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15 Amazing Waterfalls To Visit In And Near Banff

Mistaya Canyon Waterfall in Banff National Park

Nestled in the Canadian Rockies, Banff National Park attracts countless visitors with its breathtaking landscapes and awe-inspiring natural wonders. The allure of Banff lies not only in its serene lakes and hiking trails but also in its waterfalls.

If you love to chase waterfalls, you’ll have a varied selection to choose from by staying in the town of Banff. Whether you prefer a moderate hike or something less challenging, there’s a cascade for every hiking ability.

If you visit Banff in the winter months, its picturesque cascades turn into frozen waterfalls, providing adventurers with ice-climbing opportunities. So, here are the best waterfalls to check out when visiting Banff.

Bow Falls

Bow Falls sits on the Bow River, and you can view it from several locations, both easily reachable by road. It’s the closest waterfall to downtown Banff. The Bow Falls Viewpoint is located directly adjacent to the parking lot at the base of Bow Falls.

Bow Falls in winter
Bow Falls in winter

You’ll find the parking lot near the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. If you stay at Fairmont, you can take a leisurely walk to the waterfall viewing area.

From this viewpoint, you can enjoy a close-up view of the falls as they cascade down the Bow River. The outlook offers a great vantage point to admire the power and beauty of the waterfall. In the summer, you might even see some visitors taking a rafting tour down Bow River.

The second viewpoint is on the other side of the river. The Surprise Corner Viewpoint is a short distance upstream from Bow Falls. You must drive back to Banff, cross the Bow River, and turn right onto Buffalo Street to reach it.

There is no parking lot here, and finding a parking place is often problematic. However, the Surprise Corner Viewpoint provides a panoramic view of Bow Falls, the Bow River, and the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

Bow Falls and Banff Springs Hotel from Surprise Corner Viewpoint
Bow Falls and Banff Springs Hotel from Surprise Corner Viewpoint

Cascade Falls 

Cascade Falls is a breathtaking waterfall close to Banff. The waterfall stands at an impressive height of almost 290 meters (950 feet).

It is named after Cascade Mountain and is the third-largest waterfall in the province. The hike to the falls is popular and suitable for most hikers, although there are a few steep spots along the way.

You’ll find the trailhead off the Banff/Minnewanka Loop road. At the start of your hike, you’ll travel through a grassy field before entering the trees. Toward the end of the trek, the trail climbs steeply to the falls.

While the falls are open year-round, it is essential to note that off-season hiking requires crampons and hiking poles due to the steep and loose terrain.

Additionally, be aware of the high avalanche risk when snow is on the ground.

Johnston Canyon Upper Falls

Johnston Canyon might arguably be the most popular hike in Banff. Located off the Bow Valley Parkway, you can visit the canyon year-round.

Johnston Canyon upper falls in summer
Johnston Canyon upper falls in summer

In fact, the winter attracts fewer crowds than the summer. During the peak summer months, the parking lots fill up fast.

So, plan to go early, later in the afternoon, or take the Johnston Canyon shuttle from Banff. The trail follows Johnston Creek and is approximately 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) one way to the Upper Falls.

The Johnston Canyon hike is relatively easy to moderate, with some sections featuring elevated walkways and stairs. Of all the waterfalls in Banff, the Johnston Canyon Upper Falls might be one of the most popular.

The trail is a marvel of engineering, with cantilever platforms hanging over the creek. While the upper waterfall provides a dramatic, plunging cascading, you have the option to do a short hike to the lower falls instead.

You’ll encounter the lower waterfall about 1.1 kilometers (0.7 miles) from the trailhead. Although the canyon marks the lower and upper falls, you’ll see multiple cascades on the trail.

Johnston Canyon upper falls in winter
Johnston Canyon upper falls in winter

Johnston Canyon’s winter façade is remarkably different than its summer version. With its cascades frozen, ice climbers require ice cleats, ropes, and safety equipment to scale their icy walls.

Even if you’re hiking the canyon in winter, crampons are highly recommended as those small slopes turn into slippery hazards.

Bow Glacier Falls

One hour north of Banff, you’ll find Bow Lake and an option to hike to Bow Glacier Falls. There’s lots of parking near the Lodge at Bow Lake, as this is one of Banff’s popular hikes.

Follow the path past the lodge and continue onto the hiking trail. The Bow Glacier Falls trail is well-maintained, but be prepared for a 9-mile round-trip hike with some uphill sections and steep stairs.

Open in both summer and winter, expect the trek to take longer in winter, with the aid of crampons, hiking poles, and show shoes. Check the avalanche risk before heading out if you plan to hike in winter.

