Best Time to Visit Banff (2019) • Month By Month Breakdown

Moraine Lake

So you’re thinking of going to Banff and wondering when the best time to visit Banff is. With some stunning scenery to behold all year round, you can’t go wrong with a trip to the Canadian Rockies. Whether you like skiing and snowboarding or you simply want to hike around mountain trails and camp out under the stars, Banff is a dreamy destination of imposing mountains, glassy lakes, and storming waterfalls. We fell in love so much the first time we visited we ended up moving here!

If you were wondering when’s the best time to visit Banff, you need wonder no more. We’ve got it all figured out for you: that means everything from temperatures and snowfall to the best events and festivals that Banff has to offer. Here is a month by month breakdown of the weather in Banff, accompanied by some photos of that month so you can get a picture of what it’s like.

Best Time to Visit Banff – Table of Contents

When is the Best Time to Visit Banff?


Weather in Banff in January

In short, January in Banff means a lot of cold and a lot of snow. But the frequent, heavy snows that fall across the month make places like Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain perfect for hitting the slopes at Lake Louise, Mt. Norquay, and Banff Sunshine. This makes January one of the best times of the year to visit the Canadian Rockies and go skiing and snowboarding in Banff National Park.

Like we said, it’s cold and snowy. Average daytime temperatures are -5°C, and the nights drop to around -10°C. Despite the cold, there’s plenty of sunshine and not a lot of wind. Crisp, cool conditions for winter sports, we’d say.


Weather in Banff in February

Things are getting warmer for Banff in February. Ok, we kid, but the average temperature is around -1°C (but it can get colder). It’s definitely one of the coldest times to visit Banff, but also one of the best times to visit the Canadian Rockies for winter sports. Canadians and international tourist alike are now showing up for their winter adventures, so you may find high season prices.

Nights are still super cold though, hovering at -10°C or even lower; this makes it perfect for sitting around a cozy fireside in the evenings though. Snowfall is unpredictable. Some winters it’s heavy and can provide epic powder days, while other Februarys have seen little snowfall. Nevertheless, you should be prepared for winter in Banff. Most of the time, however, it’s going to be sunny, with about ten hours of daylight. It’s still a great time of year to spend days on the slopes and nights back at the lodge warming up.


Weather in Banff in March

The average temperature in March creeps above freezing (finally) up to around 4°C. The sun shines over the mountains this time of year (12 hours a day, people), the snow glistens, and signs of spring can be seen in less snowy places. Thanks to the snow that’s still left on the slopes, ski season is still in full swing; there’s usually much less snowfall than there has been though, but we’ve seen the powder days on the mountains in March.

There’s not even much windchill to speak of. That said, the nights in the Rockies still drop to below zero. Being the start of spring, the weather can be pretty varied, so make sure you bring plenty of layers. Feel like going ice climbing? March is a good time of year to do it!


Weather in Banff in April

Spring is sorta starting to show up in Banff! Those cool temperatures of winter are almost all but gone, with the average temperature being 11°C. Amazing. Be warned; cold snaps of 6°C or lower are still pretty common… and yeah, the nights are still below freezing.

So it’s not exactly warm, but it’s definitely getting that way. You may be switching out your Canadian Goose jacket for a packable down jacket. With the longer days (14 hours of daylight), it really does feel like spring is here day after day. It’s still a good time to visit Banff if you like snowboarding, since there’s still a lot of snow around; it’s pretty popular this time of year, especially for off-piste tracks and backcountry skiing. Just make sure you know the avalanche risks, the warmer temperatures bring variable conditions. It was in April 2019 that three world-class alpinists lost their lives to an Avalanche in Banff National Park. Make sure you check any conditions before heading out.


Weather in Banff in May

Things really start to get pretty lovely in Banff in May. Temperatures increase, and the sun shines over the land. The mercury hits the mid-teens during May, on average, and the sun doesn’t set till after 8 pm. There can still be a dusting of rainfall in May, especially in higher altitudes, but generally, this is what you’d call pleasant weather.

