Hoodoos trail – Easy Hikes in Banff
This walk had me singing the Dance Magic Dance song from the Labyrinth the whole way. “Hoodoo!? You do. Do What? Remind me of the babe. etc.” For some reason Marc didn’t seem impressed with my dancing about along to “you remind me of the babe.”
The hoodoos trail is an easy-ish hike, and very accessibly from the center of Banff. The walk starts at a car park at Surprise Corner, and winds its way through pretty forest between the Bow river and Tunnel Mountain. In the end you should emerge at a viewpoint of the hoodoos. Hopefully you won’t be caught in a blizzard like us, so you’ll actually have a view of the hoodoos. But even if you don’t see any views, this is still a pleasant walk with plenty of squirrels and birds to watch out for.
Hoodoos trail map – Banff
Hoodoos trail, Banff – the basics
Distance: 9.6km (both ways)
Elevation gain: Minimal (90m ish) but the path is steep in some sections.
Time: 2 hours
What to bring:
Walking boots were helpful on the steep sections, but you could manage in any non-slippy shoe.
The ten essentials
There are car parks at each end of the walk, and loos near the hoodoos.
Yes, this is a really good trail for doggos.
How hard is it?
Pretty easy. There are a few steep moments to get your heart going, but it’s not a long walk and the path is easy to follow.
Before you start, have a peek down at the Bow river and waterfalls!
The hoodoos trail – getting started
We left our car in the car park at Surprise Corner. What is the surprise? I think it might be the amazing view over to Fairmont Banff Springs hotel and the rushing waters of the Bow river! Take a few steps over to the edge of the cliff before you start this walk to look down at these views. Once you are ready, the start of the hoodoos trail leaves from the back of the car park, the opposite side to the road.
There is another trail on the opposite side of the river to see Bow Falls. But, even if you don’t have time to do both walks, the view down to the gushing white water of the Bow river was a sight to behold!
Step into fairyland
As you can see from my photos, it had just started to snow, so there were not many other people heading out for a walk! I think we saw one other person on the whole route to the hoodoos. This meant the forest was quiet and so pretty with a sprinkling of snow.
Views of Mount Rundle
Once you’ve made it through the first forested section, there should be some lovely views up to Mount Rundle from the quiet side-channels of the Bow River. We didn’t see much in the mist, but these views must be incredible on sunny days.
Tunnel Mountain cliffs
In the other direction, the cliffs on the side of Tunnel Mountain tower above the path. This teeny mountain looks much more impressive from this angle, than the easy-looking hill viewed from the center of Banff!
Hoodoos trail steep sections
There are a few moments that will get your heart pumping. After wandering along the Bow River, you need to climb up the steep banks into the forest. Again, this path must have amazing views of the surrounding mountains if you are smart enough not to hike in a snowstorm! Heh!
We saw (and heard) quite a few squirrels and birds. This was the only little dude to sit still long enough for me to take a photo though. Snow on my lens made him a little blurry, but I thought he was a sweetie.
Once you make it to the viewpoints (there are several of them…just keep wandering along to find the best views), you should be able to look down to the hoodoo rock formations. By the time we arrived, the snow was falling pretty thickly, so it was actually pretty comical how little we could see! We could sort of make out hoodoo shapes, but they were partly hidden in the mist, so i don’t have any good photos.
What is a hoodoo anyway?
Hoodoos are a rock formations that have been been eroded into a column, often with a bit of a cap on top. They looked like the Gargoyles that we climbed to in Garibaldi National Park. Apparently they have other names like fairy chimneys or goblins; So it’s sort of appropriate that I kept getting labyrinth songs in my head.
Once we’d given up on seeing hoodoos (or any of the mountains) we started to head back the way we came. There was a gap in the clouds, so we had a few moments looking up to Tunnel Mountain (above) and over to Mount Rundle (below).
We may not have had a great hoodoo view, but it was still a fun walk! The hoodoos trail is perfect if you need to stretch your legs or walk your dog. I’m glad we did it. Never let a teeny bit of bad weather stop you from exploring!
Return to the Hoodoos in spring
We came back to Banff in springtime and couldn’t resist taking a peek at these views without the clouds. We finally got to see the Hoodoos! You can see them in the bottom left of this photo. ☺
Other easy hikes near Banff:
We didn’t do any particularly strenuous alpine walks in our time in Banff. If you like the sound of this and would like to take a peek at other easy walks we did nearby, have a look at these options:
- Exploring Banff in the snow
- Moraine Lake shoreline trail
- Plain of Six Glaciers hike (Lake Louise)
- Highline Trail to Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive (also Lake Louise)
- Johnston Canyon hike (to several waterfalls)
- Emerald Lake Loop
22 thoughts on “Hoodoos trail – Easy Hikes in Banff”
That’s cool – looks like a nice little wander in the snow. I didn’t know there was a trail on that side of the river. We’ve seen the hoodoos from above, on the road out to the campground.
Yeah, I’m not sure if I’d get up early specifically for this trail…but it’s quite good for stretching your legs after a long drive / before dinner!
I’ll send you the details about the places we stayed in a seccy, too. 😀
If you decide some day to hike in Colorado, here’s something you might like. It’s in the remote San Juan Wilderness, though this spot is not that remote — but also not easy for everyone to get to. I haven’t gotten there (but I’m determined…)
I am really enjoying the trip to Banff!!!
Oops — I mean Rio Grande National Forest in the San Juan Mountains.
P.S. I goofed, Rio Grande Natl forest in the San Juan Mountains…
I googled it and looked at your link. Wowza! I am sure we’d both love exploring there too! It looks like it’s a looong way away, but worth the trip! <3
Aww man! I didn’t even know about this trail, but I’ve biked around Kimberley (BC) and seen some hoodoos there. Shame you didn’t get good views, but at least it was still a nice walk!
It is one of the “moderate” trails listed on those Banff maps you can get at the tourist information center. 🙂
I think it’s okay though, you got to see soooo many pretty things on your trip!
Just looking at the pics made me feel frozen! You’re braver than I!
You’ve gotten too used to the heat of the desert! <3
Don't worry though, once you get walking, it wasn't even cold. Although I'll admit I was chilly the next day when we spent hours exploring in the snow! After *that* day I needed a boozy hot chocolate to warm me up!
Oooh p.s. while we were watching the weather/news in Calgary, they showed pictures of their local (zoo) pandas playing in the snow. They looked sooo happy!
Looks like the perfect day for a hike in the snowy forest. I love that there are still a few trees with their yellow leaves around. Makes for some great photos.
Next time go to the falls. I want to see the pictures.
w/a Jansen Schmidt
Oooh don’t worry! We visited the waterfalls the next day! I just didn’t get around to uploading those photos yet! I’ll get there!!
I love the look of the bright yellow leaves in the snow too! It’s so pretty when snow comes this early!
This looks absolutely refreshing and magical! Would love to go on an easy hike there 😉
Thanks Sheryl! I have a feeling it’s be even more magical when you can see the surrounding mountains, but we had fun anyway!! 😀
Love your outlook on “all-weather” exploring. 🙂 And a great capture of that cute squirrel! It’s fun when you can capture moments like that.
Hehe, yeah, we figured the snow wasn’t bad enough to stop us doing an easy hike. It did stop us going on one of the many more epic-sounding walks I’d originally planned!
I love learning new things about nature and “hoodoo” is a name I have never heard. What a fun hike!