Bow Glacier Falls
Bow Glacier Falls

Early morning provides a mirror reflection on Bow Lake. In early spring, expect muddy sections before ascending to the beautiful falls.

While you won’t be treated to a thunderous waterfall at the end, the trail combines a waterfall, lake views, and Bow Glacier.

Takakkaw Falls

An hour’s drive from Banff, you can visit the towering Takakkaw Falls on a short hike in Yoho National Park. At 373 meters (1,224 ft), the falls earn the title of the second-highest waterfall in Canada.

Take the Yoho Valley Road from the Trans-Canada Highway and follow it for about 13 kilometers (8 miles) until you reach the Takakkaw Falls parking lot.

The route is a winding mountain road unsuitable for RVs or novice drivers. You can only access Takakkaw Falls in the summer months, as the road closes for winter.

Visiting Takakkaw Falls
Visiting Takakkaw Falls

There are two main viewing points for Takakkaw Falls. The first is accessible by a short, paved walkway from the parking lot.

This viewpoint offers a decent view of the falls, and nearby, you can take some selfies in the iconic red Adirondack chairs. However, continue to the second viewing point if you want a closer look.

To reach the second viewing point, follow the well-marked hiking trail that starts near the parking lot. The path is approximately 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) long and takes about 15-20 minutes to walk.

Near the end, the trail turns into some rock jumping. Be cautious when approaching the falls. While there’s little elevation gain, the spray from the waterfall can make the rocks and trails slippery.

Wapta Falls

Wapta Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies and also in Yoho National Park. At approximately 150 feet wide (46 meters) and a drop of about 98 feet (30 meters), its roaring sound is as impressive as its size. You could say, it’s a mini-Niagara Falls.

Wapta Falls from the higher viewpoint
Wapta Falls from the higher viewpoint

Expect the roundtrip hike to take 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on your hiking ability and time spent at the falls. Unlike Takakkaw Falls, you can access this trail year-round.

Although you’ll travel approximately 5 kilometers or 3.1 miles roundtrip, the trail involves some elevation changes and uneven terrain, but it is not overly strenuous.

During the hike, you will traverse a beautiful forested area and cross a bridge over the Kicking Horse River. As you approach Wapta Falls, you’ll hear its thunderous sound before you’ll see it.

There are several vantage points for viewing the falls. The top viewpoint allows you to look down onto the falls. Should you venture down to the base, the route is steep, but there are trees to help you steady your footing.

Wapta Falls from the lower viewpoint
Wapta Falls from the lower viewpoint

A mound at the waterfall’s base provides incredible cascade views if you’re prepared to get a little wet. In summer, remember to pack your mosquito repellent.

Silverton Falls

Located south of Lake Louise, near Castle Junction, Silverton Falls is a hidden gem of a hike that may not be on everyone’s radar. At less than a 2 km roundtrip, it’s a short and sweet trek that leads to a stunning 50-meter-high waterfall.

The hike starts with a leisurely walk from the small parking lot. You’ll travel through the forest before ascending a few steep switchbacks.

Despite its relative obscurity, Silverton Falls is definitely worth the visit, offering a quiet place and a more peaceful experience than some of the more popular trails in the Rockies.

Silverton Falls, Banff
Silverton Falls

Plan to spend about 15-20 minutes on the trail before reaching the breathtaking waterfall at the end.

Mistaya Canyon Falls

You can find the next group of waterfalls as you head north to Jasper National Park on the Icefields Parkway.

Mistaya Canyon offers breathtaking views that are just as impressive as those at Johnston Canyon. The trail is unique because it descends into the forest rather than starting with an uphill climb.

The 1.8 km looping trail makes it an excellent option for those who are new to hiking or looking for a shorter trek. The easy trail takes little effort but gives a great reward.

After a brief 10-minute walk, you will reach a wooden bridge that crosses the river, providing a breathtaking view of Mistaya Canyon.

Mistaya Canyon Falls
Mistaya Canyon Falls

The power of the water is evident in the potholes and the smooth rock formations that have been created by water alone. Walking along the river offers different perspectives of the canyon and the waterfalls cascading over the smooth rocks.

Mt. Sarbach serves as a stunning backdrop in the distance. It’s essential to exercise caution when hiking during the wet season, as the rocks can be slippery.

Unlike other canyons in the area, such as Athabasca Falls and Maligne Canyon, Mistaya Canyon does not have safety railings along the canyon.

The Weeping Wall

The Weeping Wall doesn’t require hiking because its cascade can be seen from the Icefields Parkway. You’ll notice the Weeping Wall just south of the Columbia Icefields as you drive north.