Banff Sunshine and Lake Louise Ski Resort are still open until Late May, among the longest running ski seasons in North America. You might get the odd powder day too.

The glacier lakes will not be thawed yet, so if you’re coming to Banff expecting to see the amazing blue lakes you should wait another month. It’s not the best time to visit Lake Louise. The famous lakes are still frozen and the access road to the iconic Lake Moraine is not open yet.

Rainfall in May increases to about 50mm – still not that much. At high elevation this means snow capped mountains. At lower elevation you’ll be reaching for a rain jacket. The wildlife is waking up from its winter slumber, and a few mountain hikes are doable now. Though you should check trail reports if you’ll need poles and crampons still. We hiked Sulphur Mountain last year in May and it was still very snowy.

It’s still low season in Banff, and not camping weather quite yet.


Weather in Banff in June

It’s sort of getting into summer by the time June arrives. This is the end of the ski season (boo), but that doesn’t mean that Banff isn’t without anything to do (yay).

It’s a good time of year to visit Banff for hiking; the trails start to get popular in June. Though many are still a little wet and muddy. However, even though day temperatures are pretty high (we’re talking highs of 21°C), once the sun goes down, it’s still very cold, hovering just above 2°C. It’s a good idea to bring some wet weather clothes, since there’s the chance of getting caught in a shower. We climbed Mount Athabasca in June, and it was still very much winter up there.

The good news is the glacier lakes are now thawed. Lake Moraine access road opens by early June and you’ll finally be able to see the majestic body of water. The bad news? Crowds are coming.

By mid June parking at some of the main sites becomes an issue, and you’ll definitely need to secure camping spaces early during this time. Prices in Banff creep up, up, and up, but it’s still not as bad as July.


Weather in Banff in July

July is without a doubt the best time to visit Banff. It is a beautiful summer month in Banff. Rainfall is low and if you’re lucky your vacation will be filled with sunshine and long days.

As such, the town and the national park are filled with visitors who want to come and experience Banff’s beautiful nature for themselves. Camping, enjoying the wildlife, hiking – everything’s on offer. You’ll likely need reservations for the popular camping spots, and if you’re staying at a hotel you’ll be paying high prices for it.

The average temperature is 24°C, but tends to be warmer in the afternoon. Yes, this means you can finally forget about winter, though you’ll still want to pack a packable down jacket and a shell jacket just in case.

All that sunshine and melting snow has made the mountainsides a lush carpet of greenery. There’s also a lot of sunshine – about 16 hours a day, meaning the sun doesn’t set until about 10 pm. Clear, cloudless skies at night equal great stargazing conditions, but bring some layers – it’s about 7°C at night.

Most of the trails are completely snow free. Though if you want to hike Mount Temple, you should wait another month to do so.

Crowds, on the other hand of gotten out of hand. With neverending images of Lake Louise and Lake Moraine on Instagram you’ll be hard-pressed to find parking at the lakes between the hours of 6 am and 7 pm. Yes, I’m serious.

Head away from the popular places to escape the crowds. There’s a lot to explore in Banff National Oark, but everyone always seems to head to the same spot. Spread out and you’ll easily find yourself alone in nature.


Weather in Banff in August

The warmest weather of the year is in August, so if you’re looking for the best time to visit Banff, it’s probably this month – that’s if you prefer hiking to skiing.

The park is alive with flowers and overflowing with nature. Nights can still get quite cold, though, around 7°C, so you might want a sweater or something warm to wear for the evenings, but days can climb to the mid-twenties.

There are some fantastic views to be had from mountainsides in August; the visibility is impressive since the air is relatively free of clouds. Just hope that wildfires haven’t started and that it’s a smoke free summer. If there have been fires out west, it will affect Banff and the air will be hazy.

If you’re a fan of mountain biking, then August may just be one of the best months to go to Banff for you. It’s safe to say that most of the hiking and scrambling trails in Banff are now good to go. Snow free in most places.

However, if you thought July is busy you haven’t seen August. With school holidays and everyone getting their summer on you’ll still see lots of people around the town of Banff and main sites. Bring a rain jacket though, this can be a wet month.


