If you are looking for the best things to do in Banff we have you covered! We visited this little mountain town a few years back and fell in love so much that we decided to move to the Canadian Rockies.
There’s really nowhere quite as special as Banff National Park. Whether it’s the winter or summer in Banff there is so much to do in Banff it’s impossible to get bored.
The mountains provide an endless playground bringing in millions of tourists a year. Hopefully, this guide will provide you with the information to choose the things you want to do while you’re visiting Banff!
The Best Things to do in Banff, Canada
Relax at Lake Minnewanka
One of the top things to do in Banff National Park is to enjoy Lake Minnewanka. Lake Minnewanka is a beautiful lake that is just a ten-minute drive away from the town of Banff. This lake is 21 km long and 142 meters deep, the largest in the Canadian Rockies!
In the summer, it’s a busy place to hike and go canoeing on, and in the winter, it’s a sight to behold. The mountains towering over Lake Minnewanka are seriously impressive all year round. Oh yea, and there’s also a Canadian resort ghost town under the lake.
Photograph Two Jack Lake
Just a five-minute drive away from Lake Minnewanka is Two Jack Lake. It’s another fantastic lake with Mount Rundle Views. Two Jack is one of the most photographed lakes in the Canadian Rockies, due to its proximity to Banff. However, in the winter it’s possible to arrive here with a travel tripod and be all by yourself.
Ski/Snowboard Big Mountain Terrain
Snowboarding at all of the SkiBig3 resorts was our primary reason for heading to Banff in the winter. SkiBig3 is a collection of three mountain resorts all within Banff National Park. You have Lake Louise, Banff Sunshine, and Mt. Norquay which are all fantastic and unique ski resorts. Skiing or snowboarding here is one of the best things to do in Banff in the winter.
I was standing in the middle of a massive chute watching Natasha’s snow rain down on me from the slope above. The run below me looked like a straight cliff and while standing I could touch the mountain, at least it felt that way. Banff Sunshine is a mountain that truly offers something to everyone from professionals right down to beginners. You can easily find yourself smack dab in freeride terrain that would be considered out-of-bounds in other resorts.
If you want to find a mountain with some seriously humbling terrain in-bounds then Banff Sunshine is the place to head. Jagged peaks loom high above alpine trees and the views are unparalleled. When you first arrive in the parking lot the mountain does not look like much as the base is simply a gondola station and one restaurant. In fact, to reach the true resort base guests must take a 15-minute gondola that delivers them into a sprawling resort that looks like it belongs in the Alps, not North America.
Banff Sunshine contains two expert only areas that require all riders and skiers to sign out with the ski patrol and carry an avalanche kit. Delirium Dive and Wild West areas feature massive cliff features, chutes, and some seriously steep terrain.
Don’t let the expert terrain detract you from visiting the resort as it also has a plethora of groomed beginner and intermediate runs. The resort has something for everyone and the base area makes for a perfect central point to meet after skiing the surrounding peaks.
- Lift Ticket Cost: Adult – $109 • Youth – $85 • Child – $42 • Senior – $85 (Book Tickets Here)
- Runs/Skiable Terrain: 145 runs • 3,300 acres
- Favorite Runs: World Cup Downhill, Bunkers, The Shoulder, Wildside, Rolling Thunder, Tin Can Alley
Lake Louise Ski Resort
There is arguably no ski resort in the world with a better view than Lake Louise Ski Resort, that photo above is what we’re talking about. In between runs screaming down groomers or tackling a bowl Banff National Park provides you some fresh air and stunning landscapes. We visited thirty resorts in one season and the views from Lake Louise were hands down some of the best in the world.
It also happens to be one of the largest ski resort in North America with 4,200 acres covering four mountain faces. The terrain varies between beautiful groomers, challenging steeps, and expert level chutes. The longest run here stretches for nearly five miles so start working out your leg muscles now.
- Lift Ticket Cost: Adult – $104 • Youth – $79 • Child – $39 • Senior – $79 (Book Tickets Here)
- Runs/Skiable Terrain: 145 • 4,200 acres
- Favorite Runs: Brown Shirt, Juniper Jungle, Men’s Downhill, Saddleback, Sunset Terrace, and E Chute.
Mt Norquay is the most digestible of resorts here and the least imposing for beginners/intermediates. It’s only a 10 minute drive from the town of Banff, making it a great option to go get some runs in and still have time in town. The resort has been in operation since 1926 and offers a number of activities asides from snowboard and ski. It’s also the only mountain that offers night skiing in the area and relatively small in comparison to the other resorts of SkiBig3.