Located at the base of Cirrus Mountain in Banff, the Weeping Wall is a stunning set of cliffs that reach up to 1000 feet high. However, it can look quite different depending on the time of visitation.

The Weeping Wall
The Weeping Wall

During the warmer months, the cliffs are adorned with cascading waterfalls, which stain the rocks. But in the winter, these falls freeze into towering pillars of ice, making it a popular spot for ice climbing.

Visitors can park at the Weeping Wall pull-out to admire the frozen beauty of the wall, fed by a natural spring that never stops flowing.

This location is considered one of the best ice climbs in the world, and you can watch as climbers make their way up the various routes on the ice. The Weeping Wall remains frozen well into the spring thanks to its shaded location.

Tangle Creek Falls

Tangle Creek Falls is a stunning cascade renowned for its dramatic plunge and crystal-clear waters. The falls are situated near the Icefields Parkway, surrounded towering mountain peaks and by lush green forests.

Tangle Creek Falls
Tangle Creek Falls

One of the most remarkable aspects of Tangle Creek Falls is its accessibility. Unlike remote waterfalls requiring arduous treks, Tangle Creek Falls offers a unique advantage: you can admire it without an extensive hike.

Visitors can pull over at a designated viewpoint and enjoy the magnificent sight of the cascading waters. This makes it an ideal destination for those with limited mobility or those seeking a quick and rewarding stop along their journey.

Panther Falls And Bridal Veil Falls

Nestled in the forest of Banff, Panther Falls is a hidden gem that many visitors often miss. A short 1 km hike from the highway leads to a thunderous waterfall that rewards travelers with its beauty.

Panther Falls
Panther Falls

The trail starts at the lower end of the parking lot and descends into the trees, offering a peaceful and serene experience.

As a bonus, visitors can also catch a glimpse of Bridal Veil Falls across the valley, which is Banff’s second-highest waterfall and boasts a wispy cascade.

Stanley Falls

The underrated trail to Stanley Falls offers a serene trek through ancient forests, moss-covered rocks, and tranquil meadows located near the Icefields Parkway.

The parking area at the trailhead is a little hard to find. However, you’ll enjoy an easy hike with little elevation gain once there.

Stanley Falls in Beauty Creek
Stanley Falls on Beauty Creek

A moderate hike along the Beauty Creek Trail awaits adventurers to reach Stanley Falls. Since this trail isn’t walked as often as more popular trails, you need to be wary of bear activity.

Expect to spend sixty to ninety minutes hiking this 1.6 km route. While the goal is to see Stanley Falls, you’ll see seven other cascades along Beauty Creek.

Sunwapta Falls

Located in Jasper National Park, Sunwapta Falls is one of two stunning waterfalls visible from the Icefields Parkway. As you drive north, you’ll come across Sunwapta Falls first, followed by Athabasca Falls south of Jasper.

Since Sunwapta and Athabasca Falls are closer to Jasper, these are best visited on a road trip from Banff to Jasper.

Sunwapta Falls
Sunwapta Falls

A short stroll from the parking lot will take you to the Upper Falls, where a bridge spans the canyon, offering breathtaking views of the cascading water and the surrounding mountains.

The falls are fed by the Athabasca Glacier, further south. For those up for a bit of exercise, a 1.3 km hike downstream will take you to the Lower Falls, which may not be as impressive as the Upper Falls but are still worth a visit.

Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls is a breathtaking natural wonder that you should not miss. It boasts a powerful and thunderous volume of water that surpasses even Sunwapta Falls.

During the summer months, it attracts large crowds of visitors who come to witness its beauty. To fully experience the falls, plan to spend some time exploring the area.

Athabasca Falls
Athabasca Falls

By crossing several bridges and walking up and downstream, you’ll enjoy different views from contrasting vantage points.

Remember to follow the trail to the lower canyon. Here, you can walk through an ancient canyon, see a large pothole, and watch the water enter a wider channel.

The color of the water changes depending on the season. In summer, the abundance of meltwater turns it white, while in the off-season and with little meltwater, the river may reflect greens and blues.

It’s truly a sight to behold, even if the falls are a muddy brown torrent during your visit.

Beyond The Waterfalls In Banff

While most don’t travel to the Canadian Rockies to chase waterfalls, the cascades are a bonus to the beautiful hikes and day trips.

Depending on the time of year you visit, waterfalls could be frozen, which adds to the adventure.

Beyond the waterfalls, the Rocky Mountains offer gorgeous lakes, back-country hiking, and canoeing opportunities. One visit and you’ll be captivated by its beauty, convincing you to return again.

Three waterfalls in and near Banff

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