Weather in Banff in September

Things begin to cool off slightly in September, but it’s still relatively warm… for Banff, that is. The average temperature for this month is around 18°C, but nights – as always – can feel quite cold. It’s the start of fall. You know what that means: the town and the park start to change colors to a golden palette, making it a beautiful time of year to visit.

There are generally fewer tourists than during the summer months, but you will still have people visiting for Labor Day and in late September chasing the larches. There are still plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy now. Hiking is still in full swing. Weather can be changeable, so make sure you check the forecast before you head out on an adventure (and be prepared with waterproofs).

Best time to visit Banff

Weather in Banff in October

There’s still plenty of sunshine in Banff in October, but it’s most definitely fall weather. Early October means larch season and a good time to go hiking! The temperature on average is about 10°C, and after dark, it can drop below freezing.

There can be instances of light rain and even snow across the month, but it’s still pleasant enough for hiking in the hills and the valleys. Later in the month, snow starts to fall. An average of four centimeters falls on the mountains, such as on Sulphur Mountain and Mount Norquay. Though October starts like fall – with fall foliage still around – the month ends feeling more wintery, with more snow and fog.

Best time to visit Banff

Weather in Banff in November

November is a changeable month with a mix of sunshine and snow, but generally, the temperatures are much cooler than they have been. These plummet to an average of 3°C. Fall most definitely becomes winter in November.

There’s still only a light breeze though, so there’s not much windchill to worry about, and it’s still great to be outside when you’re in the sunshine. But night time? It can be super cold. Think -9°C. November marks the start of the ski season and you’ll find SkiBig3 resorts open, but the runs will likely be visited by locals. Few tourists are here in November, meaning now crowds and low prices. However, if you wanted to see the beautiful blue lakes in their splendor you’ll be disappointed. They are pretty much frozen now, so grab some ice skates!

Best time to visit Banff

Weather in Banff in December

December is decidedly cold in Banff. In fact, some of the coldest weather of the year is in December. The average temperature, if you were wondering, is about -4°C; so yeah, it’s frigid. After dark, it plummets to -10.

Expect snow and fog and only a few hours of sunshine a day; it’s pretty cloudy. One upside to the gloomy weather is skiing and snowboarding is now in full swing, which obviously becomes a lot more popular over Christmas and New Year. The sun sets around 4:30 pm this time of year, which means less time outside and more time by the fire, sipping coffee, and enjoying the holidays in a picturesque mountain tow.

Being the holidays it’s a popular time to visit Banff. Visitors flock here to spend their Christmas in a winter wonderland. Still, compared to summer it’s not too busy and the Christmas cheer is in the air. It’s a wonderful time to visit Banff!


Festivals in Banff


Winter Festivals in Banff

December is awash with festivities. Obviously, there’s Christmas, the run-up to New Year, and the general holiday season fun, but there are also some cool events to check out, too. The Lake Louise Alpine Ski World Cup is a huge event that’s watched by some 73 million fans around the world.

New Year in Banff is super fun. New Year’s Eve means fun events at Centennial Park as well as sleigh rides, and events spread around the town; Banff Avenue is packed with food stalls and live music.

As the new year starts, January means the Ice Magic Festival. Super skilled people somehow create some amazing ice sculptures that can be found on the shores of Lake Louise. There’s also SnowDays. Towards the end of the month (roughly the same time as Ice Magic), the 12-day-long SnowDays sees a load of snow sculptures take to the streets of Banff for a winter wonderland kind of feel. Both festivals attract many people to see the sculptures, which are admittedly pretty cool.

February has a few events. The Kananaskis Ski Marathon, a competitive, cross-country event with around 50 competitors racing for first place, takes place in this month. The Gathering Music Festival also takes place in mid-February across several nights. 

Spring Festivals in Banff

The Arc’Teryx Canmore Ice Climbing Festival at the beginning of March kicks off spring with a variety of clambering for climbers of various levels. March also sees the Lake Louise Junior Big Mountain Challenge, where young free-skiers compete against each other, pulling out all the stops to impress judges.

