7 Banff Hikes for Pre-Season Ski Fitness

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7 Banff Hikes for Pre-Season Ski Fitness

The winter season is slowly but surely creeping upon us! But with plenty of warm weather left for the remainder of summer and even into autumn, it’s prime time to take your workouts to the wide-open spaces in and around Banff National Park. From Lake Louise to Canmore, there are plenty of easily accessible hikes of varying altitudes, elevation gains, terrains and distances to meet your ski fitness needs – giving steep (summits) and deep (lunges) a whole new meaning!

In need of a few hiking essentials? Head to the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub located right on Banff Avenue for buffs, backpacks, bear spray, and more. And check out our Fall Guide to Banff and Lake Louise for more tips on how to plan the perfect visit to Banff National Park during shoulder season.


1. Sentinel Pass via Larch Valley

HIkers at Sentinel Pass Larch Valley in Banff National Park
Photo by Paul Zizka Photography

Distance/Elevation: 10.9 km; 792 m elevation gain
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: Moraine Lake

With the popularity of Moraine Lake, you’ll need to be an early riser to find parking at the trailhead. This gradual hike on a well-defined trail ends with a series of switchbacks to Sentinel Pass, with stunning views of Larch Valley below. As its namesake implies, larch season is the best time of year to enjoy this hike. Check out these Rockies larch hikes to discover this autumn, too!


2. Mount Bourgeau

Scenic shots of Mount Bourgeau in Banff National Park
Photos by Erin Tetley

Distance/Elevation Gain: 21.7 km; 1731 m
Level of Difficulty: Difficult
Trailhead: 13km West of Banff on Highway 1

Looking for a straightforward trail with big elevation gain? Look no further than Bourgeau! With great views and variety – including a mountain pass, glacial lake, alpine meadow, and summit views of the Banff townsite – you will hardly notice as this hike works your endurance. It’s perfect for building up to big days out at the SkiBig3 resorts.


3. Sulphur Mountain

Two hikers on Sulphur Mountain trail in Banff National Park, Banff Gondola and Mount Rundle in background.
Photo by Chris Amat

Distance/Elevation Gain: 10.1 km; 744 m
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: Banff Upper Hot Springs parking lot

This is a local’s go-to for a quick and sweaty hike. Starting at the Banff Upper Hot Springs parking lot, this hike offers a consistent incline on a wide, treed trail. It brings no surprises, but the views from the top are well worth it. To mix things up, take the Sulphur westside trail on the way down. This old fire road will pop out near the Cave and Basin, so make sure to arrange a shuttle beforehand.


4. Mount Rundle

Sunrise view of Mount Rundle from Vermillion Lakes in Banff National Park.
Photo by Noel Hendrickson

Distance/Elevation Gain: 14.5 km; 1717 m
Level of Difficulty: Difficult
Trailhead: Bow Falls parking lot / Banff Springs golf course

Those who have hiked Rundle often describe it as a ‘slog’ – which makes it perfect for winter training! With the high elevation of this peak, it’s best to tackle it before Fall is in full swing. Prepare yourself for a long day out and an uphill battle once you break tree line. But the bragging rights for hiking this iconic Banff peak will make it all worth it.


5. Ha Ling

Hiker and dog on summit of Ha Ling at sunrise, near Canmore, Alberta.
Photo by Rachel Von Hahn

Distance/Elevation Gain: 7.2 km; 764 m
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: Goat Creek Parking Lot

Recent work on this trail in 2019 has made it even more accessible, with upgrades including rails and cable ladders for steep sections. A short scramble section at the end will bring you to Ha Ling’s summit, with views of the Canmore townsite below. The ease of accessibility from the Town of Canmore makes this a very popular hike – be sure to go early!


6. Grotto Mountain

Hiker on ridge of Grotto Mountain near Canmore, Alberta.
Photo by Tera Swanson

Distance/Elevation Gain: 8.9 km; 1352 m
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: Alpine Club of Canada hostel

A lot of elevation gets packed into a short distance on this hike to keep your glutes and quads firing. Near the summit, the trail mellows out into a stunning ridge walk to soak in the scenery. From here, either make your way back down the way you came or continue on to complete a full loop. Be mindful of your footwork on the steep descent.


7. Mount Lady Macdonald

Summit of Mount Lady MacDonald near Canmore, Alberta, Canada.
Photo by Bre Mirynech

Distance/Elevation Gain: 9.8 km; 1303 m
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: Cougar Creek trailhead

Another popular hike accessed right in the town of Canmore – head up early for the quietest experience. A mostly-defined trail with small sections of easy route finding bring you to a helipad with amazing views. Stop here for a snack before heading up a scrambly section to the somewhat exposed ridge and summit. While you still pack in a lot of elevation gain on this hike, it’s broken up with interesting terrain.

Talk to our in-destination Reservations Team today to plan a personalized trip, or book your lodging, rentals and experiences online. With a flexible change policy and no risk cancellation options, we recommend taking advantage of all Banff National Park has to offer this fall before the snow starts to fly once again.