While Lake Louise and Banff Sunshine can draw a decent crowd (still few lines) Mt. Norquay is a quiet mountain. You’ll have a hard time finding crowds here and it’s the perfect place to learn how to ski with a good ski school and affordable lift ticket. They also offer snowshoe hikes, tubing, and child care. The biggest plus to Mt. Norquay for us is the proximity to the town of Banff, only a 10-minute drive.
- Lift Ticket Cost: Adult – $74 • Youth – $56 • Child – $29 • Senior – $56 (Book Tickets Here)
- Runs/Skiable Terrain: 60 • 72 acres
- Favorite Runs: Constellation, Norquay 90 Glades, and Lone Pine.
Catch Sunset at Vermilion Lakes
A great Banff summer and winter excursion is Vermilion Lakes. Vermilion Lakes is one of my favorite places to go in Banff for both sunrise and sunset. Mount Rundle, arguably the most famous mountain in the whole park towers over the lake creating an epic backdrop any time of the year.
It’s the perfect place to come early morning and enjoy your coffee, or travel to for sunset with a bottle of wine.
You can also take a canoe, kayak, or paddleboards out here and enjoy the water. The lakes are pretty calm and a great place for a chill ride.
Walk Around Johnston Canyon
The Johnston Canyon walk is the best thing you can do in Banff in the winter or summer for free. In the winter it’s truly magical and has fewer tourists (but still busy). Have you ever stood on a frozen waterfall before? Neither had we until the Johnston Canyon hike. Due to the elevation of the region and the sub-zero temperatures of winter the waterfalls of Johnston Canyon freeze in time. It’s a pretty surreal experience and completely accessible for all.
As a tip, we suggest picking up some ice cleats in town if you visit Banff in the winter. Although the trail is well managed it can get icy and it’s better to slip everywhere on the trail – ours were very handy! Once you reach the end of the trail and the most impressive frozen fall you’ll probably find some ice climbers. If you’re feeling adventurous book an ice climbing tour yourself.
The summer is a completely different experience and nice to watch the waterfalls in motion. It is one of the easiest hikes you can do around Banff, with a well-maintained trail that is suitable for all ages. If you want to make a bit more of day out make sure to continue on to the Ink Pots.
Climb Mount Athabasca
Mount Athabasca looms over one of the most popular attractions on the famed Icefields Parkway, and sits right on the border of Banff and Jasper, but only a few get to see the view from the top. To reach the summit requires a long hike to a technical glacier crossing and then up an exposed face or couloir. The views are breathtaking in more ways than one. From the top, you can spot countless glaciers, icefields, and many of Alberta’s highest peaks.
The peak is one of many in the Canadian Rockies famous for reaching an altitude of 11,000 feet. Many climbers in the Rockies have the lifetime goal of summiting all 54 (58) of the peaks, and they are considered classic mountaineering objectives. At 11,453 feet in elevation with a massive glacier and convenient location, Athabasca proves to be a tremendous first “11,000er.”
You cannot attempt this on your own without mountaineering experience, it is a serious mountain. We did a three-day mountaineering course with Yamnuska and summited on the third day – the experience was epic. This is probably not for everyone, but definitely one of the more adventurous things to do in Banff.
Walk on Athabasca Glacier via the Ice Explorer
If you’re not feeling a full-on mountaineering climb up Athabasca you can still go see the glacier, and even walk on it on the Ice Explorer. Here you can get some history around the glacier and experience the fun without much physical effort.
Walk on the Glacier Skywalk
Okay, this is technically in Jasper National Park, but it’s so close to Banff I had to include it on this list. If you’re already at Athabasca Glacier you may as well continue a couple of kilometers down the road to the Glacier Skywalk. Here you can step out on a cliff edge walk and see the glaciers around you and have views out of the Sunwapta Valley.
The Columbia Icefield Skywalk has views of wildlife, waterfalls, and fossils. It’s a fun family-friendly thing to do in Banff. However, in my opinion you can get the same experience by going on a beautiful hike in Banff National Park for free!
Enjoy Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake is the most popular thing to do in Banff, and arguably the most popular sight to see in all of Canada. This iconic lake is the picturesque picture of Canada (seriously, just Google image “Canada” and see what comes up). With the ten peaks rising high over the glacier waters Lake Moraine is certainly a Banff attraction to see.