In April, there’s the Cochon555. This is actually a culinary event that’s primed and ready for foodies – and lovers of craft beer. If you feel like tackling 40 courses of food, this is where you should be heading. Later in April, there’s the Western Heritage Jubilee; think plenty of late-night entertainment and general merriment.

At the end of April, the Banff Summer Arts Festival begins, and runs to the start of September. It celebrates and displays the work of varying artists throughout the rest of spring and summer.

If you like running, you might want to be in Banff for the Banff to Calgary Road Race. Taking place in May, it’s a grueling task, but being a fundraising event, it’s for a good cause. Also in May is the Slush Cup. What? This is when skiers and snowboards take off their boots, put down their boards, and run down a local ski hill through slushy snow into icy water. Pretty crazy.

As May ends in Banff, there’s the family-friendly Children’s Festival. Think puppet shows, readings from children’s books, and other kid-friendly fun. 

Summer Festivals in Banff

Summer kicks off in Banff with more active fun. It may not be snowy anymore, but the warmer weather means more outdoor sports. The Banff Relay Race, for example, takes place over 186 miles. If you like the sound of that, the Banff Marathon might be a good idea for you as well.

On July 1, it’s Canada Day. This is celebrated with processions, fireworks, and concerts. 

If you like your festivities to be less wild and more of a weekly thing, then you’ll like Banff Farmers Market. This takes place every Wednesday throughout the summer (from late May to early October actually) and is the place to go for fresh produce, crafts, and ceramics – as well as food trucks if you get hungry.

Like music? Then head to the funky Canmore Folk Music Festival. This is a long weekend of music and mayhem that’s been going since 1978. Also in August is Doors Open Banff, a time when monuments and historical monuments are open for visitors to enjoy.

Fall Festivals in Banff

September is a great time to visit Banff. Not only are there beautiful colors adorning the mountainside, but there’s some Scottish heritage to be peeped at the Canmore Highland Games. People don kilts and throw massive logs, amongst other things.

Foodies, listen up; Banff Springs Food and Wine Festival, held in October, sees a delicious array of food (and wine) from around the local area offered up, shown up, and consumed. For beer, wait till November for Banff Craft Beer Festival.

November is cold, so it makes sense that this is the month for the WinterStart Festival. It gets the town into the holiday spirit, with a Santa Claus parade, illuminations, and tasty food galore. Banff Christmas Market also starts in November and is a perfect place for some Xmas gifts and decorations (complete with caroling). 

Best time to visit Lake Louise
A Glacier Lake in August

When is the Best Season to Visit Banff National Park?


High season (June-August, December-February)

Banff National Park has a high season for winter enthusiasts and those after that perfect North American summer getaway. The first, is much quieter than it’s summer counterpart, but around the holidays prics rise and crowds flock to Banff Town. Those after a ski vacation visit Banff in February and ski runs become busier. During these two winter times you’ll find higher prices on accommodation.

However that’s nothing compared to summertime in Banff. Numbers balloon between June and August and while I would love to say that because of this it’s not a good time to visit I would be lying. July and August bring about the best weather in the park. Long days and sunshine await you during the summer. The wildflowers are in full bloom and it’s a great time for anyone looking for a summer adventure. However, the crowds can be a bit insane at Lake Louise, Peyto Lake, and Lake Moraine.

Best time to visit Lake Louise
Lake Louise in August

Shoulder Season (May, September-October)

The shoulder season months are still a wonderful time to visit Banff National Park. As mentioned May is still winter and there is still snow on the ground. The glacier lakes will be frozen, but the summer crowds have not appeared making it a great time to visit Banff.

If chasing the fall and seeing the yellow larches are your thing you’ll want to visit in September and October. After Labor Day the crowds start to fizzle out as the kiddies go back to school and summer vacations are over. Hiking is still great as the winter gods haven’t dumped snow yet.

Sulphur Moutain in May

Low Season (November, March, April) 

These are generally cold, cloudy, and what some may call “miserable” months. Unless you like the winter, snowboarding and skiing, ice skating, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and all that other fun stuff. If you’re a winter person this is time time to visit Banff. Low numbers of tourists, low prices, and plenty of snow!

best time to visit Canadian Rockies

When is the Best Time to Visit Banff for Good Weather?

