Banff in October is a magical time of year. A Banff fall is cool and crisp, and the foliage still lingers for most of the month. It’s the shoulder season in Banff, so crowds are lower, but snow has yet to really fall, meaning you can still comfortably get out and enjoy hiking in the mountains among unfrozen lakes.
If you’re wondering what the weather is like in Banff in October and what all you can do in Banff in the fall, keep reading!
Things to Know Before Visiting Banff in October
What’s the Weather Like in Banff in October?
Banff in October means there is still plenty of sunshine, but it is definitely fall, and it’s going to get cold fast. Early October means larch season, but hurry as the larches turn yellow in late September and may only last until the first week of October.
There’s not much snow on the ground yet, meaning you can still get out and go hiking; just be prepared to bundle up and pack layers as it’s cold. The temperature on average is between 10-15°C, and after dark, it can drop below freezing.
Days are getting shorter, and you can expect the sun to set around 7pm and to rise around 7:30am. Although the days are shorter than they were in Banff in the summer, there is still plenty of time to get out there and enjoy the Rockies.
Visitors can expect instances of light rain and even snow across the month, but it’s still pleasant enough for hiking in the hills and the valleys, especially the first two weeks. This is what makes a Banff fall so special! By mid to the end of October, there will be little fall foliage still around, and you’ll quickly realize that winter is coming.
Last October I distinctly remember getting about 8 cm of heavy snow in Canmore on October 17th, and Lake Louise Ski Resort had enough snow to open before Halloween. Each year is different, but if you get good weather in early October get out and enjoy it!
What to Pack for Banff in October?
Put away the flip flops and shorts – summer is over. Come to Banff in October with leggings, sweaters, and warm shoes. I would suggest bringing a down jacket for the evenings and hiking, and you can never go wrong with a hat and gloves – especially in the Rockies.
Although you won’t need full-on snow boots yet, a waterproof pair of hiking shoes are recommend.
- Down Jacket
- Casual Pants
- Long sleeve shirts
- 2-3 x Wool Ski Socks
- Warm Hat
- Waterproof Boots
Can You Visit Lake Louise in October?
As mentioned, there’s still plenty of sunshine in Banff in October, but it’s most definitely fall weather, and you should plan your trip to Lake Louise accordingly. Early October means larch season and a good time to go hiking, so it’s not a bad time to visit Lake Louise!
But at least be prepared for it to get cold and for some more unpredictable weather that you may not be used to. All I can say is layers, layers, and layers. This is pretty much your last month to enjoy Lake Louise before it is frozen over.
So get out on that canoe, but wear a life jacket; falling in would surely shock you to hypothermia quickly. By mid-October, the first snow of the season will begin to fall, making it a beautiful time to visit Lake Louise. I love seeing the trees dusted in snow with the lake still unfrozen.
Some good Lake Louise hikes that you can still do are Lake Agnes, Little Beehive, and Big Beehive, although you’ll have to keep your eyes out on the mountain tops for higher elevation objectives like Mount Niblock and Devils Thumb. If there’s been heavy snowfall already (which is completely possible), these objectives should be reconsidered.
Can You Visit Lake Moraine in October?
If you want to head to Moraine Lake, this is your last month to do it. By mid-October, Moraine Lake Road will close for the season as the snow from the surrounding peaks will become dangerous to road conditions on Moraine Lake road.
It’s hard to know the exact date Parks Canada shuts down the Moraine Lake access road as it changes every year. Typically it is right after the first substantial snowfall. Last year this was on October 13th.
Things to do in Banff in October
Get Out on a Larch Hike
Larches are conifers that are native to cooler temperatures. Although they are conifers, they are deciduous that lose their needles in the autumn. Right before this happens they turn a brilliant golden color for a few short weeks.
This happens at the end of September and the beginning of October. The best way to see them is to get out on a larch hike. Some of the best hikes to see the yellow larches in Banff are Larch Valley, Arnica Lake, and Healy Pass! See our other favorites here.
Have a Hot Cocoa on Vermilion Lakes
October is for sweaters, pumpkins, and hot cocoa. Grab a thermos with some hot chocolate and marshmallows and head to the docks at Vermilion Lakes to enjoy the cool, crisp air.
Grab a Coffee and Stroll Banff Ave
Banff Avenue and Downtown Banff in general is crazy busy and packed during the summer. However come October and the crowds die down and the overall atmosphere is different. If you get a sunny day take the time to stroll down Banff Avenue, grab a coffee at Whitebark Cafe, check out Bow Falls, and smell the flowers at the Cascades of Time Garden.
