Tower of Babel is not a hike for the faint of heart. In fact, it’s actually one of the many Banff scrambles rather than a hike. Instead of following a trail, Tower of Babel goes straight up a steep gully full of scree and loose rocks.
For those who are new to Rocky Mountain hiking lingo:
Scrambling: a walk up steep terrain involving the use of one’s hands
Scree Field: a collection of broken rock fragments at the base of crags, mountain cliffs, volcanoes, or valley shoulders that has accumulated through periodic rockfall from adjacent cliff faces
Tower of Babel is one’s the best Banff scrambles. It’s steep and it’s technical, but at the top you get a wide-open, overhead view of the stunning Moraine Lake and Consolation Lakes.
So, let’s go scrambling!
- Getting to Tower of Babel trailhead
- About Tower of Babel Trail
- Hiking Tower of Babel
- Essential day-hiking gear
- What to wear hiking
- Scrambling safety
- Tips for a successful hike
- Best places to stay in Banff
This post contains affiliate links; see my full disclosure. If you click these links and make a purchase you’re supporting The Holistic Backpacker. Thanks for your support & happy adventuring! – Taylor ♡
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- Step-by-step guide for planning a trip to Banff
- What to wear hiking in Banff
- Hiking gear guide for Banff
Getting To Tower of Babel Trailhead
Tower of Babel is located at the famous Moraine Lake in Banff National Park. To get to the trailhead it’s about a 40 minute drive from the town of Banff, about an hour from Canmore, and from Calgary it’s just over 2 hours.
Typically in the Rockies you need to rent a car to get to all of the good hiking, but since Moraine Lake is such a huge tourist attraction, you can actually take a bus (more about bus schedules here) to get to this Banff scramble.
A word on driving to Moraine – in the summer months Moraine Lake is a freakin’ zoo. To be honest, I wouldn’t even attempt driving because it will be impossible to find parking. The only exception to this is if you arrive early for sunrise (4am).
When you arrive at Moraine Lake walk toward the rock pile and then toward Consolation Lakes. Along the way you’ll see a massive boulder field – when you reach this point, start walking up. Initially you’ll feel like you’re aimlessly walking up a massive scree slope into the abyss, however you’ll eventually see the gully open up. This is where you’ll hike through to reach the summit.
About Tower Of Babel Trail
- Distance: 2.9km
- Elevation gain: 518m
- Rated: hard
- Type of trail: out & back
- Estimated time: 2hrs
WARNING: Banff scrambles are dangerous. Only attempt Tower of Babel if you have the necessary skills OR if you’re with an experienced hiker. This is not a hike I’d recommend to tourists or novice hikers.
Normally when I report on a hiking trail I talk about exposed roots and rocks, wether or not the trail is easy to follow… You get the point.
Tower of Babel is a little bit different. As I previously mentioned, Tower of Babel is a Banff scramble and the route goes straight up steep terrain over loose rock and scree. Rather than following a trail, you actually get to create your own!
Scree fields typically have small, equal sized rocks which makes it easy to scree ski (if you don’t know what scree skiing is, check it out here). Tower Of Babel’s scree field is unfortunately not like this as it’s composed of all different sized rocks. Consequently, you’ll have to watch your footing, take your time, and be very careful as you navigate the terrain.
The bottom of the hike is full of relatively large rocks, the middle section is a combination of large and small rocks, and closer to the top is more scree which then turns into a scramble. The very top of the hike is where you’ll need to start navigating the terrain with your hands and feet.
I would only recommend hiking Tower of Babel if the terrain is dry. So not after a rainfall, not after a snowfall, and not if you know the weather will be poor that day.
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Hiking Tower Of Babel
There’s no “nice” introduction to this hike. From literally step 1 you’ll be headed straight up a giant rock field. That’s why this hike is so fun though, right?
To give you an idea of what the scree field looks like from the top:
This Banff scramble is steep. Normally super steep hikes zap my energy right away, but Tower of Babel didn’t do this. You need to be so thoughtful and aware of each step that you don’t notice the burn at all. Thank God because you’re literally gaining over 500m in 1.5km.
When we reached the gully, we kept left. I held onto the left side of the gully for extra support whereas a friend of mine stayed in the scree the entire way up. What’s easier here honestly comes down to personal preference.
Within 1-1.5 hours you’ll be at the top!
Before you ask – yes, I’m wearing a ski helmet. It’s imperative that you wear a helmet while scrambling to protect your head from any falling rocks. Normally one would use their climbing helmet or rent one from Bactrax in town, but at the time I was a poor student living in Banff so I had to make due!
The top of Tower of Babel is quite large which gives you lots of space to find your perfect photo-op. On one side you’ll have views of Larch Valley and the turquoise Moraine Lake – yes it does get bluer from above.
On the other side you’ll have a birds-eye view of Consolation Lakes which is another great hike around Moraine Lake.
Something cool about this Banff scramble is that you’ll actually have cell-service at the summit! At the bottom and around Moraine Lake you won’t have any, but the connection was so strong I was able to have a choppy Face-time call with my grandma at the top!
Looking for More Banff Adventures?
Banff is an adventurer’s & view seeker’s paradise. If you’re planning a trip to this gorgeous Canadian Park, you can start with this step-by-step guide designed to help you plan the perfect Banff itinerary.
Alternatively, check out this page with all my Banff resources.
