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9 BUCKET LIST HIKES IN BANFF NATIONAL PARK

Banff National Park. For many, these words conjure up images of breathtaking scenery, turquoise-blue lakes, and a panoramic sea of peaks, of wildflowers dancing in the breeze, and wildlife minding their young next to flowing creeks. For many more that same scene includes endless trails just beckoning hikers to engross themselves in the landscape to gain those lofty views on their own two feet.

With over 1,600 kilometres (994 miles) of trails, Banff National Park offers adventurers some of the best hiking on the planet, whether it’s an easy hike to incredible vistas or a more strenuous trek deep in the backcountry. Choosing just nine bucket list hikes is about as big a task as climbing the biggest peaks in the Park, but here’s a start:

1. CORY PASS – MT. EDITH CIRCUIT

The hike to Cory Pass requires some serious leg power, but the view from the pass is one of the most spectacular and rewarding in all of Banff National Park. The sheer south face of Mt. Louis surprises hikers as they crest the pass – a great place to sit and enjoy a packed lunch. Continue the circuit upon reaching the pass by descending down the other side and around Mt. Edith (a bit easier on the legs), or return the way you came.

Distance: 13 km (8 mi.) loop
Elevation gain: 1000 m (3280 ft)
Time required: 5-6 hours
Difficulty: Challenging

2. CASCADE AMPHITHEATRE 

This hike begins at the Mt. Norquay ski area, crosses a bridge over Forty Mile Creek, then zigzags its way through the dense forest to the Cascade Amphitheatre. As you emerge into the amphitheatre, impressively enclosed by limestone cliffs, keep your eyes out for wildflowers. Adventurous hikers can make a full day trip of it and, with adequate preparation, tackle the summit of Cascade Mountain.

Distance: 13.2 km (8 mi.) return trip
Elevation gain: 640 m (2099 ft)
Time required: 4-6 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

3. BOURGEAU LAKE & HARVEY PASS

Bourgeau Lake and the Harvey Pass area above it deserve a full day’s trip. The trail climbs steeply through a forest of lodgepole and spruce before opening out into meadows that lead to the shores of Bourgeau Lake. From there, continue 2.2 km (310 m up) past several smaller bodies of water to the lake at Harvey Pass for impressive views of Mt. Assiniboine, “The Matterhorn of the Rockies.”

Distance: 15 km (9.3 mi.) return trip
Elevation gain: 725 m (2378 ft)
Time required:  5-6 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

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