Rundle – 2949m

Key features: 1500 elevation gain, some route finding, outstanding views.

Mt. Rundle is one of the most iconic and impressive mountains within walking distance of the town of Banff. It towers over the eastern edge of the town arching into the clouds with a distinctive knife edge summit. This is not a hike for the first timers but a scramble exclusively for serious climbers who have experience trudging through rugged scree at high elevations. The reward of reaching the summit via the famous Dragon’s Back is well worth the minimum 6 hour uphill slog. If this hike is up your alley download or pick up “A Scramblers Guide to Mount Rundle” (pdf) for all the necessary trail information.

If you’re particularly interested in walks and hikes in Banff National Park, I would highly suggest purchasing the absolute bible on the subject and the only guide book I would recommend – “Canadian Rockies Trail Guide” by Brian Patton and Bart Robinson.

What to Wear in Banff

In general Banff has a very casual feel where anything goes from athletic wear to fur coats. However I did see a lady just the other day in a full length fox fur walking down the main street in Banff and even though it was minus 20 she did look quite out of place. Not to say that fur isn’t present as the main street has been recently heavily dotted with the trendy fur pom pom hat – in my opinion the locally owned shop Snowflake sell the best ones. Banff town site has certainly upped its game in recent years with fashion statements from Japan, Europe and the local Calgarians. It’s a place where fashion and function collide and having a bit of both is probably your best bet. Layering is always a good idea with a wind cutting layer being the most important. Down and wool layers are also good in the fall and winter months. Spring does bring rain so if you’re visiting Banff in May or June bring your rain gear with warm layering underneath. The opposite is usually the case in July and August with temperatures soaring into the high 20’s, along with the high altitude, sun hats are de rigueur. Remember Banff is in the mountains and swift and dramatic weather fluctuations are normal – it’s even been known to snow in July!
Nightlife and dining out in Banff in general is very casual with an anything goes policy for the majority of restaurants. The finer dining establishments like the Three Ravens at the Banff Centre and Eden at the Rimrock Hotel do have a more upscale appeal where jeans are definitely frowned upon and a suit would look acceptable though certainly is not required – when in doubt I suggest dressing down to avoid feeling out of place in the very casual Banff.

If you plan on doing any sort of sporting activities while in Banff such as hiking, rafting, horse riding, skiing or snowboarding, check out my article on Technical Active Clothing To Wear in Banff.

The Top Clothing Shops in Banff

1. Lole – 130 Banff Ave
2. Monods – 129 Banff Ave
3. Cabin 108 – 108 Banff Ave
4. Roots – 227 Banff Ave
7. Lulu Lemon – 121 Banff Avenue
8. Patagonia – 94 Banff Avenue
9. Fjallraven – 216 Banff Avenue

Top Fashion Statements in Banff Right Now

1. The Fur Pom Pom Hat, like this one from Snowflake

2. Fur Collared Winter Coats, like theses from Canada Goose

3. Stylish backpacks from Fjall Raven

4. Sorel Winter Boots

5. The Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket for Men

Banff’s Hottest New Restaurant Openings

Chuck’s SteakHouse

For a true Alberta Beef experience, where steaks are seared over mesquite, rested, then finished in a 1600F Montague grill. This place is a haven for the high roller cowboy with an intimate and professionally designed log cabin meets art deco interior. Located in the heart of town with some great views over the main street this jumping steak house is carefully watched over by the well known local executive chef Sal Polizzi. Some of my favorite dishes are:
Cowboy Onion Soup roasted bone marrow, gruyere cheese, onion broth, onion rings $14
Garlic Prawns and Pork Belly garlic butter, cherry tomatoes, arugula $16
Black Apron ‘Grass Fed’ Angus, New York 10oz, aged 28 days $45
Dinner only from 5pm, 101 Banff Ave. Call 403-762-4825


