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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Banff National Park | Kid-Friendly Hikes for Young Children

Banff National Park is an iconic destination for many tourists and locals. There are a ton of hikes in Banff, but these are a few of the select Kid-Friendly ones we have experienced and recommend. As we experience more, we’ll be sure to add to the list.

Tunnel Mountain

The Tunnel Mountain Trailhead is located in the town centre of Banff, just a few blocks up from Banff Avenue. This hike is 2.8 km out & back trail with 266 meters of elevation. At the top there are great view of the town of Banff below, as well as the River Valley and golf course on the opposite side of the mountain. This one is one the kids can easily tackle and only takes about 60-90 minutes to complete, depending on the pace of your kids. (Although that time did not include both kids walking - one was in the carrier.)

Hoodoos to Surprise Corner:

We actually did this hike when we were camping at the Tunnel Mountain campground, as the Hoodoos trail was close to the campground. While I think most trail guides say to start in Banff and hike up to Hoodoos, we did it the opposite way. We started at the Hoodoos and descended down (with a slight incline up at the end) into Banff. There is such a variety to the hike, some sections feel really dry and arid, the mid section has wide open fields, then as you get closer to the Bow River it is more lush and provides great views of Mt. Rundle. Then you end up in Banff with a viewpoint of the Banff Fairmont and Bow Falls from the opposite side.

It would typically be a 7.7 km hike there and back from the Surprise Corner point (267 elevation gain starting from there). However, we didn't think the 4 kids would probably make it back up; plus we had bribed them with ice cream, so we headed into Banff. We walked along the river pathway to Banff Avenue to get some ice cream and then take the Town Bus back to the campsite, so by the time we added that portion on it was probably an additional 1.4 k.m. Most hiking apps say about 2-2.5 hours to do it round trip, but it probably took us closer to 3 hours to get from Hoodoos to Banff Avenue with the 4 kids (including a brief stop for lunch).

Johnston Canyon:

This is a super popular hike for families, as there are catwalks and a fairly developed trail system at the Canyon. There are three spots along the trail you can hike to: the Johnston Canyon Lower Falls it is 2.3 km out & back and 105 meter elevation gain; to Upper Falls it is 5 km. out & back and a 236 meter elevation; and finally the Ink Pots at the very end. However, unless you have the kids in the carrier, I wouldn’t recommend all the way to the Ink Pots as a kid friendly hike, as it is 11.7 km and 608 meters in elevation.

In the past, Johnston Canyon would often be jammed packed with people and the trails would be busy, as it is such a family friendly destination. However, in the summer of 2020, Banff National Park shut down the portion of the Bow Valley Parkway to vehicles that takes you to Johnston Canyon. Therefore, in the summer of 2020 the only way to get there was to walk in or bike in. We opted to bike into Johnston Canyon, and it was crazy how less busy it was than the other times we had visited. We had whole sections of the trail to ourselves whereas that would have never happened before.

Cave & Basin to Sundance Canyon:

We haven't done this hike recently, but based on our experience with hiking with an 18-month-old in the hiking pack, I would say it would be a relatively kid friendly trail. It is a relatively flat trail - only 145 meters in elevation gain, which is gradual - and is a 4.3 k.m. loop trail (although you could also just do a there & back). The trail is actually a paved pathway and can be shared with bikes. About 1.5 k.m. into the hike the pavement ends at the Sundance Picnic area and there is a foot trail that takes you through the canyon and the forested area. We'd even let Clara at 18 months just walk along the paved path, as we didn't have to worry about her tripping over rocks or roots. It's also easily accessible, just on the west side of the town of Banff.

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