Lake Moraine is about an hour drive away from Banff town, and only twenty minutes further than Lake Louise. With it’s rising popularity and millions of Instagram location tags you’ll have to arrive around 6 am to grab a parking spot between June and September.
If you don’t get a parking spot you’ll have to either head back down to Lake Louise and fight for a parking spot there and shuttle in. If that is full (which it frequently is) you will have to try your luck at overflow parking 2km away and take a bus to Lake Louise and then get on another shuttle bus to Moraine Lake. It sounds simple, but in peak summer this whole process can take hours.
Just note that if you think you’re going to make your visit to Moraine Lake quiet and easier by visiting in the off-season you may want to think again. Moraine Lake Road closes between (approximately) October 10 to May 22. There road gets covered in snow and avalanche risk is high.
A visit in early October or Late May will provide you with the most promising parking situation and fewer crowds. Alternatively, you can snowshoe in the 11 km in the winter or bike in before the first snow falls.
Hike Around Moraine Lake
I’d say 90% of the people that head to Moraine Lake stay for an hour or so, take photos, and leave. But there is so much more to do at Moraine Lake than this. If you want an easy activity you can rent a canoe, but the more adventurous should consider a few of the hikes.
The easiest one is the Consolation Lakes. This follows the path up the Lake Moraine rockpile and into the valley. This hike is only 6km roundtrip and has a 60m elevation gain.
Other hikes are Sentinel Pass, a 12 km moderate hike (732m elevation). The Tower of Babel scramble and Eiffel Peak hike are much harder and should be reserved for experienced hikers, but provide epic views over Moraine Lake.
Drive the Icefields Parkway
The Icefields Parkway is one of the most beautiful road trips you can take in the entire world. The Icefields Parkway (Highway 93 North) connects Lake Louise with Jasper in Jasper National Park. The drive itself is stunning, but there are so many pull-offs along the way. Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, and Herbet Lake are just to name a few.
This drive is amazing both in the winter and summer, but be warned if you do it in the winter to allow extra time – roads can be icy!
To make the most of driving the Icefields Parkway I would start early (6 am) and allocate at least two days.
Taste the Gin at Park Distillery
The Park Disterilly is a hip Banff restaurant and distillery in the town of Banff. It’s great for lunch and dinner in Banff (but gets busy in the summer!).
This gin distillery has won multiple awards and has some delicious cocktails. I mean what can you expect from a place where the water comes from glaciers? It’s the perfect place to come with friends after a day out hiking or on the ski hill. They do daily free distillery tours (call to check times).
Enjoy a Beer at Banff Ave Brewery
If you’re not much a gin person then go down the street to Banff Ave Brewery. This brewery was opened by the same crew who opened the Jasper Brewing Co (Canada’s first National Park Brewery) after great success.
Located on Banff Avenue this two-story restaurant and bar serves up delicious food and great beer. It’s well worth a stop for anyone visiting Banff. Try to get a seat outside in the summer and watch life go by!
Have a Picnic!
A holiday to Banff is not a cheap one. Banff is a tourist town and prices are higher than many other places in Canada. If you go out to eat for every meal you’ll put a huge dent in your wallet. So one of the best things to do in Banff is enjoy a picnic!
I recommend grabbing some bread and cheese and a cooler and enjoy a picnic lunch (just remember to leave no trace). There are so many lakes and rivers to pull off by in the summer and enjoy a meal in the mountains.
If you really want to save money on your food to Save On Foods or Safeway in Canmore where prices are normal grocery store prices.
Climb Cascade Mountain
Cascade Mountain towers over the town of Banff and has been on every postcard of Banff National Park for years. It’s beautiful to look at, but you don’t just have to stop there!
Did you know you can actually climb Cascade Mountain? It will require work, a bit of scrambling, and a long 20km day, but the rewards are fantastic views over Lake Minnewanka and the glory of saying you summited Cascade! It’s not the most exciting hike you can do in Banff, but is easily accessible from the town if you don’t want to venture far.
Canoe on Lake Louise
Lake Louise is the other iconic lake that millions from around the world flock to Banff to see. It is certainly a highlight of any trip to Canada. Lake Louise, while not AS scenic as Moraine Lake is still pretty darn mesmerizing.
Lake Louise is another glacier-fed lake that sparkles bright turquoise blue under the sun. The mountains rising up around it provide the perfect backdrop to any photo.