An Italian inspired chain restaurant with a casual and friendly ambience located in The Moose Hotel and Suites at 345 Banff Avenue. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Check out the sample menu:
Lasagna Bolognese Oven-baked using fresh pasta $19.50
Italian Crusted Cod 5 oz. Oven-roasted cod, herb and roasted garlic crust, served with your choice of Italian or Caesar salad $24.50
Parmigiana Fries Matchstick fries, julienned zucchini and fried onion, Parmesan, fine herbs $8.40

The Juniper Hotel Bistro

One of my favorite places just got a whole lot better. This is the place for people in the know, slightly away from all the crowds offering stunning views and now an incredible new menu courtesy of new general manager/executive chef Chris Irving. The handcrafted and sustainable inspired menu offers up unique and satisfying dishes such as, for breakfast:
The Juniper Benny with bannock, buffalo mozzarella, braised rabbit, medium-poached eggs, hollandaise & juniper berry glaze served w/ brown butter hash, or Huevos Rancheros with BBQ pork shoulder, refried beans, tomato salsa, sunny side eggs, avocado, cheddar, corn tortillas.
For dinner:
Beef Ribeye – grilled Alberta beef ribeye, with butternut squash, sunchoke, seasonal vegetables, in a yummy mornay sauce or Ling Cod with lemongrass & coconut curry, young potatoes, seasonal vegetables, chili oil, sesame all done to perfection and delicious!
Oh and don’t forget the liquid dessert-my favorite is The Banff Fog with Vanilla Galliano, Grand Marnier, Earl Grey tea, served hot with cinnamon!
Open for Breakfast, Apres ski, and Dinner. Located at the bottom of the Norquay Road. Call 403-763-6219

The Banff Facts: Everything you need to know

  • Founded: 1885
  • Located: In the Canadian Rockies, the province of Alberta and in Canada’s first National Park
  • Best Points: Incredible mountain scenery, fresh air, protected wildlife, wide range of hotels, excellent restaurants, world class hiking and skiing
  • Elevation: 4000ft or 1400m
  • Main Season: Summer, visitors can reach over 20,000 per day
  • Banff Locals favorite eating spots: Wildflour bakery, The Sushi Train, Banff Brew Pub and Bear St. Tavern
  • Population: Approx. 8400 permanent residents and 1000 non-permanent
  • Land area: 4.85 square km – a tight boundary with no sprawl into the surrounding National Park
  • Medical services: Up-to date hospital facilities and several walk-in medical clinics and pharmacies
  • Wildlife: All wildlife is ‘wild’. It is illegal to feed or interact with any wildlife, dump garbage or pick wildflowers/plants
  • Park Pass: All visitors and their vehicles require a park pass to enter Banff. Prices range from approx. $10 for a day to $136.00 for a yearly family pass. Note: free entry for 2017. See details here
  • Banff’s Top Must Attractions: Sulphur Mt. Gondola, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Banff Park Museum, LEGACY Bike and walk trail, Concerts at the Banff Centre, swim at the Banff Hot Springs, hike Johnston Canyon, Dinner at Chucks Steak House
  • Best Picnic Spots: Central Park (in Town), Vermilion Lakes boat dock (bring a chair or blanket)
  • Community Calendar: Check here before you arrive
  • Road Report: Check here before you drive into Banff and on any mountain roads

Banff Annual Weather with Average Temperatures and Precipitation

Banff’s seasonal temperatures – July is the hottest month in Banff with an average high temperature of 21°C (71°F). The average lowest temperature in Banff is in January at -15°C (5°F).
Hours of sunshine in Banff ranges from the most daily sun/daylight hours in July at 16.5 hrs and the least sun/daylight hours in January at 8.1 hrs.
The average rainfall in Banff: the wettest month is June with an average of 60mm of rain. The next rainiest months are May and August with 50mm each, followed by July and September with with 40mm. The average rainfall in Banff for the rest of the year; October through to April averages around the 20mm mark.