Sundance Trail and Sundance Canyon Loop, Banff

by - Monday, June 11, 2018

Sundance Canyon Loop is a fun, short hike with stairs and footbridges near the town of Banff. While the canyon loop is only two kilometres, you must access the canyon via Sundance Trail, a paved walking and biking trail adjacent to a horse trail. For the best experience, we recommend doing Sundance Canyon as a bike and hike.

Sundance Canyon, Banff

Sundance Trail

Sundance Trail is a 3.3 kilometre paved trail for pedestrians and cyclists that starts at Cave and Basin National Historic Site.

Cave and Basin National Historic Site, Banff
Cave and Basin National Historic Site, Banff
The first two kilometres are fairly flat and treed, however, views open up as you approach the river. Enjoy a snack/water/photo break at a pullout along the Bow River before going uphill.

Sundance Trail, Banff
Sundance Trail, Banff
As the trail curves to the left, the climb begins. The hill was a bit of a challenge when my youngest was five, but both kids found it easy once they had bikes with gears. Pace yourself and look for the covered picnic shelter at the top of the hill. Sundance Picnic Area has the only washrooms in the area, so be sure to make a pit stop before you begin your hike!

Sundance Picnic Area, Banff
Sundance Picnic Area, Banff
Sundance Canyon trailhead is about a minute by bike past the picnic area.

Sundance Canyon

Sundance Canyon, Banff
Sundance Canyon, Banff
Where the pavement ends, Sundance Canyon trail begins. Lock up your bike at the bike racks, cross the footbridge and follow the narrow, well beaten path on the left side of the creek. Climb the steps and cross another bridge over small cascades. From here, you can look back (northwest) to the Sawback mountain range.

Sundance Canyon Loop, Banff
The second bridge overlooks the Cascades

Sundance Canyon Loop, Banff
Second Footbridge at Sundance Canyon, Banff

After another set of steps, you will cross two bridges, then say farewell to the creek. The western part of the loop is a pleasant forest walk - great on a hot day. At the viewpoint on the descent, go left to stay on the trail. 

Stone steps on Sundance Canyon Loop, Banff
Stone steps at Sundance Canyon, Banff

Sundance Canyon Loop, Banff
Sundance Canyon in May - still super snowy!

Sundance Canyon, Banff
Third footbridge at Sundance Canyon, Banff

Sundance Canyon Loop Lookout, Banff
Viewpoint on west side of Sundance Canyon Loop

It took us an hour to complete the loop with lots of photo stops and a little bit of snow play (there's still snow in May!), but adults could easily do the hike in less time.

Sundance Trail and Sundance Canyon Loop at a Glance

Distance: 8.6 km round trip (Note that the the canyon is accessed by a 3.3 km paved trail, and the canyon trail is a 2 km loop.) 
Elevation Gain: 145 m
Stroller Friendly? No. The canyon access trail (Sundance Trail) is paved, but Sundance Canyon Loop has stairs.
Trailhead: Cave and Basin National Historic Site.
Distance from Calgary: 130 km
Directions from Calgary: Take highway 1 westbound for approximately 125 km. Take the second Banff exit and turn left on Mount Norquay Road. Continue onto Gopher Street. Continue onto Lynx Street. Continue onto Bear Street. At the 3-way stop, turn left onto Buffalo Street. Take first right onto Banff Avenue, cross the bridge, and turn right onto Cave Avenue. Continue straight for 1.4 km to Cave and Basin National Historic Site.

Cave and Basin Boardwalk Trail, Banff
Cave and Basin Boardwalk Trail makes a nice extension
to Sundance Trail and Sundance Canyon Loop.

Know Before You Go

Sundance Canyon is recommended for summer travel as there is avalanche danger in winter and the trail gets extremely icy in the spring.

Watch for horses along Sundance Trail and give them lots of space.

There are lots of mosquitoes in summer - especially at the picnic area. Bring bug spray!

Admission to Cave and Basin National Historic Site is a cool stop before/after hiking. Admission is free with your park pass! Did you know Cave and Basin is the birthplace of the Canadian National Parks system?

Sundance Trail and Sundance Canyon Loop, Banff
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