Banff Hiking Resources
On this page you can find all my Banff trail guides. A few signature hikes in Banff are these easy trails, Tunnel Mountain, Sulphur Mountain, Lake Louise, and Johnston Canyon. If you’re only in Banff for a few days, start with those!
More Banff Resources you Might Find Interesting:
Want to continue your Canadian Rockies expedition outside of Banff? Check out my trail guides & travel resources for British Columbia and Kananaskis Country as well as Jasper, Waterton, Yoho, and Kootenay National Parks 🙂
Recommended Hiking Gear
The following items are some of my favourites – I never hit the trail without them!
The Capture Clip by Peak Design is a sturdy, safe, and super convenient way to carry your camera while hiking or backpacking.
Find it on Amazon (CAD).
Find it on Peak Design (US).
A hydration reservoir is SO important. It holds 2L+ of water and keeps you hydrated on-trail. I use the 2L Hydrapak; it never leaks and has a detachable tube.
What To Wear Hiking in the Rockies
For a detailed guide on what to wear hiking in the Canadian Rockies, check out this post.
Choosing what to wear hiking can be confusing, but the secret to properly dressing for a hike is layering. You can mix and match the tops and bottoms you already own to make up your base layers, however in addition to those clothes you’ll need a few extra things:
A waterproof jacket is the most important layer for hiking – it keeps you warm and protects you from wind and rain. I use the Marmot Eco Precip Jacket (men’s version) which is totally a bang-for-your-buck. If rain is in the forecast, don’t forget to pack waterproof pants (men’s version) too.
A good pair of hiking boots are Gore-tex, provide ankle support, and are durable. I use the Scarpa Kailash boot (men’s version) and they’ve never let me down. You’ll also want a good quality pair of socks. I use Smartwool – they’re great quality and last an entire season.
Rocky Mountain hiking exposes you to different natural elements and conditions – it’s imperative that you’re prepared for whatever nature throws at you. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way!
More: Day-hiking Gear Guide
Now that you’ve heard all about Tower of Babel, doesn’t scrambling sound fun? Before you get out on the mountain and tackle this Banff scramble, let’s talk about scrambling safety.
The best way to learn any sort of mountain safety is to take a course. Not everyone has the time or money to do this, but if you’re interested Yamnuska Canadian Rockies Hiking offers a Mountain Scrambling Skills Course in Canmore. Aside from this, I would never suggest attempting your first scramble by yourself or with your pals – unless one of your pals happens to be an experienced hiker.
From personal experience I can tell you that proper clothing makes a big difference when you’re scrambling and navigating scree. Make sure you wear sturdy hiking boots – I use these – along with long pants and a long sleeve top. The most important piece of gear for Banff scrambles is a HELMET which will protect your head from any falling rocks.
When attempting Banff scrambles always leave space between group members and never hike in a line. Why? If hikers above you dislodge rocks, they’re coming straight for you. Additionally if you or anyone else dislodges rocks makes sure to shout “ROCK” to warn fellow hikers below you.
Tips For A Successful Hike
- Only attempt Tower of Babel or any other Banff scrambles if you have the skills and experience required
- The best way to get to Moraine Lake is via the public shuttle during high season
- Wear a helmet and understand Banff scrambling safety
- Hike Tower of Babel for sunrise
Where to Stay in Banff
The “best” place to stay in Banff depends on your price range and what you’re looking for. There are a few ways to go about finding accommodations in Banff according to each price range:
- Find all accommodations in Banff here.
- Iconic Banff hotels: Fairmont Banff Springs, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, The Rimrock Resort hotel, and Sunshine Mountain Lodge (ski in/ski out at Sunshine Village).
- Popular hotels in Banff: Mount Royal, Elk & Avenue, Juniper Hotel & Bistro, Banff Park Lodge, and The Banff Caribou.
- Budget accommodations in Banff: there are numerous hostels in Banff, The Dorothy Motel, Blue Mountain Lodge Bed & Breakfast, Banff Rocky Mountain Resort.
- Iconic hotels near Banff: Emerald Lake Lodge (Yoho), Prince of Wales (Waterton), Mount Engadine Lodge(Kananaskis Country), Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge (Jasper).
Tips for Saving Money on Accommodations
I won’t lie, Banff can be a pretty expensive place to travel (but worth every penny). So, to help you offset some of the costs of your trip, here are tips for saving on accommodations in Banff:
- Camp in town. If you don’t have camping equipment you can rent tents, cooking sets, sleeping bags, and just about everything else from Bactrax.
- Stay at one of Banff’s hostels: the Banff International Hostel, Samesun Banff, HI Banff Alpine Centre, or the HI Lake Louise.
- Utilize Booking.com to compare hotel prices and amenities to ensure the hotel you book suits your needs. Some of the benefits of using Booking.com are their price match guarantee, free cancellation on almost all bookings, and clear pricing with no hidden fees.
- Check out hotels in Canmore. Canmore often offers cheaper rates and is located only 20 minutes from Banff.
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About The Author
Hey! I’m Taylor – the voice behind The Holistic Backpacker.
After moving to Banff National Park in 2020 I became an outdoor adventure enthusiast and vowed to never stop exploring.
I’m now focused on travelling the world and seeing everything our beautiful home has to offer.
I created The Holistic Backpacker so I could share my adventures and help connect people like you with the same amazing experiences.
I am also an advocate for the environment and do as much as I can to take care of our planet.
Get to know me and my story more here 🙂
I can’t wait to share my adventures with you!