Home Destinations Sundance Trail and Sundance Canyon Loop, Banff

Sundance Trail and Sundance Canyon Loop, Banff

by Karen Ung

Sundance Canyon Loop is a fun, short hike in Banff with stairs, footbridges, and waterfalls. Banff. The 2-kilometre loop is accessed by accessed by a 3.3-kilometre paved trail (Sundance Trail) from Cave & Basin, so we recommend doing Sundance Canyon as a bike and hike.

Sundance Trail

Sundance Trail starts at Cave and Basin National Historic Site. This pleasant 3.3 kilometre trail is paved and open to pedestrians and cyclists.

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.

When 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. Note that Sundance Picnic Area has the only washrooms in the area (until you get back to Cave & Basin).

Sundance Canyon trailhead is about a minute by bike past the picnic area.

Sundance Canyon

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.

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.

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 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.

Know Before You Go

Check out Cave and Basin Boardwalk Trail after hiking Sundance Canyon.
  • 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!

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?

What to Bring

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Bring a full water bottle, snacks, midlayer, waterproof/windproof layer, first aid kitbike tube – check size, bike tools, and portable bike pump. A bike pannier rack and pannier bags are handy if you don’t want to carry a backpack.

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