Check Out Two Jack Lake
Just a five-minute drive away from Lake Minnewanka is Two Jack Lake. It’s a fantastic Banff lake with Mount Rundle Views. Two Jack is one of the most photographed lakes in the Canadian Rockies due to its proximity to Banff.
It’s also a popular spot with visitors and locals alike to go for a kayak or canoe. It won’t be frozen over in October, so you can still have an enjoyable time out on the water – just make sure to bring a life jacket! If you can’t get out on the water, I definitely recommend still visiting and enjoying the views – it’s here you can get some of the best views of Mount Rundle.
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 mountain bike 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 between Banff and Canmore. End the bike ride with some beers at the great Canadian Rockies breweries. Or just rent some simple cruisers and enjoy the scenery around Banff town, like Bow Falls or Vermilion Lakes.
See the Northern Lights
If you get lucky, and I mean really lucky, it’s possible to see the Northern Lights in October. Skies are crisp and clear this time of year, and the aurora can be active in Southern Alberta. See all of our tips for catching the Northern Lights in Banff!
Walk Around Johnston Canyon
The Johnston Canyon walk is the best thing you can do in Banff in the winter or summer for free. October is a great time to enjoy this activity in Banff as the weather will be cool, and there will be fewer crowds, but the views will be just as magnificent.
Banff/Canmore Ghost Walk Tour
One of the best things to do in Banff and Canmore around Halloween is go on a ghost walk! See the beautiful mountain towns in a whole new light and learn about the paranormal side of the Bow Valley. Tours take about 1.5 hours and run daily run or shine!
Hike in Kananaskis
Kananaskis has some fabulous hiking opportunities, especially in the fall. There are plenty of larch hikes for the whole family to enjoy! A few of our favorites are Pocaterra Ridge, and Arethusa Cirque, and Ptarmigan Cirque for families!
Taking the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain is one of the most accessible things you can do in Banff in October. It’s a great family activity that lets everyone get to see the views from the top of a mountain. The Banff Gondola is a nice half day experience that lets visitors walk around the well-maintained wood platforms, enjoy the exhibit inside, and enjoy a meal at the Sky Bistro.
If you prefer to save money in Banff and avoid the ticket cost to go up the Banff Gondola you can hike up Sulphur Mountain through a series of switchback trails. This hike should take you between 2-4 hours round trip.
Drive the Icefields Parkway
October is a fantastic time to drive the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper. There are so many awesome stops to make on the Icefields Parkway before the snow really starts to fall in November. Some of our favorite stops are Bow Lake, Sunwapta Falls, and Peyto Lake.
Pay special attention to the weather and road conditions (you can check on 5.11 Alberta). If there’s been significant snowfall the drive can become treacherous, this can happen in October and proper winter tires are strongly encouraged if you’re planning on doing this drive.
Lake Agnes Teahouse Trek
The Lake Agnes Teahouse trek is a popular thing to do in Banff for visitors to 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 kilometers (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 about hour (one way) and is an iconic thing to do in Banff. However, be warned it is a busy one, though in October the crowds really start to die down. The Lake Agnes Tea House also closes for the season after Canadian Thanksgiving.
To escape the crowds (and get better views), keep climbing to the Little Beehive, 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 (extremely difficult!), but these higher objectives become less likely once the snow falls, typically around mid October.
If there is snow around Lake Louise you’ll have to keep an eye out on avalanche risks around Lake Louise. After heavy snowfall it’s not advised to go up to the tea house.
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 Banff in the summer, you may catch a glance of a black or brown bear, though come October the bear activity will be dying down – though they are definitely still out and about (hike with bear spray always)!
Head to Canmore!
Okay, this isn’t really a thing to do in Banff, as Canmore is a 15-minute drive away. We may be biased to our home base, but we think Canmore is the bee’s knees. It’s also where we spend a lot of our time in the Canadian Rockies.
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!
Banff Travel Tips
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. It’s not the end all be all of hiking information, but it’s a great resource to use in conjunction with hiking guidebooks and websites.
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 Banff 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. In October, you should be able to find shoulder season rates.
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. The good news is you likely won’t need winter tires until the end of October, but keep an eye on the weather!
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.
To get from YYC to Banff, the Banff Airporter is a good option and costs $146 (CAD) round trip.
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.
Where to Stay in Banff in October
For a small mountain town, Banff has a plethora of accommodation options. Some of our favorites are:
Stay in Canmore!
You can always stay in the nearby town of Canmore! One of our favorite hotels in Canmore is the Lady Macdonald Country Inn.
Hopefully, this helped you determine what to do in Banff in October!
If you have any other questions leave a comment or see our Canadian Rockies travel guide for more articles about photography spots, lakes, hikes, and everything else.
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