This letter proposes a novel design approach for optimal contourlet filter banks based on the parametric 9/7 filter family. The Laplacian pyramid decomposition is replaced by optimal 9/7 filter banks with rational coefficients, and directional filter banks are activated using a pkva 12 filter in the contourlets. Moreover, based on this optimal 9/7 filter, we present an image denoising approach using a contourlet domain hidden Markov tree model. Finally, experimental results show that our approach in denoising images with texture detail is only 0.20 dB less compared to the method of Po and Do, and the visual quality is as good as for their method. Compared with the method of Po and Do, our approach has lower computational complexity and is more suitable for VLSI hardware implementation.