Lake Louise is frozen solid from late October to early June, but in the summer you can take a canoe out and enjoy the fresh air. During the winter you can walk out on the lake, go for sleigh rides, and go ice skating.
Lake Agnes Teahouse Trek
The Lake Agnes Teahouse trek is a popular thing to do in Banff for visitors of Lake Louise. This is an easy to moderate hike above Lake Louise that is suitable for all visitors to Banff.
When you reach the top of the 7.6 kilometer (round trip) heavily trafficked out and back trail you’ll find a teahouse and stunning Lake Agnes.
This is an easy hike that can be done in under an hour and is an iconic thing to do in Banff. However, be warned it is a busy one!
Hike Around Lake Louise
To escape the crowds (and get better views) keep climbing to the Little Beehive and Big Beehive, Mt. St. Piran, or Devils Thumb. If you’re an experienced Scrambler you can keep going past to summit Mount Niblock (moderate scramble) or Mount Whyte (difficult!). See our favorite Lake Louise hikes here.
Stroll Through the Cascade Gardens
Walking through the gardens is one of the best things to do in Banff. to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while you stroll through the beautiful garden. It’s located behind Park Canada’s building right at the end of Banff Ave. From the garden you get great views of Rundle and Cascade. This should go without saying, but don’t pick the flowers.
Soak in the Banff Hot Springs
Enjoying hot water in the cool air is one of the top Banff winter activities to enjoy. Don’t let the frigid Canadian temperatures detract you because there are plenty of ways to warm up around the Banff. Just outside of the Banff town lies the Banff Upper Hot Springs.
These hot springs make for one of the best places to relax those stiff muscles after a ski day. Just be warned afternoons can draw a crowd so head there in the morning for a more quiet experience.
Mt Norquay Via Ferrata
Want to get into the mountains, but have the safety of harnesses and a mountain guide? Mt. Norquay’s Via Ferrata is the perfect thing to do for those looking for a real adventure in the Canadian Rockies.
This is an assisted climbing experience up Mount Norquay. There are four different routes that vary in length and difficulty. Perfect for any visitor in Banff with many different options for families too.
Climb Sulphur Mountain
Still wondering what to do in Banff in the summer or winter? How about you climb a mountain just outside of town.
Sulphur Mountain is easily one of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park. It’s a beautiful hike up that provides visitors with astonishing views over the Bow Valley.
Due to it’s proximity to Banff town, and the fact that you can take the Banff Gondola up to the peak instead of sweating it out on the trail means that Sulphur mountain becomes very busy in the summer! In the winter a pair of crampons and some hiking poles will help you tackle the trail up in no time. You can read all about hiking Sulphur Mountain here.
Take the Banff Gondola Up Sulphur Mountain
The Banff Gondola is there for you if you want to get those amazing six mountain range views from the top of Sulphur Mountain without the climb up or down.
The Banff Gondola runs year-round and provides the chance to relax and hang over the trees.
The Banff Gondola is not a cheap experience at $62 Round trip. In my opinion, the gondola is great for those that are not physically able to do the hike. This may mean people with disabilities, the elderly, or large families.
If you are able, I highly recommend hiking up Sulphur Mountain. It’s not a hard climb and doable all year round. The beautiful view will feel much more rewarding! Either way you can’t travel to Banff and not take in the views from Sulphur Mountain. It’s one of the top Banff activities to do!
Hike to Helen Lake
Helen Lake is a beautiful lake along the Icefields Parkway. It’s far less popular than nearby Moraine Lake or Lake Louise. While the water is not glacier-fed bright blue it’s just as beautiful and quiet. Visiting here is one of the best things to do in Banff, Canada.
To get to Helen Lake you must hike in on a moderate trail for 6km (one way). The trail is well maintained and absolutely stunning with views of mountains and blooming wildflowers everywhere! Bring lunch here and enjoy the views. See the full hike report here.
Scramble Cirque Peak
Want more of a challenge past Helen Lake? Keep going once you reach the lake up up Cirque Peak. This is an amazing (yet difficult) hike that provides absolutely amazing views (some say the best in Banff).
It’s a tough steep climb, especially towards the top, and some of it can get a little sketchy, so this should only be attempted by seasoned hikers. You’ll likely find 50 or so marmots along the way. You can try asking them for directions if you get lost, but they probably won’t be much help!
