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Hiking The Spray River Loop Trail, Banff National Park

Hiking the Spray River Loop Trail, Banff National Park

The Spray River loop trail is ideal for hiking, biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and cycling, depending on the conditions and the season. With a trailhead within a few hundred feet of the Banff Springs Hotel, it’s a super accessible trail for visitors to the area or for day-trippers from Calgary.

We fell into the day-trippers category. Six of us headed up to Banff for some exercise – followed by a soak in the nearby Banff Hot Springs and a pub dinner at the Banff Springs Hotel. In three hours plus a little time for lunch at the far end of the trail, we hiked 12 kilometres.

In early December when we did it there wasn’t a lot of snow pack (as is often the case) so though skiable, conditions are not ideal. It could easily be snowshoed and as you’ll see in the photos, some people cycled it on bikes with super fat tires.

The Spray River loop doesn’t offer drop-dead mountain views but it’s very pleasant hiking. From the trailhead you follow the Spray River 5.7 kms down to the bridge. Along this section you encounter beautiful views of Mount Rundle. The Spray River is constantly in view, with its crystal-clear turquoise coloured waters.

View up the Spray River
View up the Spray River
Biking the Spray River loop on fat tires
Biking the Spray River loop on fat tires
Spray Lake bridge
Approaching the intersection at the bridge

Once you reach the bridge you could retrace your steps but better yet cross the bridge and follow the river back to a junction about a kilometre from the trailhead. There are fewer views on this side of the river but if you pay attention, you might get lucky and see ice climbers on a frozen waterfall.

Spray River trail junction
Trail junction – stay right for Goat Creek or cross the bridge to return to the parking lot
Walk beside great slabs of rock along the Spray River
Looking down Spray River from the bridge
Ice climbers on a huge frozen waterfall on the north side of the Spray River
Ice climbers on a huge frozen waterfall on the north side of the Spray River

At the first intersection you reach on the return hike, about 4.7 kilometres from the bridge, you have the choice of continuing towards the Banff Springs Golf Course or descending to the river and crossing a bridge that offers a view of the Banff Springs Hotel. 

That’s what we elected to do – and it ended up being the prettiest part of the hike. Look for picnic tables scattered around in the woods on the far side of the bridge. In summer, this area would make a very pleasant destination for a family picnic.

Looking towards the Banff Springs Hotel
Looking towards the Banff Springs Hotel
Fading light by 4 PM on December 21st in Banff National Park
Fading light by 4 PM on December 21st
Walk beside great slabs of rock along the Spray River
Walk beside great slabs of rock along the Spray River

For an easy winter outing that’s perfect for people of all ages, the Spray River Loop is ideal. When snow conditions are right, it would be a fun ski to do as well. One certainly doesn’t have to do the whole loop either – just go as far as you like and then retrace your steps.

Finding the trailhead for the Spray River Loop

The trailhead and the parking lot are easy to find. Drive PAST the Banff Springs Hotel and continue straight past the parkade for about 100 metres.

You’ll see a giant parking area that states that parking is for users of the Spray River trails only. There were all of about six cars yesterday, even though the parking around the Banff Springs Hotel was crazy busy.

Further reading on hikes in Banff National Park

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The Spray River Loop hike in Banff National Park

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. We live at the beach and have a beach trail that goes from our house to the beach. I had no idea you could bike in the snow!

  2. At 3 hours for 12 kilometers, this looks like the type of trail I could handle. It’s so beautiful, and those ice climbers are amazing. I have a hard enough time trying to walk on ice, much less climb up it. I didn’t realize you could bike on snow. Are fat tires the key?

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