Boom Lake is a little known easy hike in Banff National Park, ending at a large gorgeous lake with Boom Mountain in the background. Whether hiking in summer or cross country skiing in winter, it’s a picturesque year-round destination.
With the exponential growth of visitors in Banff National Park, it’s not always easy to find hiking trails without masses of people. There are still plenty of them, don’t get me wrong bu you need to know where to look. They are lesser-known, usually difficult, long and sometimes not even marked on a map.
Boom Lake Hike is a rare exception. The trailhead is close to the highway; it’s well signed, easy to follow, very easy for all levels and we haven’t met many people on the trail (you need to arrive in the morning for this luxury though). It’s also one of the easiest Banff hikes.
The best part we love about Boom Lake? It’s easy to reach year-round!
In this blog post, I’m going to share our experience of visiting, year-round conditions of the trail and photos from both seasons so you can decide when you’d like to visit. Enjoy!
For more activities, read our post 100 things to do in Banff National Park
More hiking ideas:
- 15 best day hikes near Calgary
- Hiking in Jasper National Park: 17 best hikes for all levels
- 20 best hikes in Banff National Park
- Hiking in Yoho National Park
Pros & cons of the Boom Lake Hike
- Easy wide trail
- Little elevation gain
- Great effort to views ratio
- A refreshing picturesque lake as a reward
- Option to swim in the lake
- Benches for a picnic
- The trail through the forest with no views
Where is Boom Lake & how to get there
Boom Lake is located in Banff National Park at 1,930 meters above sea level, and close to Kootenay National Park.
From Banff town, it’s 38 km to the trailhead (or 34 km if you’re coming from Lake Louise). Take Trans-Canada Highway heading west (for about 30 km). Then take exit (near Castle Junction) left to 93S/Banff-Windermere Highway towards Radium Hot Springs.
7 km later, you will see a sign on the right to the Boom Lake day-use area. There’s a big parking lot with picnic tables and an outhouse. The trailhead is located by the big wooden sign at the far end of the parking lot.
Boom Lake Hike in Banff National Park
- Distance: 10.6 km roundtrip
- Elevation gain: 200 m
- Difficulty: easy
- Best time to go: year-round (Boom Lake trail has no avalanche danger)
- Gear: water bottle with filter (you can fill up from the creek or lake in summer), windproof jacket, running shoes (the trail is easy), bear spray, sunscreen
- Tips: the trail is signed and straightforward, you don’t need a map; wear good shoes especially in spring when the trail is muddy; parking lot has picnic tables and an outhouse
We’ve visited in summer and winter and love tranquillity on the trail and around the lake during both seasons.
Boom Lake in summer
Because the trail is almost flat with a very few small hilly sections, we’ve decided to go for a trail run instead of a hike. The reason is quite simple – the whole trail is in the valley, leads through a forest, and it’s quite boring with no views.
You start in a wide-open area with picnic tables and wooden bridge leading across the Boom Creek. The wide trail narrows a bit as you get closer to the lake. The small creek along the way provided us with much needed cool off.
For a longer run (or hike), there is an option to turn onto a trail to O’Brien Lake (8.5 km) or further to Taylor Lake (11 km). The sign for both lakes is about half-way to the Boom Lake. It seems like a nice option for a longer day in the mountains. We’ll try this trail next time.
But let’s get back to Boom Lake for now. When you start seeing mountains through the trees, you’re almost at the Boom Lake. The trail slightly descends and narrows until you reach a field of boulders. There’s no grassy or flat area around the lake but lots of big boulders to sit on and relax.
We went a bit further along the lake, jumping from one boulder to another until we found privacy for a refreshing dip in this glacier-fed lake. It was very quiet, the sun was beating down and all we’ve heard was splashing the water on the rocks and pleasant summer breeze.
The lake was crystal clear. I couldn’t resist the urge of jumping right in. It was a very cold plunge, like any other lake in the Rockies to be honest. My body was buzzing from the water for several minutes after I got out and let the sun dry my body. The cold lake and the mountain views are always a great combination in summer.
We had a small picnic and admired the views of the Boom Mountain and other peaks dividing Alberta and British Columbia.
Then we ran back to the parking lot where our Smile Campervan was waiting for us. It was stocked with our favourite snack after a run – Nutella with strawberries. Together with cold drinking water, that’s all we needed to end an amazing short trail run in our beloved Rockies.
Boom Lake in winter
Our first visit to Boom Lake was in the winter. We’ve heard it’s a popular and easy trail for winter hiking, snow-shoeing and cross country skiing. Even though there are no tracks set, it’s an easy outing for any winter day.
Unlike in summer, in winter, we’ve arrived to snow covered lake and a long stretch of flat shore. It was just waiting for us to lie down and sunbathe. Who says you can’t sunbathe by the lake in winter, right?
To explore a bigger part of the lake that it’s only possible in winter, we followed the ski tracks across the lake where we’ve discovered several frozen waterfalls. (A word of caution: several avalanche paths are coming down the mountains around the lake and I wouldn’t recommend going closer to the waterfalls or shore if it snowed recently).
Our winter trip was even more beautiful than we’ve expected, we’ll be back for sure.
Where to next?
If you’re heading north to Jasper National Park, check out our comprehensive guide to Icefields Parkway, a stunning scenic drive with breathtaking views, hikes, lakes, and glaciers.
Know before you go
- National park entrance
When you enter Banff National Park, you’re required to pay an entrance fee. You have a choice of either a daily pass or a yearly pass.
- 10 CAD per person for a daily pass, 20 CAD for a group/family
- 69.19 CAD per person for a yearly pass, 139.40 CAD for a group/family
The yearly Discovery Pass is valid for all National Parks in Canada. You can purchase it at the gate when you enter the national park, in the Visitor’s Centre or online here.
Read our recommendation: Hiking packing list for summer in the mountains
- Staying in Banff National Park
To have the most freedom and enjoy nature to the fullest while staying on a budget, we always recommend staying in the campgrounds. Banff National Park has many with picturesque scenery. Read our comprehensive guide about camping in Banff National Park for all camping info and lots of pictures of the campgrounds.
- Road closure
For trail closures due to wildlife presence or avalanche dangers in Banff National Park, check out the report from Parks Canada.
Accurate road conditions can be checked here.
- Trail report
Before you head out, check current trail conditions on Trail Report from Parks Canada.
- Bear country
As always in the Canadian Rockies, you are in bear habitat. You should always carry a bear spray (can be purchased at Visitor’s Centre or outdoor stores), know when and how to use it and make noise while hiking and running (so you don’ surprise any bears)! Carefully read these instructions on how to behave around them.
Our favourite hikes in the Rockies
Canmore & Kananaskis Country:
Banff National Park:
- Sulphur Mountain
- Johnston Canyon in summer and winter
- Aylmer Lookout
- Glacier Lake
- Mount St. Piran
- Healy Pass
- Rockbound Lake
- Peyto Lake
Yoho National Park:
Kootenay National Park:
Jasper National Park:
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