When you reach the summit enjoy the vies and crack a beer – you did it! This whole circuit (Helen Lake+Cirque Peak) took us six hours roundtrip, but we are fast hikers. I would allocate at least 7-8 for this trip. See the full hike report here.
Head to Peyto Lake
Peyto Lake (PEE-toh) is a glacier-fed lake in Banff National Park. This is probably the third most popular lake to visit in Banff, after Louise and Moraine. The reason is its unique shape and absolutely mind-blowingly blue water.
Peyto Lake is easily accessible from the Icefields Parkway. To get a great view all you have to do is park and hike up an easy 10 minute path to the viewpoint. It’s the perfect place to come and enjoy the stellar Banff National Park views in both winter and summer. Read all the details about Peyto Lake here.
Get Those Mount Rundle Views
Mount Rundle is one of the most famous mountains in all of Canada and a top sight to see in Banff year round. It’s an icon to Banff and will make you feel incredibly small any time of day.
As mentioned before, Mount Rundle is best seen at sunrise and sunset. Besides Vermillion Lakes, my most favorite spot to see Mountain Rundle is the Mount Norquay Lookout (photo above)
SUP on Bow Lake
Right before you get to Peyto Lake you’ll spot Bow Lake on your left (driving from Banff Town). Bow Lake is one of the larger lakes on the Icefields Parkway and lies south of the Bow Summit. It’s a beautiful lake to stop by and take in the surroundings, but it’s even better when you can get out on the water. We love to take our inflatable Stand Up Paddleboards around Banff so that we can pull over and take them out for a paddle.
Spot the Banff Wildlife
Banff wildlife is active all the time. Apart from bears, you’ll find moose, elk, deer, owls, foxes, wolves, and coyotes here all year round. In the summer, it’s very possible you’ll catch a glance of a black or brown bear (hike with bear spray always).
I love spotting these animals all around the Bow Valley. Please remember if you want to pull over to take photos of wildlife to do so safely and make sure you are out of the way of traffic.
Hike C Level Cirque
A short, but rewarding hike near Banff is C Level Cirque. C Level Cirque starts near Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake, it’s a steady incline to the amphitheater which should only take about 45 minutes.
You can stop here, but the views over Lake Minnewanka start when you climb higher. Follow the trail around the amphitheater and up for about 45 more minutes until you reach the rock wall.
I love doing this hike when I am short on time as you can get it done in under three hours. It’s great for families and older visitors to Banff. This is a 9 km out and back trail which can get very busy on weekends in the summer.
Enjoy the Town of Banff
If you want a day of shopping, cappuccinos, and breweries stay in the Banff downtown area and enjoy a day of walking around. Banff Ave has tons of restaurants, boutique shops, and cheesy souvenir stores to entertain all. Just taking a morning to chill and walk around is truly one of the best things to do in Banff.
Hike Up Mount Bourgeau
Mount Bourgeau is a 2,931-metre (9,616 ft) tall mountain in the heart of Banff National Park. It’s easily accessible from the town of Banff and Canmore. Only a 10-15 minute drive to the parking area, which makes it a great thing to do in Banff.
Mount Bourgeau is an easy hike with no scrambling involved and provides amazing views over Banff. The only issue is it’s 21 km, so prepare for a full day out if you plan to summit Bourgeau. Nevertheless, if you want a full-on fulfilling hike in Banff summiting Bourgeau is easily attainable for the reasonably fit.
Check Out Bow Falls
Bow Falls are a must see when in Banff. They are only a short walk away from the town and take you into magnificent nature. Depending on when in the winter you go to see them they may be frozen, but we’ve been lucky and seen the beauty of them half in ice and half water. There are nice walkways for visitors so they can view safely.
Be warned it’s one of the most popular things to do near Banff downtown so there can be quite the crowd here. Regardless, it’s a fantastic Banff family activity to enjoy!
Go Dog Sledding
Discover Banff Tours runs dog sledding adventures at Lake Louise and in Canmore. We’ve done this four separate times around the world and it’s always an amazing experience. What I particularly love is how quiet the ride is with only the sound of the dog teams steps against the snow.
Relax in Nature
We have an addiction to the post excitement high we receive in the mountains. After flying down a mountain on our snowboard or a hike nothing beats the feeling of calming our nerves in nature. There are a countless number of ways you can relax whether it be by a hot tub, on a bench, by a fire, or watching the sunset over the frost-tipped mountains.
