Five major trails branch off the Bow Valley Parkway, while there are two outstanding options along Hwy-1.
Bow Valley Parkway
The best short walk is the Johnston Canyon Trail (2.7km each way), 25km from Banff, an incredibly engineered path to a series of spray-veiled waterfalls. The Lower Falls are 1.1km, the Upper Falls 2.7km from the trailhead on the Parkway. From the Upper Falls you can continue on to the seven cold-water springs of the Ink Pots, which emerge in pretty open meadows, to make a total distance of 5.8km (215m ascent; 4hr return).
Another short possibility is the Castle Crags Trail (3.7km each way; 520m ascent from the signed turn-off 5km west of Castle Junction). Short but steep, and above the tree-line, this walk offers superb views across the Bow Valley and the mountains beyond. Allow ninety minutes one-way to take account of the stiff climb.
The best day-hike is to Rockbound Lake (8.4km each way), a steepish climb to 2210m with wild lakeland scenery at the end; allow at least two and a half hours one-way, due to the 760m ascent. Another fifteen minutes’ walk beyond Rockbound and Tower lakes at the end of the trail lies the beautiful Silverton waterfall. The other Parkway trails – Baker Creek (20.3km) and Pulsatilla Pass (17.1km) – serve to link backcountry hikers with the dense network of paths in the Slate Range northeast of Lake Louise.
The trek to Bourgeau Lake (7.5km one way) is considered by many to be among the top five day-hikes in Banff; it starts from a parking area 10km west of Banff – allow two and a half to three hours for the 725m ascent. The second is the long day-hike to Shadow Lake (14.3km each way), where the lakeside campground (at 1840m), in an impressive subalpine basin, gives access to assorted onward trails; the main trail starts from the Redearth Creek parking area 20km west of Banff – allow four hours for the 440m ascent.