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Best hikes for rainy days in Banff area

San Jose, California
Level Contributor
15 posts
2 reviews
Best hikes for rainy days in Banff area

It looks like it's going to rain next week when I'm in Banff (June 9 - 16), although I know that weather is pretty unpredictable up in the mountains. Just in case though, which hikes are do-able in the rain, and what should we be worried about if we do hike in the rain? For reference, pending trail conditions and weather, we were planning on hiking to the Lake Agnes Teahouse, Johnston Canyon + Ink Pots, Plain of Six Glaciers (pending trail conditions), Rawson Lake, Peyto Lake, and Tunnel Mountain.

We're planning on bringing some ponchos, hiking shoes, hiking poles (rented), and gaiters.

Edited: 07 June 2018, 12:38
6 replies to this topic
Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
21,847 posts
130 reviews
1. Re: Best hikes for rainy days in Banff area

When it rains, it’s cold. So you’ll want to have good rain gear along with warm layers to wear underneath.

The Bow Summit/Peyto Lake viewpoint is not really a hike - it’s about a ten minute walk up from the parking lot to the viewpoint. There isn’t an “official” trail to the lake (which is far below the viewpoint) ... there are trails used by climbers and glaciologists headed to the research station on the Peyto Glacier, but from what I hear, it’s pretty rough. If you want to do a hike there, there is the Bow Summit Look-Out hike there - continue uphill, and the trail heads to the old road that leads to where there used to be a fire look-out tower. It’s not a long hike, and the grade is quite gentle. But it’s above treeline, so good “bang for your buck” in terms of views. However, re-reading your post in which you mention coming next week ... I’d expect snowy and mucky conditions at that elevation (around 7000 feet), this early in the season.

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
8,195 posts
4 reviews
2. Re: Best hikes for rainy days in Banff area

Not sure where you're getting your weather report, and I rarely trust anything more than a day or two out. But -- right now, I only see rain forecast for Sunday and part of Monday. And mostly showers. Saturday possibly cloudy, but Tuesday onwards sunny if a bit cooler.

So Sunday and Monday may be the only iffy days. Johnston Canyon itself is good for rainier days - you're not there for views and you're more protected being in a canyon. Rawson Lake might not be so bad in the rain, as you're in the trees until the lake. As long as there's a view, Tunnel Mountain isn't the worst in the rain - it's wide, well maintained trail.

That said, the big issue with rain will be muck - could create quite a bit of mud. Rain/showers will also raise creek/stream levels which are already at peak flow from the snowmelt. There are some creek crossings to Rawson Lake, so you'll want good solid hiking boots (not hiking shoes). And be aware of any crossings -- waterflow can increase over the course of a day (rain or sun melting snow higher up). So if a crossing is iffy in the morning, may want to consider whether it will be doable later in the day.

Another poster reported hiking the Plain of SIx Glacier Trail. Sounds like there are still substantial snow patches, so you need to be prepared for lots of snow - i.e. boots not shoes. Teahouse was open as of last weekend, albeit with a limited menu. If it has been raining, exercise caution when on sections of that trail that could have risk from rockfall - rain can loosen up rocks/scree.

Yes, the unofficial "trail" to Peyto Lake is very rough, and would likely be quite unpleasant at this time of year. Some combo of mud, muck, snow, ice, slush and deadfall. Plus, it's really not worth the hike -- the view of the lake is better from higher up and it would be a very long hike to any glacier views. Hiking around the lake would likely be a slog with some interesting creek crossings at the far end. While it's not uncommon to ski across the lake in the winter, summer mountaineers tend to access the Peyto Hut via Bow Hut rather than face that hike/glacier crossing in the summer.

San Jose, California
Level Contributor
15 posts
2 reviews
3. Re: Best hikes for rainy days in Banff area

Thanks all for the advice! We were planning on doing Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots on Sunday morning + Rawson Lake on Sunday in the afternoon. I unfortunately only have hiking shoes and not hiking boots, but I also do have hiking poles, gaiters, and waterproof pants if that makes any difference. What advantage do hiking boots give over hiking shoes? I have shoes similar to this: https://www.kohls.com/product/prd-2867710/co…

For Peyto Lake, I was actually only planning on doing the short "hike"/walk to the viewpoint.

If there are any other good hikes recommended for rainy days, I'd be happy to consider them!

Calgary
Level Contributor
90 posts
111 reviews
4. Re: Best hikes for rainy days in Banff area

Those "hiking shoes" are basically glorified running shoes, really not hiking shoes or hiking boots. They don't give any ankle support or ankle protection and in wet (snowy, muddy, sloppy) conditions your feet will be wet in no time. Gaiters won't be of much benefit with those either, they won't fit on properly. They are ideal for dry smooth tourist walks but that's about it, regardless of what the manufacturer promo says. On the bright side, they're fine for the Peyto viewpoint walk.

Edited: 08 June 2018, 20:47
Canmore, Canada
Level Contributor
35 posts
5. Re: Best hikes for rainy days in Banff area

Dress warm (2 layers + gloves + hat) and all your hikes are doable in the rain, but tall open peaks (Peyto, Tunnel mtn) must be avoided if lightning present.

Johnston Canyon: all tree cover, hardly notice if its raining or not

Plain of Six Glaciers: mud and floods might stop you

Lake Agnes: 90% tree cover; if you go this far you really must continue up to Big Beehive (or at least Little Beehive)

Edited: 10 June 2018, 13:30
San Jose, California
Level Contributor
15 posts
2 reviews
6. Re: Best hikes for rainy days in Banff area

Just went on the Johnston Canyon hike today with light/moderate rain in the morning. Definitely did not notice the rain, and made it all the way through to the Ink Pots without a problem! For others' reference, it was a little muddy hiking to the Ink Pots but not difficult at all. I did wear a waterproof jacket + pants, and water resistant trail runner shoes.

I'm saving the other hikes for the next few days when there's no rain.

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