Cave & Basin to Sundance Canyon

Trail Length — 4.3 kilometres (2.7 miles) 

  • Half-day trip, allow 1.5 hours
  • Elevation gain: 145 metres (470 feet)
  • Maximum elevation: 1545 metres (5,070 feet)
  • Maps: Banff 82 O/4; Banff Up-Close (Gem Trek)

Access: From the intersection at the south end of the Bow River bridge in Banff, follow Cave Avenue 1.2 kilometres to the parking area for the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. A paved walkway leads to the Cave and Basin complex and continues 200 m beyond to the trailhead kiosk. Check the trail conditions before you go.

Cave and Basin Trail

Throughout most of its long history, the short 2 kilometres loop trail leading through Sundance Canyon was accessible by road from the town of Banff. In the mid 1980s, the road beyond the Cave and Basin was converted to a paved walking and cycling path, which made the trip longer but more scenically varied. Many people bike to the canyon on the broad, paved trail, but the first half of the trip is an open and pleasant route for walkers as well.

From the Cave and Basin, the trail descends gradually through forest to the Bow River. For the next 1.5 kilometres it follows along the river and its side channels with views of the rugged peaks to the north, including the sharp spire of Mount Edith. The final stretch to the canyon climbs gradually through forest.

Pavement and bike access end at the Sundance Canyon picnic area, where a foot trail climbs into this pleasant little canyon and then loops back through forest to the picnic area.

Marsh Trail

The 1.6 kilometre trail around the north side of the Cave and Basin marsh is an interesting way to return from Sundance Canyon.

Follow the trail that branches right from the Sundance trail at kilometre 0.7 (where the paved trail first meets the river). It runs downstream along the banks of the Bow River to the marsh, skirts the edge of this wetland, then turns right at a junction and crosses an earthen dike to return to the Cave and Basin parking lot. Also see: Marsh Loop Trail.

Healy Creek

This roadbed branches right from the Sundance Canyon trail at 2.2 kilometres and rolls through forest along the south side of the Bow Valley to Brewster Creek junction (2.9 kilometres) and the Sunshine Road (4.6 kilometres). The smooth, broad track is of more interest to mountain bikers (and cross-country skiers) than hikers.

Canadian Rockies Trail Guide

Trail description from the Canadian Rockies Trail Guide (Brian Patton and Bart Robinson; Summerthought Publishing), the original hiking guide to Banff National Park and the contiguous parks.

Originally published in 1971 and now in its 9th edition, this book details over 3,400 kilometres of hiking trails in Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay and Waterton Lakes National Parks