Paradise Valley and Giant Steps Waterfall

Banff National Park

A longer day hike that leaves the crowds behind, passing a small lake and reaching a unique waterfall in the Banff backcountry.

Hiking Moderate

Distance
20 km
Ascent
730 m
Descent
730 m
Duration
4-5 hrs
Low Point
1.7 km
High Point
2.1 km
Gradient
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Paradise Valley and Giant Steps Waterfall Map

Description

The valley called Paradise lies between the valleys of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, and though thousands drive past it every day, relatively few stop and hike here. Its trails are much longer and a bit more rugged than those of the more popular destinations, so Paradise Valley remains uncrowded even during the busy season. You should still arrive early, however, because parking at the trailhead is limited.

Paradise Valley’s most popular hike is the 11.4-kilometer return trip to Lake Annette, but a longer trip continues to Giant Steps Waterfall and the Paradise Valley backcountry campground. At the Giant Steps, glacier water streams over many granite ledges, resembling a giant staircase. The campground is nearby, making peaceful overnight stays and longer excursions possible during the early season, but it usually closes in July due to bear activity. Because of this narrow window for camping, the hike to Giant Steps is most often done as a full-day return trip. Check Parks Canada Reservations for campsite availability.

The hike begins as a well-traveled path through thick subalpine forest, occasionally crossing Paradise Creek on bridges, to reach Lake Annette. The panoramic shore of this small lake makes a good place for a rest before continuing on. From there, the trail becomes more rugged and gains more elevation, soon leaving the forest for rocky slopes at the foot of Mount Temple, where views really open up of the surrounding peaks. Eventually, you’ll re-enter the trees and reach a junction with the trail to Sentinel Pass. The trail to Giant Steps turns downhill, through forest and meadows and over some small creeks before reaching the waterfalls.

Grizzly bears live throughout Banff National Park, but this valley is a particularly good habitat for them, hence the restrictions on the campground. Bears come out when the berries grow in July through early September, so you must hike in groups of four or more during this time, and practice all other bear safety precautions while on the trail.

Sources: http://www.albertawow.com/hikes/paradisevalley/paradisevalley.htm https://geoks.ca/2012/08/06/hiking-banff-national-park-lake-annette-paradise-valley-giant-steps/

Difficulty

Moderate

Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

June, July, August, September

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area