Hiking in Jasper & Banff National Parks with Kids
If you are a hiker, or not, hitting the trails in Banff and Jasper National Parks should be on your bucket list. With about 2,000 miles of trails to choose from within the two parks, there is something for everyone. The views, landscape, waters, and wildlife are so unique to this area. We loved every minute of camping in Jasper and Banff! While hiking with kids isn’t always easy to do, we found plenty of trails that were accessible and fun for our little hikers. Here are our favorite places to hike with kids in Banff and Jasper National Parks.
Jasper National Park
This is much more of a walk than a hike. Pyramid Island, accessible by footbridge, sits in the middle of Pyramid Lake. The short walk around the small island offers picturesque views of the lake and surrounding mountains. The kids enjoyed the walk because they loved throwing rocks in the water off the bridge and the shoreline of the island, and we, the adults, loved it because of the views. This was our first “outing” in Jasper, and we were just in awe of where we were. Our favorite spot was the bench on the opposite end of the island from the bridge. It was a clear day when we visited Pyramid Island, and from the bench, we were able to see Pyramid Mountain in its entirety.
Maligne Canyon is the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park. The Maligne River rushes through the narrow slot canyon over waterfalls and in and out of underground caves. The Maligne Canyon Loop Trail goes along the canyon and crisscrosses over with a series of six bridges. We parked and started at the first bridge, hiked the entire trail down to the sixth trail, then looped back up. Since it is one of the most popular hiking trails in the park, we arrived later in the day (about 3 pm) and were actually able to get a parking spot and as well as a little peace and quiet along the trail. Most visitors stop at the third bridge, so the crowds really thin out after that. The path is paved in the beginning then turns to a well-maintained dirt trail. The trail is a bit steep climbing back up the canyon, but the kids did great and completed the whole trail on their own with minimal complaints! Maligne Canyon is one of the most unique natural features we’ve ever seen and should not be missed!
Athabasca Falls is another walk vs. an actual hike but is an area of Jasper National Park that should not be missed. The network of paved pathways took us along and over the majestic waterfall and through the canyon to the bottom of the falls. The walk is crowded, but we had no trouble with parking. The crowd mostly congregates around the falls but thins out at the bottom of the canyon. Exploring the rocky beach through the canyon at the bottom of the falls was actually our favorite part of our whole visit to Athabasca Falls! The kids enjoyed walking through the narrow canyon and throwing rocks in the river from the beach, and we enjoyed taking in the beauty of the powerful waterfall and the views of Mount Kerkeslin.
Easy, 1.4 km
Camping at, and hiking to, the Athabasca Glacier was one of the coolest experiences we’ve had while fulltime RVing. Since we were camped out in the parking lot across the street from the trailhead, we could see how busy it was. We decided to go elsewhere for the day and hit the Athabasca Glacier trail in the evening. It was well worth the wait as we had the whole glacier to ourselves! The hike is short, but steep, and pretty windy. There is a cool breeze that comes off of the glacier, so it was much colder than even just across the street. There are signs along the trail marking where the glacier came to over the past 150 years. It’s pretty crazy to see how much it has receded. Very cool little hike for getting the whole family up close and personal with a glacier!
Banff National Park
Moderate, 5.1 km
The day we decided to beat the crowds at the Athabasca Glacier, we headed south into Banff National Park and hiked the Parker Ridge Trail. The way up is steep and strenuous, but we all made it with our two-year-old in the carrier and four-year-old walking. The switchbacks and quick elevation gain up the trail were well worth the views of the Saskatchewan Glacier and headwaters of the Saskatchewan River from the top. The top levels out and there is plenty of room for the kids to run and for us to take in the beauty surrounding us. We got a tip from another hiker heading down to take the trail as far out as we could rather than stopping at the first glimpse of the glacier. We are sure glad we took that advice. The further we walked, the better the views. One of the most strenuous yet rewarding hikes we’ve done as a family!
Rockpile: Easy, .8 km
Shoreline: Easy, 2.9 km
Moraine Lake might just be the most beautiful lake in the world. It’s at least the most beautiful lake we’ve seen while on our fulltime RV adventure! The blue is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Moraine Lake can get extremely crowded, and parking is limited, so the best option is to shuttle in or go in the early morning or the evening as we did. We arrived at about 5 pm on a Saturday and had no issues with parking. The short trail took us up the large rockpile that sits at the top of the lake. What makes this trail so popular is the unbelievable views of the lake from the top. Well worth the little scramble! The Shoreline trail took us along the length of the lake. It was easy, flat, and allowed us the chance to throw a few rocks in and leisurely walk along the water. The crowd thins out the further you walk so we gladly kept on walking!
Moderate, 5 km to the Upper Falls
We jokingly referred to Johnston Canyon as the Disneyland of Banff, but it’s a nice hike that’s very kid-friendly. We called it this because there is a line to see the main attractions of the waterfalls at the end of the hike! There are two falls. The Upper Falls is a bit more strenuous to get to, but the line to see the waterfall is shorter. The lower falls is easier to get to, has a cool cave you get to go into to see the waterfall, but the line is longer. The trail starts paved, goes over bridges along the river, and the rest is dirt. The kids always have fun on hikes with bridges, so that was a huge plus. We shuttled in from downtown Banff, which was very easy and convenient. Definitely a beautiful canyon that is a must-see when hiking Banff with kids!
Easy, 2.7 km
Bow Falls sits right outside of downtown Banff and is the perfect place to stroll if you want to stay near town. The trail goes along the river and offers several viewpoints once you reach the waterfalls. The trail is flat and wide for the most part. We took the stroller and were able to use it until we got to the steps up and over the actual falls area. This is a great little walk along the beautiful Bow River. We took the trail all the way to the Banff Springs Hotel for a celebratory drink at the end!
Easy, 3.4 km
Cave and Basin National Historic Site is the reason Banff became Canada’s first National Park. It is a collection of hot springs that run down Sulphur Mountain into a large, marshy basin below. There is a network of trails that goes along the mountain above the springs as well as below in the basin. We explored some of the trails above the springs, but since the majority of them were closed due to a herd of elk, we mostly walked along the boardwalks in the lower basin. The boardwalks were a fun way to get into the marshland and even get close to the local fish and bird populations. The kids loved watching baby fish swim in the shallow water and using their binoculars to see the birds!
We were thrilled to find so many kid-friendly hiking options in Banff and Jasper National Parks. Getting out into nature as a family is one of our favorite things to do and to experience this fantastic part of the word together was a dream come true.