It depends. If good weather for you is a winter wonderland than the best time to visit Banff is between December and February.

If good weather for you means sunshine and long days then the best time to visit Banff is July and August.

best time to visit Canadian Rockies
Summertime in Banff!

When is the Best Time to Visit Banff for Skiing and Snowboarding?

The ski season in Banff is in full swing between Late November and Late May. The best powder is between December and February, but spring skiing is quite good in late March and April.

Banff Things To Do in Banff - Lake Louise Ski Resort - Natasha Alden
Snowboarding at Lake Louise

When is the Best Time to Visit Lake Louise and Lake Moraine?

This also depends. I think Lake Louise is magical in the winter. It’s covered in snow, there are ice sculptures at the Chateau Lake Louise. You can walk on the lake or take a sleigh ride around Lake Louise. However there is no hiking during this time.

If you want to see the blue Lake Louise you’ll need to visit between June and September. If you’re lucky you may be able to see Lake Louise in early October covered in snow, but still thawed.

Lake Moraine, on the other hand is only accessible when they clear the access road to it in early June. They close this road by Mid October, so unless you want to cross country ski or snowshoe in you’re only time to see Lake Moraine is between these times.

Note that parking at these locations between June and early September is absolutely bonkers. There are few spots and plenty of people that want to visit. If you want a parking spot at the lakes you’ll need to get there before 7 am. It’s been said that Lake Moraine parking is now filling up by 6 am. If you aren’t one of the lucky ones you can park at the overflow parking 2 km away where you can pay $4 to be shuttled into Lake Louise. Once at Lake Louise it is another $6 to get to Lake Moraine. Be aware that in peak summer even the overflow lot can fill up and the lines may exceed two hours.

Lines at Lake Agnes Teahouse in August
best time to visit Canadian Rockies
Lake Louise in August

When is the Best Time to Visit Banff for Hiking?

Hiking season starts around Banff and Canmore in April. Peaks at elevation will still have snow on them so spikes and hiking poles are recommended. Grassi Lakes, Grotto Canyon, and Johnston Canyon walks are good all year round. Sulphur Mountain is also a good year round hike.

Some of the more serious peaks should be saved until late June. You can bet anything above 10,000 ft will have snow on it until late July. These should only be attempted by people with proper hiking and scrambling experience. If in doubt I like to check AllTrails for up to date trip information.

Mount Temple, the only 11,000 footer in the Canadian Rockies that doesn’t require mountaineering experience to the summit is usually good to go by August.

Cirque Peak in July

When is the Best Time To Visit the Canadian Rockies for Wildlife?

There’s wildlife year round in the Canadian Rockies. In the winter you’ll likely see a lot of elk and goats. If you’re lucky you might come across a moose or a coyote. Maybe even a wolf (though unlikely).

Summertime means bear season. Come early May the bears start to wake up and bear spray should be carried on any hike. Look out for the black bears and grizzlies, but do so safely. Do not approach wildlife in Banff and view them quickly from the safety of your car and then move on – don’t create a traffic jam by taking photos of a bear for twenty minutes.

Year round you’ll also stand a chance of seeing foxes, owls, and plenty of birds. Look out for the bunnies of Canmore as well!

best time to visit banff

When is the Cheapest Time to Visit Banff?

The cheapest time to visit Banff is during the low season months. This is November, March, April, and early May. Banff is not a cheap destination so if you’re looking for a deal on accommodation these months are your best months.

Another budget alternative is to get a group of people together for a campervan trip.

best time to visit Canadian Rockies
The Three Sisters in late May

What Are Some Things to do in Banff?

Oh man where do I start!? There are so many fantastic places to visit in Banff it needs a whole new post. You can also see my favorite things to do in Canmore, my favorite things to do in Banff in the winter, and the best things to do in Jasper National Park.

best time to visit Canadian Rockies
Paget Peak in July

Places to Stay in Banff


Elk+Avenue

The first time we visited Banff we stayed at Elk+Avenue hotel in Banff which had a great location right on the main street and across from a grocery store. Rooms here are comfortable and spacious. 