Just kick back with the one you love and let the calming effect of Banff National Park wash over you. Nothing else can compare to this when visiting Banff.
Head to Canmore!
Okay, this isn’t really a thing to do in Banff, Canada as Canmore a 15-minute drive away. We may be biased to our home base, but we think Canmore is the bee’s knees.
Canmore is another mountain town just outside of Banff National Park. It’s not nearly as touristy or popular as Banff meaning it’s much more enjoyable. You can walk down the main street here without fighting through crowds and there are plenty of great restaurants, bars, and shops to venture into. The views are just as amazing as well. Make sure to check out The Three Sisters!
Go for a Bike Ride
If there is a style of biking you enjoy you’ll find an abundance of scenic places to get on a bike in Banff. It doesn’t matter your skill level either as there truly is everything in the area. Head up the Bow Valley Parkway to Lake Louise on a road bike for one of the best rides of your life. Or head over to Canmore’s Nordic Center for some thrilling trails, or take to the wild and explore some of the park’s amazing trails.
If all of that sounds too much hop on the Legacy Trail and ride to Canmore for some beers at the Grizzly Paw Brewery. Riding between the two towns is a great thing to do in Banff. Or just rent some simple cruisers and enjoy the scenery around Banff town, like Bow Falls or Vermillion Lakes.
Take a Morning Walk Around Johnson Lake
Johnson Lake is one of our favorites because it’s often overlooked by the more popular Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka. Take a nice stroll around Johnson Lake and enjoy the mountain scenery. It’s a very easy hike that is an even elevation and makes for a great evening or morning walk as it’s not too far from Banff town and very close to Two Jack Lake campsite. It’s also one of the lakes least affected by wind making it a great place to SUP and swim in.
The trail works its way through the forest and offers some astounding views out over the lake back to Cascade Mountain looming high above. The lake is tranquil and a great place to go stand up paddleboarding or even take a swim if you’re brave enough. Keep an eye out for a rope swing!
Cross into Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park is the much less heard about sister to Banff National Park. Less than an hour’s drive from the Town of Banff will bring you to this beautiful park in British Columbia. Home to sites like the magnificent Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake, Yoho definitely deserves a few days of exploration. This might not technically be one of the best things to do in Banff, but given it’s so close you should put it on your list!
Enjoy Castle Mountain
Castle Mountains is like a shining stare that rules over the park standing tall for everyone to see as they drive down the Trans Canada. It’s worth stopping off at Castle Junction to admire the views by the Bow River and hang out for a few. There’s also a small Airbnb in Banff if you want to stay here to enjoy the views longer.
Ride the Bow Valley Parkway
The Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy-1A) runs from near Vermillion Lakes to Lake Louise. It’s 50 km of amazing scenery that runs parallel to the Trans-Canada. It’s a two-lane road that is leaps and bounds quieter than the Trans Canada and offers cyclists a well-paved road to travel on. I’ve ridden the Parkway five times now and love it everytime. If you bring a bike lock you can stop off at Johnstons Canyon along the way for lunch and a hike.
Act Like a Cowboy on the Western Frontier
Have you ever watched City Slickers, Yellowstone, Heartland, or any western movie or show where cowboys and cowgirls saddle up their horse and ride deep into the wilderness and longed for that to be you? I can tell you I sure have. Did you know you can live out that dream in Banff National Park?
Banff Trail Riders offers a backcountry horseback experience in the esummer bringing guests deep into the backcountry. You may have seen the backcountry before, but I bet never like this via horseback! See the full details of our epic trip here.
Enjoy the Town of Banff Via Horseback
If you don’t have time for an overnight trip, Banff Trail Riders also offers visitors the chance to see Banff on horseback for just a few hours. It’s a great alternative to the overnight trip I mentioned above and will give you the desire to return! Seriously give it a go! It’s another one of the best things to do in Banff!
Enjoy Waterfowl Lakes
Waterfowl Lakes sit along the West side of the Icefields Parkway about 57kms north of Lake Louise. They are accessible right from the Icefields Parkway and are truly a beautiful sight to take in. These are among some of the best lakes in Banff. Being Glacial fed you can expect them to be bright turquoise blue in the summer, and you can snowshoe across them in the winter. If you have time consider the short hike to Chephren Lake as well.
Spend a Winter in Banff
Banff is not just great in the summer, but perfect for an entire winter vacation. Seriously, it’s a winter wonderland here come December.
Where To Eat in Banff
We love sushi and we love a good deal so Banff Sushi is a slam dunk for us. The novelty of sushi train was definitely appreciated and brought us back to Japan as we nabbed tantalizing bites of sushi off the Canadian train engine. If you like sushi this may be one of the best deals in Banff.
The best Banff coffee shop serving delicious coffee and freshly baked treats. It’s the perfect post ski pick me up if you’re not into the apres ski scene!
Check out the only distillery in a national park in North America. It’s super cool inside with large tables perfect to finish off a winter day in Banff with friends or family.
This healthy cafe is the perfect lunch spot in town with reasonably priced lunch combos and coffee.
Bear Street Tavern
Winter activities often mean you’re burning plenty of calories so if you’re looking for a laid-back atmosphere and some tasty grub head to this tavern to replenish. You can find other great restaurants in Banff here.
The Grizzly Paw Brewing Pub
Our favorite post ski ritual is to check out the local brewery, something you can only find in North America. To find some of the best brews around go to the neighboring town of Canmore.
Where to Stay in Banff
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.
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.
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 here. Here is a coupon for your first stay with Airbnb!
A Few Banff Travel Tips To Know Before You Go
If you plan to do any hiking (including the hikes mentioned on this list) download AllTrails first. Alltrails gives you the latest review of a hike, as well as all the logistical information you may need. If you pay for AllTrails Pro you’ll also be able to download offline trail maps to your phone. We use AllTrails for every hike.
Consider Renting a Car
Being in North America your options for transport are limited. Most visitors to Banff will rent a car in Calgary as this is the easiest way to get around. Renting a car in Canada ensures that you can get to where you want to go on your own schedule.
Depending on the season of your travel car rentals in Calgary can be quite affordable. We’ve rented with Enterprise for less than 20 CAD a day in the winter. However, expect prices to rise during July and August.
In the winter, it’s best to get a car with winter tires so make sure to check with your car rental agency. If you do decide to drive from Alberta into BC these winter tires are mandatory! You can see road conditions here, which are super helpful between November and late April.
Check Rental Prices Here!
Other Transport Options
You may not feel comfortable driving in Canada and that’s okay! There are other options to get to and from Banff and around the town. However, they are limited so keep that in mind.
Once in Banff, there is the Roam bus system to get around town and in the summer it runs to Lake Louise while in the winter it will easily get you to Lake Louise Ski Resort and Banff Sunshine Ski Resort.
In the winter, it’s best to get a car with winter tires so make sure to check with your car rental agency. If you do decide to drive from Alberta into BC these winter tires are mandatory! You can see road conditions here, which are super helpful between November and late April.
Buy a Park Pass
Anyone traveling into Banff National Park needs a park pass every day that they are there. Day passes for adults cost $10 CAD a day. If you are staying in Banff for an extended amount of time and have a jam packed Banff itinerary you may want to consider purchasing a Discovery Pass.
An adult Discvoery Pass cost $69.19 CAD for one adult. So if you are just one person staying a week it’s definitely worth it to get one. If you are two or more and staying for a few days a Group Discovery Pass at $139.40 CAD is the best option. It lasts for one year and is a cost effective option.
Dress for the Mountains
If I had a dollar for every time I saw a visitor wearing poor mountain clothes I would have, like $500. No, but seriously guys come to Banff dressed for mountain weather. That means packable down jackets and hats even in the summer.
The weather here can change at a moment’s notice and you don’t want to be underdressed. It’s extremely important to pack layers, thermals, and HIKING BOOTS.
Yes, hiking boots or shoes. If you plan to do any hiking while visiting Banff please do not show up in Converse shoes. It will not only make you uncomfortable and look like a fool, but it can be potentially dangerous if you attempt a mountain hike you are not prepared for. You can find my entire list of backpacking essentials here.
We Have an Entire Website on Banff!
We live in this beautiful area of the world and want to make sure you have an epic time in the wilderness. Check out The Banff Blog for more travel information.
Featured Travel Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred has a generous signup bonus of 60,000 points that has plenty of flexibility in redemption options. Chase Rewards are some of our favorite points to earn as they’re high value and can be redeemed in a multitude of ways. We love the Chase Sapphire Preferred as it was one of the first travel rewards we received and it’s well-loved by plenty of others. The awesome sign up offer of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points which can be redeemed for $750 of free flight if booked through the Chase travel portal.
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Plan Your Trip to Banff
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.
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.
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.
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!
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