Agoda.comBooking.comHotels.com


Fairmont Banff Springs

This is easily the most luxurious (and expensive) place to stay in Banff. It’s situated in a secluded spot in the forest and provides guests with amazing views.

Agoda.comBooking.comHotels.com


things to do in Banff

Airbnb

For apartment rentals in Banff consider looking at Airbnb. However, Airbnb’s in Banff don’t come cheap and you will need to book them well in advance. Especially in peak summer and around the winter holidays. You can read about choosing a good Airbnb hereHere is a coupon for your first stay with Airbnb!

Airbnb Coupon


Plan Your Trip to Banff


Travel Insurance

We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen in a foreign country and it’s best to be prepared. World Nomads provides good short term coverage

SafetyWing is perfect for digital nomads. See our full review here!

Check Rates


Things to do in Jasper
Guide Book

Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend picking up a Lonely Planet to get you through the wireless nights.

Guide Book


Backpacking-packing-list
Hiking/Daypack Backpack

You’re going to need something to carry your belongings in while your traveling around Jasper. Even if you’re not doing extensive hikes you need at least something small for day trips. My favorite daypacks are from Camelbak.

See our favorite hiking backpacks here!


Backpacking Essentials
Sunglasses

Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun in Canada. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.

We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.

Purchase Sunglasses


Sunscreen

Skin cancer is for real, even in the mountains! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Jasper. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the sun in the summer.

We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals.

Get Sunscreen


Backcountry Essentials
Hiking Shoes or Boots

If you’re wondering what necessities to bring to Banff then sturdy shoes are perhaps the most important thing you will need before you get to Canada.

I love my Merrell Moab Ventilators and have been going strong in them for two years! Check out my other recommendations on women’s shoes, and we have a post on the best safari boots.

Best Lightweight Hiking Boots


down jacket
Down Jacket

I ALWAYS have a down jacket with me on every single hike I go on in the Rockies. They aren’t just good for hikes, but doing anything in the mountains. Even in July, you may still find yourself reaching for a jacket!

Down jackets pack up light and small so there is no reason NOT to have one in your bag. Seriously it could save your life in a bad situation. We wrote a whole post on our favorites (hint –Feathered Friends, Arc’Teryx Cerium LT Hooded JacketPatagonia Down SweaterREI Coop Down Jacket)

Feathered Friends


Sarrail Ridge
Goretex Shell

We’re building up a collection of shell jackets. We always carry one in our pack and they’ve come in handy a number of times. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof. We have a bunch of different shell jackets after several years, but my favorite right now is from Arc’teryx.

Any jacket can do the job, but the top dollar ones will hold up and really help in inclement weather.

Arc’teryx


Backpacking Essentials
Waterbottle

Please consider purchasing a travel water bottle before your trip! We hate to see one time use plastic bottles ending up in the ocean. The tap water is so good here – seriously please don’t be one of those tourist that buys plastic water bottles in Jasper. It’s a waste of money and plastic!

Grayl Waterbottle


Backpacking Checklist
Buff

I love my buff. I usually wear it for keeping my hair back, but it’s also served its purpose as a scarf and wet rag too. Buffs last for years and aren’t only helpful in the mountains. I actually wear mine every day when I’m snowboarding even traveling in the desert. It’s been one of my top travel accessory investments ever!

Get a Buff!


Move to Canada

Transport

The best way to get all around Alberta is with your own rental car. See all our tips on how to rent a car in Canada here.


road trip quotes
Driving in February

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About the Author

Natasha

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Natasha is a five-foot blonde that believes she was made short so she could fit in air, train, car, and bus seats comfortably. She believes in watching every single movie nominated for an Oscar and loves all animals. Natasha has a passion for environmentally friendly and sustainable travel. Natasha recently made a move to Canada and resides near Banff National Park in Alberta and loves new adventures in the mountains. Natasha's favorite countries are Italy, Iceland, Greece, Japan, Mozambique, and South Africa.


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